I’ve been FRACKED

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

There is no other way to put it other than to come out and say that I've been fracked, like thousands of other Colorado families. My in-laws seeking refuge on our couch in our Boulder apartment, our plans in disarray.

For twelve years I've had a family farm just east of Berthoud in unincorporated Weld County. Some of you reading this have probably been to the Halloween party my partner, Marlon, throws there annually and, others might have gotten some of my "Polis Farms" honey we give out around the holidays from my five beehives there. I've grown a little corn, a little alfalfa, but mostly just enjoyed the occasional weekend by our little pond hanging out with the rabbits and turtles.

Our two-year old son runs joyfully through the fields and learned one of his first words there –  "turtle." My Berthoud home in unincorporated Weld County has been part of our family's Colorado dream.

For the last four years my partner Marlon's father, Perry, and his sister, Nicole, have been living there full time.

But just this last weekend, our dream became a nightmare when Perry noticed a few trucks and construction occurring on the neighbor's property across the street. They raise horses, so we thought maybe they were building a new stable. We were shocked when a couple days later this went up overnight (literally OVERNIGHT):

jaredfrack1

That's our garage and guesthouse in the foreground. The huge fracking tower is just across from our driveway. I can't imagine a worse placement. 

The fracking is right across the street from our driveway, which is right behind this building. Here's a Google map screenshot with approximate arrows I drew in.

jaredfrackmap

There is a frenzy of activity on the adjacent property, day and night, with dozens of workers, loud noises, and strange smells. The formal "hydraulic fracturing" hasn't even started yet. The pumping of fluids underground occurs later after the active drilling phase, which is occurring now. The active drilling phase could take weeks or months.

It seems particularly loud in the wee hours of the morning, and Perry and Nicole were unable to sleep there, even with the air conditioner on and the windows closed, We didn’t feel it was safe for my in-laws to stay at the farm, so we invited them to seek refuge on our couch in our Boulder apartment. But not everyone is so lucky.

We received no notice, and didn't know that anything was occurring until they started the drilling and Perry and Nicole heard it. 

This can happen to anyone. It has happened to thousands of Colorado families and now it has happened to one of your members of Congress and his family.

For years, I have fought for sensible fracking laws- I have written op-eds, introduced legislation to close oil and gas loopholes in the Clean Air Act, and I have even testified before the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. I did all that because I knew the horrible effects it was having on the quality of life of so many of my constituents. The unknown effects off fracking have been a grave concern to me – that we don’t know the impact this intense industrial process is having on people’s health, water, and property values. Rigs don't need to operate so close to residential areas and schools. And I have fought every step of the way to increase the distance from people's homes and protect the health of Colorado families. But now it is personal for me, like it has been all along for too many Colorado families.

If something like this can happen overnight, without any warning, to any of us, there is clearly something wrong with the law. I am going to pursue every avenue available to me to stop this from ruining my home and our family's lives, but under current Colorado law, our options are limited and so the drilling continues.

I no longer want to take our son to the farm, which has become an industrial zone. Who knows what kinds of chemicals are in all those drums we can see from the window of our home or the smoke in the air.

So much for the quiet country. And as for the health impacts, who knows? In addition to emissions we can't see, look at what was spewing forth this morning:

fracksmoke
  
I don't like to talk about personal stuff much. Some politicians do, but it's never been my style. I try to stay objective and focused on policy, rolling up my sleeves and working for pragmatic solutions to move our country forward. Talking about personal stuff doesn't come easy for me.

But there are also moments when our own lives as public officials can help raise awareness about important issues. It’s for that reason that I have decided to discus this situation in the public openly and hopefully help to foster discussion about ways we in Colorado can have more sensible laws around fracking. For many Coloradoans, fracking in their backyards has ruined their Colorado dream. Leaving so many parents feeling helpless in protecting their children from the consequences of living in an industrial site that they did not choose to living next to. 

Our family will be ok of course. Thankfully I have done well enough that we can afford to move our family and take a loss on our property, even as part of my Colorado dream is lost forever. Many Coloradan's don't have these options. I vow to be their voice and to continue to fight, with just that much more fire in my belly to bring about relief and a sustainable solution. 

This is our state. These are our families. This is my family. This could be your family. Let's enact sensible fracking legislation.

What would a sensible, practical approach entail? Plenty of time to discuss policy, the purpose of this post is to share my personal story, but in broad strokes:

1) The oil and gas commission should not have a majority of representatives from the oil and gas industry. Homeowners, farmers, and health advocates should be the majority of the commission. These economic and social interests are the backbone of our state, the oil and gas industry should not be the tail that wags the dog. Oil and gas should be at the table –  getting one or two of the nine seats as well so that the industry also has representation, but they should not be the majority. 

2) Local control should be respected. Different counties and municipalities are already regulating fracking in manners consistent with their local economy and goals. Weld County looks at these issues very differently than Boulder County. Weld County can make their decision, and I can make mine not to buy land again in Weld County. Collectively the people making decisions not to live or work in Weld County will hurt their economy in the long-run, but they do have the right to dig their own grave (hopefully not a literal one, but we do need more information on health concerns).

3) The rights of homeowners (surface owners) and their neighbors should be respected. Property rights should mean something, and if someone wants to drill on your land or in your neighborhood in a way that affects you, they should have to consult with you and negotiate your permission. I think that this is common sense to most Coloradoans, but it is not currently the law.

4) Additional distance should be required between where people live or work and where fracking takes place. In our case it's across the street from our driveway and guesthouse. Offsets of 1,000 or 2,000 feet or more from buildings have been proposed or enacted by a number of municipalities and we should consider what the minimum offset should be statewide as the current requirements are clearly insufficient.

What other ideas do you have about how best to strike the balance between the extraction industry and our health and quality of life?

It's too late for my family. Let's take action before it's too late for yours.

Jared Polis
Representative, 2nd Congressional District of Colorado

28 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. BlueCatBlueCat says:

    That they can just move in and start fracking this close to your home is nuts. You are doing the right thing sharing your experience. I'm sure many people have no idea something like this could happen so easily to them. Even if it turns out that everything in fracking fluid is safe, how would they like to have this playing out right outside their windows all night long?

    Another issue is the huge quantities of water used in the process that can't be recovered when we clearly don't have it to waste, especially in this dry part of the country. You don't have to be any kind of radical tree hugger to see what's wrong with this picture.  

    We need to get serious about replacing reliance on fossil fuels with a new 21st century energy economy that doesn't squander our water, threaten our health or the planet's or break our hearts.  Thank you for all you are doing to help get us there. 

  2. notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

    I'm puzzled. When we wanted to remodel the upper story of our Denver home, every neighbor whose property touched ours had to be notified and a protest period allowed for. Yet, an oil company can undertake a polluting, propery devaluing industrial project on adjoining property with no notice at all? Polis says they're going to sell the farm. I wish him luck with that. Maybe one of the oil company employees would like to live closer to their job.I can't imagine anyone else who would be naive or trusting enough of the industry assurances of the saftety of their process to live there. On the other hand, cynically, though I certainly bear no ill-will toward Jared, I'm glad he now has a dog of his own in the fight. We need all the champions  we can get against the oil-baron who buy Congresspeople like Crackerjacks at the ballpark.

                                                         

  3. MADCO says:

    Any Colorado property owner who thinks it could never  happen to them… should get ready. ( I mean you Douglas County.)

  4. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

    Congressman Polis,

    Let me begin by saying you have my sympathy regarding your current plight. Eight, maybe nine, years ago I sat with my son on the porch of my home on Silt Mesa and counted 17 drilling rigs across the valley in a relatively small area south of the town of Silt. The residents of Grass Mesa, Hunter Mesa, Dry Hollow and the Divide Creek drainage were being swarmed by an invasion of O&G companies drunk with the prospect of getting rich.

    I often describe the result of the unfettered assault on those unfortuate people as not unlike what happens when you open the corn crib doors and let in the hogs. It was mayhem, resulting in torment and devastation on a scale that still brings me to a simmering rage when I reflect upon it. It was then I made a vow, though I was not personally impacted until years later, to do whatever I could to fight this egregious imposition on the quiet beauty of the Grand Valley.

    My friends and neighbors asked me to lead them in their fight, and as president of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, I worked with state representative Kathleen Curry, Garfield County commissioner Tresi Houpt, Rifle mayor Keith Lambert, and the Western Colorado Congress to change things. Joining with a vast coalition of groups, individuals, and communities from across Colorado, we convinced the people of this state to do the one thing that tipped the balance in our favor. We elected Bill Ritter and a Democratic majority in the Colorado legislature.

    With Governor Ritters' help and leadership, we passed HB1341, HB1298, and HB1265 which forced the creation of new rules for the development of oil and gas in this state. The COGCC was recreated and actually does have a mandate now to only have three members of the industry out of nine members. We had great hope that sanity would finally prevail and that some justice would come to the gaspatch.

    Alas, Congressman, it has not happened. The reason Colorado still suffers at the hands of this industrial menace is the decision by governor Ritter to retire. In his place we have the culprit who has sold us out, subverted the mission of the COGCC by packing it with oil and gas water carriers, and guaranteed the oil and gas industry will not have to do the right thing by appointing Matt Lepore as its' director. He has undone years of work and sacrifice by thousands of Coloradoans who believe the profits of Halliburton, Encana, Anadarko, Schlumberger, are not more important than the health and well being of Colorados' people and wildlife, and the environment they need to thrive.

    If you truly wish to alter the dynamic that allows such rude and hurtful intrusion on Colorados' people and the quiet enjoyment of their property rights, you will find a qualified Democrat to primary John Hickenlooper and  remove him from office. He is single-handedly responsible for the return to dominance of the oil and gas lobby at the Capitol.  It was widely understood that, when Bill Owens occupied the governors' office, the first floor of the Capitol belonged to COGA and the CPA.

    It is their domain once again…John Hickenlooper is personally responsible.

    • langelomisteriosolangelomisterioso says:

      Hasn't Silt had at least a couple instances of property owners whose wells have been polluted by drilling activities?

      • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

        More than a couple…the Dietrichs, the Amos family, the Goads, and others whose names I can’t remember. Typically, when they poison a well they will buy the place and rent or sell it to an employee and provide potable water to the residents, the previous owners having signed a nondisclosure agreement.

  5. ClubTwitty says:

    Oil and gas is unlike any other industry in the special treatment they get.  For any other industrial use it is considered rational land use policy to consider where siting makes sense–or not.  With oil and gas surface owners–either adjacent or on split estate–have what amounts to no say.  Local governments have little say–and if they try to exert it, making the same type of rational decisions they might make about any other zoning or siting or industrial use matter–the Governor, our Governor, joins sides with the Oil and Gas lobby to sue them.  The State of Colorado joining forces with industry to sue its own towns and citizens.  It’s shameful.  Thank you Rep. Polis for your leadership on this, I know you'll keep in the fight. 

  6. Konola says:

    The most obvious low hanging fruit in Colorado is to change the mission of the COGCC. While they are to foster O&G development currently, we could change it to protect the health and safety of citizens.

    Current mission: The mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is to foster the responsible development of Colorado's oil and gas natural resources.

     

    • Jared Polis says:

      Great idea! Their mission and composition should be changed. 

      • horseshit GOP front grouphorseshit GOP front group says:

        I am really sorry this happened to you Rep. Polis.  I very much admire the fact you are speaking out about it and thus getting people to pay attention to this very important issue, albeit unfortunately through the troubles of your own family.  You are truly making a problem an opportunity, and it just shows it can happen to almost anyone. 

        Keep your chin up !

        (no I am not really a horseshit GOP front group either).

         

         

    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

      Sadly, Konola, that fruit is a little higher on the tree than you may realize. Any change in the written mission of the COGCC will have to be accomplished statutorily, through legislation.

      That legislation would have to be signed by the governor.That will never happen as long as Hick occupies the office.

      • Konola says:

        There WAS a bill that was killed last year. I don't think it would be killed again. And I don't think that Frackenlooper would veto it because of pressure he is feeling from enviros.

        But then I'm the eternal optimist.

        • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

          I really hope I turn out to be wrong about this, my friend, I really do. But it is hard for me to see any change in the dynamic as long as Ken and Stan and the rest of the Boys are calling Hicks' shots for him.

          The first inkling I had that the governor was intent on undoing Ritters' work was when he replaced Tresi Houpt with that industry cheerleader from Fort Lupton, Tommy Holton. Appointing a sleepwalker like Urbina at CDPHE was further damage to the prospects for a new regulatory paradigm. The insanely mendacious comments about drinking fracking fluid let everyone in on his loyalties.

          It was aggressive lobbying from the governors' office that was primarily responsible for the demise of ALL the bills that sought to bolster the rules and protect Colorados' air and water. I have seen nothing from Hicks' office that causes me to believe that will change. 

          We should see the passage of some legislation in this next session. My money is on Hick wielding his veto pen to stop any effort to stand up to the Oily Boys. Time will tell.

          Many Pols readers will remember the Initiative for Surface Owners Rights (ISOR) that arose out of Garfield County during Bill Owens' last term. Don't be suprised to see it resurrected. The people of Colorado do not have to accept the destruction of our environment because our governor has sold us down the river. 

          If Hickenlooper won't stand with us…we can defend ourselves.

          • The realistThe realist says:

            I think you're right about Hick – no one should expect him to change his stripes. But I do believe that if enough statewide pressure is put on him between now and early 2014, he might decide to not run for re-election, and head for greener pastures in the industry.

  7. RunningOnEmpty says:

    Yes, yes, and yes.  My parents recently moved to Arvada from Elizabeth in part because they were worried about a situation exactly like yours. 

    What concerns me most is that Colorado has a habit of giving businesses free reign in the name of jobs and the economy, and then letting taxpayers pick up the tab when it comes to cleaning up the envionmental and economic mess left behind.  See, for example, all the cleanup we've done of former mines or the former Rocky Flats site, where we know radioactive chemicals were sprayed onto the ground and were allowed to seep into the groundwater and into the reservoir that provides drinking water to Westminster/Thornton/Northglenn and the reservoir that provided water to Broomfield until it was discovered that multiple toxic chemicals had been released into it.  They found another water supply…and the taxpayers paid for it.  As someone who lives close to Standley Lake, I continue to be floored by the fact that the reason there are "no wading" signs is because there is plutonium and other radioactive and toxic wastes in the sediment!  (I'm also horrified, because those signs are regularly ignored…there's nothing about the plutonium, and what other large body of water allows boating and water skiing but not wading?  People do it because it doesn't make any sense.)  The amount of the contamination is up to debate since the records are sealed, but no one denies that yes, these things happened or that the half-life of plutonium means that without cleanup of the surrounding areas, the contamination is, for all practical purposes, forever.

    I can't wrap my head around the fact that Colorado seems to be headed that way yet again. 

    Keep up the good fight.  I hope you show these pictures to everyone you can.

    • notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

      R.O.E.,

      When I met my partner, she owned a house in Countryside in Westminster. When she and er ex bought the place, they were told of Rocky Flats' existence. She said, at that time, she trusted the government when they said there was no danger. Their water came from Standley Lake (yeesh). Everyone in the development had a central water filter in their house (did no one wonder why?) but we'll never know how much it helped. We lived there together for a couple more years. We fell on hard times, and knowing the house was unsalable, walked away from it. Our credit took a hit,but our concience was clear. At least, we hadn't suckered anyone else into making the same mistake she had.

       

  8. MapMaker says:

    It seems like this is the perfect opportunity to set up air and water sampling recorders as well as video recording the entire process. Take samples of your pond and water supply as a baseline for later comparison with the immediate after fracking conditions and to monitor how these change over time. Collect soil samples both on your property and as close as you can to the drilling rig. Watch for and sample spills. Although it seems unlikely, get permission from the landowners to sample the soils and spills on their property.

    I'm sure that there's a sampling protocol that COGCC has blocked. Adopt it. Since you are in an unique position of having Congressional cover and access to local media, you should find someone who is familiar with "normal" fracking opperations and see if they are different than the ones they use on this well. It's likely that "your" well will be especially well monitored by the "Oh Shit" division of the drilling company.

  9. Gilpin Guy says:

    I guess you can't rely on the goodwill of your neighbors to let you know what's going on.  Free royalty money has a way of changing people.

  10. Wow – that drill site looks awfully close to the guest house. Are they in statutory compliance for distance from a habitable dwelling?

    I also agree – set up monitoring on the property. Air quality, water quality… I know I can't stand to be in the same area with drilling rigs – the pollutants in the air are unbearable. Be a testament to the effects of being involuntarily placed next to a drilling rig and well site.

    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

      At present, a setback of 350 ft. from the wellhead  (not the edge of the pad) is all that is required, both in the country and in town. That is a relatively new development. Heretofore, the minimum in rural areas was 150ft…half the length of a football field. And I believe a waiver can be had for the asking…though I may be wrong about that.  

  11. Jalapeno says:

    You haven't been fracked yet.

    And what is a fracking tower? Its called a drilling rig.

    You essentialy wrote an article stating that your dentist just performed laser eye surgery on you. Both doctors are in the medical profession, but totally different specialty.

    Do you own a Ford Volt or Chevy Mustang?

    • DavieDavie says:

      Suggestion:  use Google and get a clue:

      http://www.google.com/search?q=fracking+rig&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=GdH2UaClC8fWyQGp6YGYCQ&ved=0CDQQsAQ&biw=1298&bih=714

      See the resemblance to Congressman Polis' next door neighbor's Fracking Rig?

    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

      The Congressman is not an oil and gas expert. Your attack of his terminology is stupid and pointless.

      Fracking can occur after the first well is drilled on a multiple well drill pad, while the drilling rig is still in place (a process known as remote fracking) .

      Wells in the Wattenburg can be drilled faster than those in other fields, as I understand it, because the formations aren't as deep. Still…it is unlikely that the hydraulic fracturing has started. That doesn't minimize the impact, however, because the drilling process itself is quite noisy and nasty.

      I don't do Facebook, but, responding to Anthony Garcia below…I have been involved in this discussion for many years and I have NEVER known a company to compensate an adjacent landowner…ever.

      If you know of one, Mr. Garcia, give us their name and contact information or have them visit us here and tell us about it. I would love to hear of it, because , if they ever compensate one…they will have to compensate all of them. Idiots like Jalapeno and Austin Cordova (below) cannot deny the actual facts, so they try any sort of obtuse argument to try to discredit impacted citizens like congressman Polis and the thousands of other Coloradoans who have had their lives disrupted and property devalued by this industrial operation which Duane Zavadil (VP of Barrett Resources) once referred to as an "invasive process".

      P.S. There is no "official spelling of "fracking", as it is a slang term and you may spell it any way you wish.

    • ClubTwitty says:

      Keep talking down to those concerned about this activity.  Matt Lapore had to eat his words…  even the former president of Shell Oil is saying that the arrogance of industry and its advocates make them their own worse enemy. So keep it up.  Watch the fracking bans pass on the ballots one by one… 

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