Think Frackapalooza Is Over? Think Again

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

The AP’s Dan Elliot updates the state of play on the always-controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” near Colorado’s populated areas. After a compromise last year that ended the threat of a ballot measure increasing setbacks for drilling from existing development, a task force convened that issued limited recommendations for improving local control over drilling in February. The drilling industry was very happy with the limited scope of the task force’s recommendations, but conservation activists and local communities–including northern Front Range cities that already had passed bans and moratoria on fracking–felt betrayed.

In 2016, it looks like they may well get another shot:

“I think the fossil fuels industry won,” said Karen Dike, a member of Coloradans Against Fracking.

Fracking is a pressing issue in Colorado, the nation’s No. 7 energy-producing state. Along the urban Front Range, expanding suburbs and booming oilfields are running into each other, and drilling rigs sometimes show up near public schools. Several municipal attempts to ban fracking have failed, and the industry warns that local control would stifle energy development.

Dike and others won’t say whether they plan to put measures that would restrict fracking on the 2016 ballot, but they don’t rule it out…

[Rep Jared] Polis said fracking could be on the 2016 ballot if state officials don’t further regulate the industry. He stopped short of saying whether he would organize the effort, but he wants lawmakers and regulators to adopt three proposals that weren’t formally recommended by the task force.

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis became involved in the state-level debate over fracking after a drilling company illegally sited a well too close to structures on Weld County land owned by the wealthy congressman. After his own experience, which resulted in a hefty fine against the offending driller, Polis came out in support of two specific ballot measures: a general “bill of rights” empowering local communities to regulate land uses within their boundaries, and a measure increasing setbacks for drilling from existing development to 2,000 feet. The failure of the task force he helped broker via the threat of a well-funded ballot measure reportedly did anger Polis, but so did the unreasonable reaction of anti-fracking activists who bitterly denounced his good-faith attempts to forge a compromise.

Today, it’s true that some of the pressure on this debate has dissipated as energy prices have plummeted during OPEC’s anti-fracking price war. The drilling industry, just last year very bullish about its future growth, has seen new drilling projects slow dramatically, and hiring postings turn into layoffs. The reduced pressure from less demand for new drilling creates a situation where the industry claims victimhood indiscriminately, blaming “fractivists” for industry downturns that have nothing to do with their efforts.

Both the industry and the far left wing of environmentalists would prefer the debate be about a wholesale ban on fracking statewide. The industry uses the simplistic arguments surrounding a ban to divide the opposition, while the far left…well, they’re just not realistic about what can be achieved in a major energy producing state like Colorado. Certainly there is a problem with all-or-nothing argumentation on both sides of this debate, but we continue to believe that what the energy industry fears most are reasonable, targeted proposals to mandate better protection of residential communities.

The reason is simple: they could actually pass.

One would let local governments impose stricter rules than the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, charged with regulating drilling statewide. Another would change the commission’s role from facilitating oil and gas development to simply regulating it. The third would set up a panel to resolve disputes between energy companies and local governments or property owners before they land in court.

None of these proposals fit the industry’s alarmist predictions of what would happen if Colorado “banned fracking.” If the industry and surrogates are able to continue to define the debate in those black-and-white terms, they’ll win. If pragmatic-minded conservationists can keep focused on proposals that would genuinely help protect communities while avoiding the industry’s semantic games, they could accomplish something that would have much more of an impact on our state’s health and environment in the long run.

We’ll just have to wait and see who’s smarter about it.

29 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DaftPunk says:

    "Both the industry and the far left wing of environmentalists would prefer the debate be about a wholesale ban on fracking statewide."

    An assertion like this would usually be accompanied by a quotation from such an environmentalist. 

    • Progressicat says:

      And cue Duke in 5…4…3…

      • Progressicat says:

        Actually, that made me wonder at what the volume and density would be of the collective brick the oil & gas folks would shit were Duke and others here allowed to have real input on the rules.

        • Duke Cox says:

          a big, heavy brick, Pc..

          in fact, many will remember the howls of pissy indignation when Gov. Ritters’ agencies wrote a draft of rules without the industry in the room. They had become so accustomed to actually writing the rules themselves, they considered it a heresy to just allow the professional state employees to do the job.

          and to the Mook below…some do…most don't. You can set up that straw man all you want, SFB, but there is currently no effort to ban fracking in Colorado…at all….period.


          • mamajama55 says:

            I went to a meeting June 24 about two of the  rules that were agreed on, and it was pretty much a total farce. The room in Loveland was packed with about 300 folks, and the task force people had exactly one hour (the room at the rec center was reserved)  to present the rules, take and answer questions. Our Weld County councilman, Steve Merino, wasted about half that time talking about how great the process was and patting himself on the back.

            Then they talked about the two rules (17, 20, )that were agreed on.

            17 was a requirement to define what is a "large scale" O&G facility and to create a process to work with local gov officials about what mitigations are important in their communities (all open to public).

            It sounded as if the industry people will still have the power to define what is "large scale". One guy referencing the "Pace property", said, " 28 wells plus another 17 sites, 100 units of equip. pad site within 500’ of a home. I think that’s large." But it's undefined. A good point was that "large scale" should be defined prior to permitting,and also that "small scale" operators shouldn't get a free pass to plop down next to schools (as they do in Greeley) just because they don't meet the bar for large scale.

            20. Planning 5 year process and communication with community and local governments required. The intent is for industry to start planning and having conversations with community earlier on, and also so  Neighborhood planners can plan 1st to have the O&G most appropriate for the uses. So, planning, not banning, Moddy, although that probably won't make any difference to you.

            There were lots of pie in the sky promises that came with this rule agreement  – some of which the COGA people said that they had already done – Hiring 12 more well inspectors,More allocations and staff for CDPHE(Colorado Dept Public Health &Environment, more air quality monitoring units. And a complaint line  to  track complaints. The AQUs will only monitor ozone and carbon, not methane or volatile compounds, so that's not helping anyone with breathing issues.

            COGCCto work with dept of transportation on transport issues to increase safety. People at the meeting said that they didn’t trust info from O&G, and wanted to create a source for unbiased and independent information. In one place not housed at cogcc. Housed at dept  of health and environment compiling a website.

            I want a map. A goddamn Google Earth searchable map, available to anyone on the internet, where they can look up the flyover pollutant data which NASA has been compiling for the last two years, and see what is in the air and water, and what developments are planned in their neighborhoods. I don't see why this is seen as such a radical dream. 

            Because then people could see what is actually going on, and planned to happen, in their own backyards.

            Anyway, then the meeting pretty much devolved into chaos, as a whole lot of very unhappy people tried to make their concerns known within the remaining 5 minutes allotted. BJ Wilson, the industry's spox, kept trying to shush everyone.

            So the COGA process that Polis negotiated away the initiatives for wasn't a total waste of time; it was a learning process, and one of the lessons learned was that the industry still doesn't really consider public health or preserving the natural environment to be a cost of doing business; and that battle is far from won.




    • Moderatus says:

      Are you really suggesting that enviros don't want to ban fracking? Of course they do.

      • DaftPunk says:

        The supply a quote from one, fucknuts.

      • taterheaptom says:

        Right after we put your ass in a FEMA camp LOSER!  Jade Helm 15 in preparation for Agenda 21 is coming to make you bake a gay wedding cake and buy me an Obama phone.  So get used to it, the 2016 elections will be suspended, one of your sides 'opinion leaders' told me so, 

        With the 2016 election looming ahead, we are facing one of the most dangerous times in the history of American freedom and liberty. While the nation survived the administrations of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush (including 9/11) without FEMA being invoked, the likelihood that Obama will invoke FEMA over the next 17 months seems very high.

        Whether the “emergency” is race relations, “global warming,” public health, international relations, border control or an impending invasion of extraterrestrials, it seems almost certain that Obama will consider the true emergency to be his impending eviction from the White House. With a declaration of martial law, Obama could suspend the 2016 elections and retain the presidency indefinitely.

        Dictator for life… many believe that is Obama’s true ambition and FEMA is the mechanism that could make it possible.

        How many Democrats would support Obama’s desire to rule like a king for the rest of his life? Quite a few, I’m afraid.

        Obamacare. Death taxes. Death panels. Chem Trails.  It ALL makes so much sense!

        The Western Slope Watchdog has contacted regional airports in western Colorado and Utah, the Federal Aviation Administration, military bases and local pilots trying to get more information about the weather modification activity in our skies, and, even though they must all know about it and have seen it, they are silent about the cloud seeding program.

        Complaints about this activity can be found from a widespread geographical community on the Internet, so it’s not happening just locally. 

        So thank you, Moldy, for your vigilance.   

      • BlueCat says:

        Yes. Please give us quotes linked to source of "enviros" calling for a ban on all fracking.

        • Conserv. Head Banger says:

          I didn't know that Ron Bain (Western Slope Watchdog) was an opinion leader for the right. I can now sleep better at night since taterheaptom has enlightened me.

          Seriously, there's a whole lot of angst on this thread, mostly for nothing, when the real work is already being done and quietly. For those unfamiliar with the Rocky Mountain Institute, and I know Mr. Cox is familiar, visit their web site:  .  Check out their energy goals for 2025. Get a copy of Green Fire. RMI does predict that about 25% of the nation's energy needs will still come from natural gas as of 2050. But lots of good work being done by RMI and I send at least one check a year to them. Worth noting that RMI avoids the emotional “ban everything now” approach taken by some enviros and focuses instead on what is good for both business and the environment.    C.H.B. 

          • Duke Cox says:

            Generally speaking, C.H.B.the environmental "community" has not and does not call for a ban on fracking…what we want is disclosure…complete transparency. Which is the LAST THING the Oily Boys want to allow. Why? Because if the public knew the real truth instead of having the "clean natural gas" lie foisted upon them relentlessly, they would be horrified and the fat cat hook-up the petro barons have enjoyed for decades would dry up in a hurry..

            I worked out there in the patch, CHB…so have many of my family members. Look somewhere else to peddle all the mountains of bullshit (also known as "data") heaped upon the public and the media by the API, CPA, COGA, and the rest of those oily acronyms.

            The RMI is a fine institution….but hardly able to change things without a serious uptick in public awareness of the truth and resolve to stop burning dinosaur poop, as my friend Michael is fond of calling it.

            Ban fracking..?  In some places, yes…statewide, no. That is the consensus opinion of the environmental community of which I am a part.

            • Conserv. Head Banger says:

              Well, I would guess that few people who eat meat really want to know how that meat gets to their tables. Ever visit a slaughter house; it's not pleasant. They just buy it at the grocery store or in a restaurant. Same deal with natural gas. 

              As an aside, I'm probably as well connected in the Colo. enviro community as you are, and have a 30+ year history in same. If there was a call for a statewide ban from credible, or less so, enviro sources, I suspect I would have heard about it. 

              • Duke Cox says:

                Worked in a slaughterhouse when I was in the 4th the floor. I don't gross out easily.

                That is not he point. The two situations are not relatable. It is decidedly NOT the same deal with natural gas. The knowledge of where your meat comes from does not cause cancer.

                We will have to continue this conversation later, CHB. I have other things to do just now…


              • BlueCat says:

                Once again perhaps confusing  nests of boxes. My request for those "enviros" calling for a ban was addressed to Modster via the "reply' in his comment box but it does get hard to trace back to the original box sometimes.  I know that you, CHB, have long been part of the community of those concerned with protecting and preserving our environment. 

          • taterheaptom says:

            What or who are the environmentalist groups or environmental advocates or bogey men or fictional creatures that you speak of CHB that call for or ask or secretly long for an emotional "ban everything now"  approach?  Because otherwise I would say that is a straw man produced from your own methane-rich nether regions.  

            • Conserv. Head Banger says:

              Take a trip back in time to last year if you want the "ban now" opinions. As for my “methane rich nether regions,” I seem to venture there only at high altitude; known as “high altitude gas.” But been over 13,000′ only once in last few months; a recent trip up Quandary Peak.  

              • mamajama55 says:

                There were in fact some calling for a statewide ban on fracking last year. They never put together any ballot initiatives, and mostly functioned as a bugaboo for the right: "See the crazy environmentalists!"

                I think we should have triangulated – "Deal with the reasonable folks who are talking local control within municipalities and  setbacks from residences and schools. Or, you get to deal with the extremists. "We missed that opportunity, because of lack of unity and leadership.  So many groups had their own pet way of approaching the problem. 

                At the Loveland COGA panel I went to June 24, people were saying that we need a statewide policy – maybe not outright ban, but some policies and guidelines for all of Colorado- otherwise, each little municipality has to fight its own battles, which is nuts. 

                Methane rich nether regions? Let him/her who is without stink pass the first gas. 

  2. It would probably be best from the environmentalist side if Rep. Polis's name wasn't at the head of any fracking initiative next year. While he might have meant well, the withdraw of his initiatives followed by the failure of the commission to actually do anything useful has, I'm sure, left a bit of a sour taste in a lot of peoples' mouths.

    • BlueCat says:

      I'm pretty sure if it hadn't been literally in his backyard (or close enough) we never would have heard much abut this from extremely Big Everything friendly Polis.  Wonder how this rich centrist has escaped the same derision that gets heaped on Bennet here. I'm beginning to think Obama gets a pass on everything Bennet gets derided for because he's black and Polis gets his pass because he's gay. Bennet is no worse than either of them but he's a white guy so libs can call him names and be as disgusted with him as they like without feeling guilty. Honestly, other than that, I don't see a dime's worth of difference.

  3. Canines says:

    Colorado Statesman: Fracking foes hit wall with legislature as Democrats sidestep fractious debate

    The anti-fracking movement’s momentum ground to a halt in this year’s legislative session as Democrats opted to present a united front rather than aggravate a party schism by igniting a debate on oil and gas development.

    The General Assembly took the safe route by approving funding for recommendations made in February by the governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force. Those include new inspectors and monitors for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and Department of Public Health and Environment.

    And that was about it — until Wednesday, when the Senate gave last-minute approval to a bill requiring ballot petitions and initiatives to be accompanied by a fiscal impact statement, which is expected to hamper the chances of anti-fracking ballot efforts.

    • mamajama55 says:

      That's a good piece Richardson wrote in the Statesman, starting with using "fractious" in the headline. She does a good job of presenting the very limited ground we gained (more well inspectors, the beginnings of a cooperative planning process) and what we lost (giving communities equal power with industry in determining development).

      She also points out what idiotic sheep we are, when we give up something important (local control over O&G development) for hypothetical gains (keeping Udall), which we lost anyway.  I especially like that she thinks we're all quivering in our boots, anxious to keep Bennet, and that's why we won't introduce anti-fracking initiatives:

      Second, Sen. Michael Bennet has popped up on recent lists of endangered Senate incumbents for 2016, making it even more important for Democrats to avoid provoking the oil and gas industry into uncorking a gusher of campaign cash that could wind up benefiting Republicans.

      My stars! We have the power to avoid provoking the O&G industry into flooding politics with money??? Who knew? We could have been doing that all along.

      That's bullshit. We never had that power, don't have it now. All we can do is organize, raise money for candidates with integrity, inform ourselves, lobby our reps, do the best we can. I suspect that the transition from fossil fuels to renewables will take longer than any of us might wish – and that we will still want reserves of natural gas for those cold, snowy winter days. I'd like to see us go from 30% renewable to more like 80 or 90%, though, and that's totally doable.

      A word on "tone" in this forum. Most of you know that I prefer a civil tone – and I dispute that using "fuck" as a verb, adjective, noun, and adverb in one sentence (with compound words!) shows the writer as any kind of a "grown up". It also makes it tough to stay on track, and tougher to learn anything new outside of one's own preconceptions. CHB is correct in bringing up that RMI, the ultimate pragmatic visionaries, do see a limited, but real, future for natural gas.

      I get that folks are mad, and being an anonymous poster on a forum gives a place to vent. I'm not the "tone police". But I can and will object when something offends me, and you all are free to ignore it, as you mostly do. I'm also not going to be bullied into not saying when something offends me.


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