We are two Boulder mommas who, before last month, didn’t give much thought to fracking; we knew it wasn’t good—but we also knew that it could never happen in our beloved Boulder.
Well, it might be happening. We were asleep at the wheel, but now we are wide awake and want to make sure everyone else has the chance and the information to wake up too.
Just to be clear, we are not fracking experts, not even close; there are some incredible local people (thank you, thank you, thank you, Neshama Abraham) who have created organizations that are leading the way on educating the public about fracking and how we can help join in the effort to stop it (please visit and join: Frack Free Boulder and Frack Free Colorado).
We put this information together because we realized we needed a simple way to get everyone up to speed on where the fracking situation is right now and what our options are as we move forward. We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback for this and Waylon asked us to publish it on elephant, so here we go.
Not to be too dramatic, but if you give even a little bit of a shit about your health, your family’s health or the environment, please read on and get involved—the time is now.
Before delving in, we are making two major assumptions:
1. We assume that you know fracking sucks—it causes loads of health issues, uses tons of precious natural resources (water), requires the use of tons of toxic chemicals, creates new toxic chemicals (radon) and the process has no great disposal plans for all the toxic waste (so it can very well end up in our drinking water, our creeks, etc); it’s just awful.
To learn more, google it, watch Gas Land (streaming on Netflix), or watch this:
2. We assume you know that, hand-in-hand with banning fracking, a vital need to tremendously reduce our dependence on natural gas and fossil fuels exists—as individual households, and as a state/nation/world. That is for another article.
The point of this article is to bring you up to speed on fracking as it stands here (in Boulder) and now. It’s mostly facts, peppered with some opinions (our opinions are marked), some details on what you can do and links to other resources. Our hope is that people more in the know will add supporting information to the comments section.
If you don’t want to read the rest of this, but want to help, simply do the following— join the two websites listed above, and before June 18th, write the Boulder County Commissioners at: [email protected] to tell them to please pass at least a one-year moratorium on fracking for Boulder County; you can also call them at 303.441.3500. Tell them they have the full weight of the Boulder population behind them and the future of Boulder’s health and safety in front of them. Please do this now. If you want to know why you are doing that, read on…
Some important things to know:
1. A fracking moratorium blocks oil and gas drilling permits in Boulder. The moratoriums are intended to give local government time to accurately study the health and safety impacts on our population, the transportation impacts on our land and make plans to safely regulate any fracking activity.
2. There has been a moratorium on new gas and oil applications for fracking in Boulder County that was set lift on June 10th.
3. To date, Boulder County has had the longest moratorium on fracking in place in the state.
4. The City of Boulder and Boulder County are two separate entities with different legal capabilities regarding fracking.
a. In the City of Boulder, City Council has the right to put a measure on the ballot regarding fracking (to ban or extend a moratorium). Also, the people of Boulder have the right to collect enough signatures to put a measure on the ballot if the City Council does not.
b. Boulder County does not have the right to put a measure on the ballot, nor do the people have the right to collect signatures for a measure (we don’t really understand why).
5. One reason local government does not have the legal right to ban fracking is surface land rights and mineral/gas rights (land below the surface) can be owned by different parties, this is called “split-estate.” As a result, any land on which the owner doesn’t own both surface and mineral rights, be that Open Space or a private individual, is at risk.
6. At any time, the Oil & Gas Industry, as well as the State of Colorado, can move to sue The City of Boulder and Boulder County, regardless of moratoriums in place, for not allowing fracking permits to move forward. Why would the state sue us? Good question, we don’t really get it, but we think the state believes that they, not us (local government), have the right to regulate drilling and that any ban undermines their authority.
a. Longmont—who passed a fracking ban last November—is being sued by the Oil & Gas Industry with the support of the state, as we speak.
i. Some great news—just this week, a Judge dismissed the Industry’s lawsuit against Longmont which serves as great precedence for what can happen in Boulder County (even though the decision will likely be repealed).
7. Random, but important—the Oil and Gas industry is exempt from a slew of environmental protection laws including the Clean Air & Water Acts. Check them all out here. I know, right?
8. Many amazing citizens have been participating in public City and County meetings over the past several months to educate our elected officials on the dangers of fracking, as well as what options are available to stop it.
Current status for City of Boulder (so far a great success)
On June 4th, at a public meeting, City Council put in place an emergency one-year moratorium on all oil and gas applications. They also agreed to consider putting a ban on November’s ballot (which saves us from collecting 40k+ signatures ourselves). In addition, City Council began the process of starting a ban that will stop any Boulder City Water from ever being used for fracking.
City Council chose not to put a longer moratorium in place for two reasons:
1. They want it to be on the ballot; they want to be sure that the people want to, or are willing to, take on a lawsuit if it comes.
2. Putting it on the ballot gives us (active citizens) a chance to educate the rest of the town about the issue.
On June 18th, City Council will begin discussing what goes on the ballot. We don’t know if there will public discussion at this meeting, but we have to stay active and make it known we want it on the ballot.
ACTION: Send an email: [email protected]
Current Status of Boulder County (way more complicated, and way more important because this is where drilling has the potential to start really soon)
Note: Boulder County sits on the Wattenberg Formation, a crack den for frackers, where thousands of wells can be drilled—right outside of city limits, right in our backyards.
Earlier this month, the Boulder County Commissioners voted not to extend the moratorium on receiving applications from oil and gas for fracking permits. Also, we know that Boulder County has received at least one letter of intent to be sued for holding off fracking.
(OPINION WARNING) We believe that the commissioners voted to let the moratorium expire, not because they are being bought out or evil or anything silly like that, but because they believe that we will be sued. If we are sued and lose, we risk losing ALL ability to regulate fracking, which will put us in a much worse situation. They seem to believe that if we lift the moratorium and create our own (within legal limits) regulations, we won’t be able to stop fracking, but we can control it. They truly seem to be doing what they believe is best (we do think that there are better options, but we respect them as caring individuals).
On June 5th, at a public meeting with the nine members of the Boulder County Planning Board and two of the three Boulder County commissioners (one is out of town), there were two sets of presentations:
1. First, city staff, assuming that the moratorium was going to be lifted and that fracking was going to be a reality, presented a proposal for a “phased” approach to that would hopefully serve to slow-down applications for drilling and put in regulations for air and water safety.
2. Second, over 50 citizens spoke to implore the Commissioners to re-instate the moratorium, sharing scientific data regarding fracking as well as personal pleas not to endanger our health and land. There were also requests for the creation of a formal advisory board of environmental experts, health experts and committed citizens who could help the city manage all aspects of fracking.
The Planning Board, which does not have the right to make any formal vote regarding moratoriums or the phased proposal, did have the right to make recommendations to the three commissioners. Here is what they did:
1. Voted 4-3 to not recommend the phased proposal because—although the effort was appreciated—it is just a “band-aid” approach. It might slow fracking down a little bit, but not enough, and it won’t stop it.
2. And in a very inspired moment, one of the Boulder County Planners said something to the effect of: the people of Boulder have spoken and it sounds like they want us to extend the moratorium, take on any lawsuit that comes, and act as visionaries to stop fracking altogether. Yes, that was an awesome moment. Right afterwards, the board voted 9-0 to make a recommendation to the commissioners to create a new moratorium on all new fracking permits.
The next meeting was set for the next day, June 5th, during which the commissioners were set to vote on the phasing proposal. This meeting was not open to public comment. Because of such strong showing from the public and the recommendations from the board, they voted to put a two-week emergency moratorium on fracking, delay the vote on the phased approach, and wait until the 3rd commissioner returns to take any next steps.
Commissioners have reset the meeting as a public meeting on June 18th at 4:30pm, focused on extending the moratorium for another year. Read about it here.
And take action: email the commissioners at oilgascomment@bouldercounty.
org in support of the extended moratorium.
About the Commissioners:
1. Elise Jones is the one commissioner who has spoken clearly about wanting to reinstate the moratorium, but she wasn’t able to convince her colleagues to act with her. She is most likely going to support a new moratorium. You can see her speak here:
2. Deb Gardner has been out of town for the past few weeks and has missed many vital meetings, as well as this week’s vote. She is the reason the vote is being delayed until the 18th. We don’t know where she will stand on a vote for a new moratorium; she said she was going to vote to protect Boulder from fracking before she was elected, but then didn’t follow through. You can see Neshama asking her why she didn’t keep her word in this video:
3. Cindy Domenico has not explained publicly why she voted to lift the moratorium, she said she would at Wednesday’s meeting, but the meeting has been postponed until the 18th. Via hearsay (repeat, this is a rumor), she is just more of a conservative official and takes very seriously “towing” the state line and following the rules of the state (which are currently pro-fracking). We are hoping and praying that the testimony she has heard, as well as the news that the Longmont case from the state was dropped, will get her to change her mind.
So what can happen?
If commissioners agree to make a new moratorium, then the city government, the county government and the people are all on the same side and here is what may happen:
1. Nothing—we will not be fracked.
2. We can, and very likely will, be sued. Yes, that may suck, but it might also be amazing, here’s why:
Boulder County will join few other places in the country at the front of the battle on fracking. It is possible that we can lose all rights and be fracked up our butts—but it is also possible that we can be visionaries and help shape the future (or hopefully non-future) of fracking in a positive way.
Boulder is a great place to take this fight on, because:
1) We don’t need the money that fracking brings in to a city
2) We just might be progressive enough, and have enough of a participating population to make a national difference.
We will get incredible national support:
1) Boulder, via Neshema, has been promised significant support from the Sierra Club.
2) Environmental lawyers and leaders have already shown interest in jumping in with time, money and media.
If the commissioners don’t reinstate the moratorium, I don’t know what’s next. I assume it includes organized civil disobedience for Boulder County wells. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but if you join Frack Free Colorado you will be in the know!
What we know you can do now:
I wish we had more specifics on what you can do right now, but the next meeting will dictate a lot more. So for now, please join Frack Free Boulder and Frack Free Colorado. Sign up for their mailing list, follow them on facebook and do what they say to do. Educate yourself and tell everyone else you know.
Kim Golden spends most of her time being momma to Shae (5) and Micah (10 months). She also helps her husband run their two green companies. The first is Earth Clay Works, which installs American Clay, a non-toxic, earth-friendly alternative to paint, and the second is being partner to Sungevity Solar’s $0 down lease program which aims to make it as easy as possible for any homeowner to go solar.
We are 2 Boulder mommas who simply LOVE our town and want to stay here forever.
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Ed: Sara Crolick