The Boulder County Commissioners were told Tuesday they should not put up with “toxic trespassing” and instead continue a moratorium on oil and gas drilling. Roz Brown says a unanimous vote on the moratorium was welcome news to the meeting’s overflow crowd, but many would like to see the commissioners implement even stronger measures.
The outcome seemed clear before the meeting began: the three members of the Boulder County Commissioners would extend until March of next year a temporary moratorium on oil and gas drilling that they implemented in June. But that didn’t stop more than 50 residents from testifying before the commissioners about why it was important. John Lamb lives a mile from a well in Lafayette. A non-smoker, Lamb recently had his blood tested at a medical lab for volatile organic compounds and learned his levels were abnormally high.
“The reason I got this done was because people should understand that probably if they get their children tested, they’re likely to get the same results,” said Lamb. “There are Boulder Valley school children in Erie that are very close to wells, and especially in Weld County.”
The moratorium was implemented after Senate Bill 181 was approved at the State House and signed by the governor last April. It prioritizes the protection of public safety, health, welfare, and the environment in the regulation of the oil and gas industry. The bill has allowed the county to temporarily stop the latest application from Crestone Peak Resources. Crestone wants to put at least 100 wells north of Erie and two industry representatives addressed the commissioners. They argued against the ban, and noted their willingness to work with local officials. But county resident Shavonne Blades wanted to know, ‘What has oil and gas industry done for us lately?’
“What has fracking done for Colorado?” Blades asked rhetorically. “I’ve been here 29 years and I can’t find anything positive. It’s three percent or less of the economy and one percent of jobs. It brings illness, toxins in our air, abandoned wells, lawsuits, heating costs are up 60 percent over the past 20 years, there was a breach of contract in Broomfield – they’re not a good partner in business.”
Wes Wilson, a Denver resident of 40 years traveled to Boulder to encourage the commissioners to act, saying they need to set an example.
“We need to look to you to provide guidance to the state – they’re dragging their feet,” said Wilson. “This industry doesn’t have the right to lower their operating costs to the detriment of county residents’ health. That’s toxic trespass.”
Many attending the meeting called on the commissioners to pass the Climate Bill of Rights while others said the climate crisis justifies a ban on fracking. County Commissioner Deb Gardner did not rule out considering that.
“I don’t think we’re afraid to have a lawsuit, but until now we’ve used the most effective tools that have been available to us, but because of Senate Bill 181 it may be time to investigate if there is an opportunity for that.”
Chair of the Commissioners, Elise Jones worried nine months won’t be long enough to write new regulations, and said the moratorium could be extended again when expires in March 2020.
“The oil and gas issue unites Boulder County,” said Jones. “It’s heartbreaking to hear these stories of asthma, leukemia and cancer. We know we’re out of attainment with ozone and we know what gets drilled in Weld County drifts over here and we’re breathing it. We hear your concerns and we share them.”
Boulder County joins seven other communities that have passed oil and gas moratoriums.