On Tuesday, the Boulder County Commissioners refused to extend the 17-month moratorium on fracking in Boulder County. The community and local and statewide organizations had asked for at least a two-year moratorium until health studies are completed.
Commissioner Elise Jones said she would support a two-year moratorium so results of health studies could be considered . However, County Commissioners Cindy Domenico and Deb Gardener said they would not extend the moratorium because the state had claimed authority in this area and therefore they didn't have jurisdiction. The commissioners are afraid of being sued by the oil and gas industry, by mineral rights owners and by the state.
People from the community at the meeting were understandably upset. Their anguish was palpable. Many live in close vicinity to wells and said they have already gotten sick from air contaminants from fracking.
The County Commissioners instead instructed county staff to present some additional regulations to slow down the process for issuing permits. To date, I have not seen regulations protect communities from the effects of fracking.
Last week, the commissioners held a public hearing on whether to extend the moratorium. Dozens of people spoke, all in favor of a multi-year moratorium. They talked about the devastating illnesses, the pollution of our air, water and open spaces, the harm to the economy, the impacts on agriculture and our food, destruction of infrastructure and devaluation of property values. Attorney Dan Leftwich spoke about the legal basis for an extended moratorium (see his testimony at http://abrahampaiss.com/frackfreeboulder/resources/resources/). This was ignored by the County Attorney, who supported the status quo and the state's claims of authority.
The Indian Peaks chapter of the Sierra Club had also presented extensive documentation of studies detailing the negative public health impacts of fracking (see Medical Studies Addendum at http://abrahampaiss.com/frackfreeboulder/take-action/).
I believe the commissioners made a grave mistake that, if it stands, will have devastating impacts on Boulder County for decades and generations to come. They should have stood up to illegitimate claims of power by the state, for as Martin Luther King said, "Silence is betrayal."
Write to the Boulder County Commissioners at email@example.com and ask them to reverse their position and support a multi-year moratorium. Thank Elise Jones for her courage. And attend a meeting to plan further action to stop fracking in Boulder County on Sunday, June 2 from 2-5 p.m. at Unity Church, corner of Folsom and Valmont, Boulder.
Carolyn Bninski is on the staff of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.