Friday, October 18, 2013

A Column the Greeley Tribune Refused to Publish

Here is the submission to the Greeley Tribune by Rachel Gilbert. It was refused on grounds that it was too long for a letter. But, when Rachel let editor, Randy Bangert, know she would like to submit it as a column, he was not willing to concede, saying they are bombarded with election letters and have a hard time getting them all in.

"Feel free to send it to others. And of course you don’t need my permission to do that anyway. Thank you, -- Randy Bangert"

"Last March 12, I attended a City Planning Commission hearing regarding the permitting of 22 hydraulic fractured wells just north of the Fox Run neighborhood. Throughout the hearing, residents of the Fox Run neighborhood expressed their concerns about the appropriateness of the wells so near their neighborhood, while the oil and gas producer attempted to quell their anxieties with promises of dirt berms and shrubbery.

As I remember, the aesthetic properties of several species of shrubbery were discussed, as was the noise pollution associated with a 24/7 drilling project. However, it was the topographical map of the development that caught my eye. I noted the elevation of the site, and how the wells would be located in the Cache La Poudre watershed.

 I then asked the commission: where were the objective third-party assessments for 100-year or even 20-year flood risk? Neither side had addressed this aspect; as though the possibility of a catastrophic flood in our arid climate was too remote to consider. My concern was ignored, and the motion to drill these wells was unanimously approved by Greeley City Council on May 7, 2013.

Four months later, the rains came. Colorado saw the worst floods since 1976. Tisha Schuller,  COGA President and CEO, misled the public, saying there were absolutely no leakages from oil and gas wells during the flood.

Eyewitness accounts, including my own, observed a different reality. Some wells were leaning or bobbing like huge, insane corks in the moving water. Were they leaking crude oil? Or maybe toxic produced water? It was a chilling sight, and I dreaded the news to come.

Now, receding waters have allowed experts to comprehensively assess the damage. Two weeks ago, state officials discovered a fifteenth well that had spilled into the South Platte River during the floods. This discovery brings the total estimated amount of oil and gas spilled into the Platte to approximately 43,000 gallons.

These highly toxic and flammable gallons of spilled oil may seem like “small potatoes” to some, but they degrade much slower than the biohazards caused by human waste. In addition to the leaked oil, experts estimate that over 26,000 gallons of “produced water” also spilled into the Platte (COGA). This wastewater is the product of the hydraulic fracturing drilling process, and may be much more hazardous than the spilled oil.

Though “produced water” sounds harmless, it contains not only residuals of oil and gas, but many toxic chemicals. Benzene and ethyl-benzene are known to mutate human DNA; they are especially harmful to unborn babies because they can cause birth defects when absorbed into the mother’s bloodstream. Benzene is a known carcinogen in humans; it can cause lymphoma and other blood cancers. Ethyl-benzene, xylene, and toluene are toxic to human blood, kidneys, liver, and the central nervous system.

If the presence of these chemicals is not alarming enough, produced water often contains arsenic, chromium, boron, barium, and other heavy metals that are hazardous when ingested. While farmers are justly concerned about possible contamination from leaked sewage, these metals do not break down naturally like human waste does.

 Since its inception as Union Colony, Greeley’s farsightedness with regard to water has been one of very careful stewardship. We have set ourselves apart in defining prior appropriation laws, and our municipal wastewater processing plant has state-of-the-art technology. Greeley has water resources that other Front Range communities openly covet. Water is our legacy, and we are poisoning that legacy by allowing oil and gas wells where they clearly do not belong."

Here an impression of who Tisha Schuller is. Comments taken from her blog,  Red Tie, Green Heels.

"..As our personal story unraveled, a public one of oil and gas safety evolved as well, spurred on by unrelenting fractivists delighted by the opportunity to create a national story out of half-truths and straight up lies. Despite rumors of everything from massive toxic waste spills (never happened) to tens of thousands of lost wells (that didn't happen either), Colorado's oil and gas industry proved itself extraordinarily prepared, able to respond in real time, and deeply committed to Colorado’s recovery now, and for the long haul. 
The vast majority of sites had no spills. Six hundred sites were safely put back online within a few days, leaving 1,300 wells shut in. And spill volumes were tiny when put in context: Hundreds of billions of gallons of rainwater 220 million gallons of raw and partially treated sewage 45,000 gallons of oil and gas. 
I still find myself wondering why fractivists were so eager for a massive environmental disaster when so many families were and are still experiencing real tragedies."