Saturday, July 26, 2014

Truly Good Neighbors Look Out for Greeley's Liveable Future

Greeley Tribune guest column by Sara Barwinski:

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a good neighbor. The Tribune has suggested (“Compromise offers best bet on drilling”) that Mineral Resources has been “neighborly” when they submitted a new application to move their proposed 19 wells and 20 oil tanks a few hundred feet further away from the Frontier Elementary School playground.

Imagine 20 of these near the school! 
The editorial further suggested that Frontier parents were not being “neighborly” because they did not passively and gratefully accept this supposed solution. But Mineral Resources never bothered to first listen to the parent’s concerns when they moved forward with their plan to frack in the heart of Greeley-Evans. They never took the step to inform all parents and have a public forum to receive input and address issues. [remember too that the initial plan called for 67 wells with 32 oil tanks, and 30 separators!]

Instead, they tried to make the problem disappear and generate some positive “good neighbor” public-relations. I’m not sure that many people think that a neighbor who generates 24/7 noise, creates emissions, increases truck traffic, and stores flammable materials in tanks in the middle of a community is a good neighbor. No other industry is allowed to infringe on a community in this way. Special privileges were granted to the oil and gas industry in the days of vertical drilling in order to allow access to minerals.

However, with horizontal drilling, minerals can now be accessed from drill sites up to two miles away. Operators can choose locations that are truly “neighborly” and that are more appropriate for heavy industry. Yes, the wells would now be 1,000 feet from the playground — but the well blow-out in Windsor last year had an impact area of 1,500 feet and took 30 hours to contain. Is it any wonder parents aren’t satisfied?

In addition to the proximity issue, a problem with the intensity of the site remains. Twenty oil tanks? There have been a number of tank fires in the past four months — do we really think we should be making evacuation plans for kindergarteners? When I think of whom I want for a neighbor, I think of someone who looks out not just for themselves but also for their community.

I have heard the Frontier Parent Group voice concerns beyond protecting their kids. They objected to the operator’s decision to simply move the site back because they knew this meant pushing it closer to apartments and to about 500 feet from the Walmart where many people shop. I’ve heard them voice concerns about what the truck traffic will mean for this part of town, especially in light of recent accidents, spills and fatalities. I’ve heard them express concerns about Synergy’s plan to frack behind Centerplace, (behind Kohl’s and new restaurants), and what that means for this growing commercial area and the 1,500 residents of nearby homes and apartments — many of whom live less than 500 feet away.

 I’ve heard them express concern for friends, neighbors and family members who are torn about this issue because of economic considerations. I’ve heard some who have strong ties to oil and gas and fear speaking out, express gratitude to the courageous parents who do so without demonizing others. I’ve heard them express concern about the direction Greeley is headed, knowing some residents have given up and moved away. I‘ve seen them work to find a better way to have responsible oil and gas development and still maintain a livable, healthy community.

They should not be criticized for taking a positive stand for Greeley’s future — they are some of our finest neighbors.

Sara Barwinski is a retired social worker who lives less than 800 feet from the Northridge drill site in Greeley.

Note: Be sure to  Attend hearing: Support Children of Frontier Elementary.on Monday, July 28th.

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