Monday, August 4, 2014

Drilling in Towns is an Unacceptable Risk

Three very knowledgeable advocates have supported residents by coming to Greeley to address the City Council, and now the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as well to urge them to prohibit oil and gas drilling near homes and schools. Below you find their whole, or partial testimonies with a yellow link to the audio of their comments at the COGCC hearing on July 28th, 2014. 

Lauren Swain of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club had this to say:

"We are asking you to make a good faith effort to show other communities who are concerned about drilling and fracking in proximity to their homes and schools to deny the permit for drilling at Frontier Elementary. This is an unacceptable location. You're well aware of the hazards, of toxic emissions, spills, and explosions that have occurred at other sites. It is an unacceptable level of risk that you are imposing on this community, and other communities that are watching this statewide will look to Greeley to see what is coming their way, and if more and more of this happens they will want to stop oil and gas production in their communities, and I don't blame them; they should stop it. 

COGCC members

The oil and gas industry is exempt from seven major provisions of seven federal environmental laws that we depend on for our health and safety. They are exempt from major provisions in the clean air act, clean water act, safe drinking water act, hazardous waste management, super fund bill, nipa and the toxic registry for the community to know. The industry does not have to fully follow those laws.  
We do not have the benefit of EPA enforcement of those laws and the states level of enforcement has been deplorably low. We rely on industry self reporting. This is unacceptable... 
Anybody who stands up for our health and safety will be in trouble because of industry's political cloud, and ...YOU. So, I hope that you will change your policies and protect our communities. If you want oil and gas to be alive an thrive in Colorado you have to make it responsible and it's not responsible right now."

Wes Wilson formerly with the Environmental Protection Agency had this to say:

Wes Wilson

"I want to make a contrast between two risks. You saw Stuart Elsworth speaking eloquently about the commission's response to the earthquake. A 20 day shut in followed by the bottom of the whole thing being cemented to try to address that risk. 
In contrast, when Dr. Lisa McKenzie and Dr. John Agate published their peer reviewed study that the outcome of pregnancies in gas towns in Colorado was adversely affected. Specifically that there was a 30% increase in these in these births associated with women being in a community with gas wells...Now what was the state's CDPHE response against that? 
Was it equivalent to what had happened with the seismic event in Greeley? No! It was belittled, it was follow up!

Phil Doe environmental director of Be The Change had this to say: 

"I invite your attention to two recent symposiums; one the Colorado School of Health where a lot was said about health risk, particularly air from fracking. Its online. You should all look at it....
Hear recordings of speakers at the Symposium here

I want to turn to what you said about water use and deep well injection. That one well, injects and destroys enough water for a city's domestic needs of  3600 people annually. There are over 200 wells,  injection wells in this state, and the capacity is going up. How much of our groundwater, how much of our water ... are you contaminating, and how much are you destroying?.. 
The water in this state constitutionally belongs to us, it doesn’t belong to you, and it doesn’t belong to the gas and oil industry. You have no right to destroy it; we have not given you permission. 
Secondly, how much are you going to destroy if as the oil and gas industry predicts they are going to double the size of their operations by 2019. How much water is that going to take, and how much destruction are you going to do before we say cease. Consider the future.!”

Drilling Mud Used to Grow Crops!

“It’s really clay that is very rich in nutrients,” Korby Bracken (director of health, safety and environment for Anadarko Petroleum Corp. in Denver) said. “And it’s very beneficial for farming.”

Anadarko makes some of that drilling mud available to farmers, but the company also has its own fields where the drilling mud is used to enrich the soil. Alfalfa or wheat is planted and grown. See: Energy Pipeline: Oil, gas industry rife with innovation

But, is it really beneficial, or safe? 

That argument reminds me of the aluminum industry getting rid of fluoride (a chemical on the Right To Know Hazardous Substance list) by selling it to municipalities to add it to the drinking water. Now, a Harvard study has found that fluoride does negatively affect intelligence in children.

The idea to dump mud laced with various chemicals and heavy metals on farmland to grow crops is preposterous to begin with, especially without proper oversight. Landowners are therefore advised, 
"to develop a formal contractual agreement with the company or individual responsible for disposal of the drilling fluid... 
The agreement should stipulate testing requirements for drilling fluids and native soils.. 
The costs of sample collections, analyses, soil amendments..can be included in the contractual agreement as the responsibility of the company or individual responsible for the disposal of the drilling fluids".
Landfarming or land application is a process whereby drilling fluids are spread on the land is often preferred to reduce costs of disposal. It may include petroleum hydrocarbons, salts and/or heavy metals.

  • Petroleum hydrocarbons including oil and grease can be toxic to plants in modest concentrations either due to direct contact or through adverse effects on soil properties. 
  • Salts in drilling fluids can affect both plants and the soil. Salts in drilling fluids can affect both plants and the soil. Another element, boron, can be toxic to some plants even at relatively low concentrations. 
  • Heavy metals are elements that may or may not be plant nutrients, but can be harmful to plant and/ or animal health in low to high concentrations depending on the element. Some heavy metals will cause plant death at high concentrations. Others can accumulate in plant tissue (without harm to the plant) to levels which are harmful or toxic to animals and/or humans. 

The heavy metals most commonly found in drilling fluids include arsenic, barium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel and zinc. The amounts present will depend on the formulation of the drilling fluid and the geologic formations encountered during the drilling process.