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Colorado Rising, WildEarth Guardians, and Local Environmental Community Groups Notify Polis Administration of Necessity to Halt Oil and Gas Permitting

Date
May 13, 2019
Contact
Jeremy Nichols, (303) 437-7663, jnichols@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
#AJustTransition, #KeepItInTheGround
DENVER — On Monday, May 13th, Colorado Rising, a grassroots, community-led environmental group, and WildEarth Guardians, a western advocacy group enforcing clean air standards, sent letters to Governor Polis, the Colorado Department of Public Health, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, notifying the administration of the need to pause oil and gas permitting while it moves quickly and aggressively to safeguard public health from oil and gas development in the wake of newly enacted SB-181.

“As our Department of Public Health and Environment moves to protect our clean air and health, it’s imperative that they strive to secure deep pollution cuts and rein in unpermitted fracking,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Direction for WildEarth Guardians. “As the Front Range continues to fail clean air standards due to oil and gas, it’s clear the old rules have failed us. It’s time for big changes.”

The letters, sent by WildEarth Guardians and Colorado Rising, and signed by Adams County Communities for Drilling Accountability NOW, 350 Colorado, Broomfield Clean Air & Water, Broomfield Moms Active Community, Frack Free Colorado, Front Range Residents for Environment, Safety and Health, Mothers Out Front Colorado, The Lookout Alliance, and North Range Concerned Citizens detail the need for careful and thoughtful consideration during the oil and gas permitting process including an immediate pause on oil and gas permitting, and to ensure a transparent and clear path forward for rulemaking and public participation in new rulemaking processes in order to honor the new mandates set out by S.B. 181.

“Due to the passage of S.B. 181, state regulators are obligated to protect public health and safety in the permitting process. That obligation extends to rulemaking and regulators need to pump the breaks on permitting before irreparable damage is done,” said Anne Lee Foster, Communications Director for Colorado Rising. “The current set of regulations has no basis in health and safety and the state owes the people of Colorado the due diligence to fully examine the existing health impact data to ensure new extraction is done in a manner that accounts for all potential impacts, including the cumulative impacts to our climate.”

S.B. 181, also known as “Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations”, elevates public health, safety, welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources above unmitigated oil and gas production. S.B. 181 revamps the makeup of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), mandating no less than six rule changes, from flow line regulation to methane leaks, and overhauls the COGCC’s mission from “fostering” the growth of the oil and gas sector to “regulating” it.

The legislation also requires the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Quality Control Commission to adopt new rules to rein in oil and gas industry air pollution, ensure better monitoring of toxic emissions, and overall strengthen safeguards to protect public health.

The need to do better for clean air is paramount in the Denver Metro-North Front Range region.  This nine-county region, which includes Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, and parts of Larimer and Weld Counties, is facing an inevitable “bump up” in its ozone nonattainment classification due to an ongoing failure to attain health-based ambient air quality standards.

Susan Noble, a resident of Commerce City, said: “When we first discovered that fracking was planned under more than a dozen subdivisions we were shocked to learn that we were at the mercy of state laws that favored the oil and gas industry over citizens. Passage of S.B. 181 gave us hope that our health, safety and welfare finally mattered. But the process is like a runaway train. It’s running down the track with no gates, no guardrails in place. We’re scared the health of our community will be sacrificed because no one thought through what it meant for Colorado to have more than 6,000 wells sitting in the COGCC pipeline, with the clock ticking, a bureaucratic process stuck in the past, and an industry still operating as the conductor.”

The first COGCC meeting to discuss the implementation of the of S.B. 181 will be Wednesday, May 15th from 8:30-10 am in the Wasatch Hearing Room, COGCC Main Office, 1120 Lincoln St. (8th Floor), Denver, Colorado. This hearing only addresses the “500 rulemaking series” which covers procedural and administrative changes at the agency. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has yet to publish a schedule pending rulemaking hearings.

Large public attendance is expected at each rulemaking meeting.

Letters submitted are available here and here.

Other Contact
Anne Lee Foster, Colorado Rising, (757) 870-5102, anneleefoster@gmail.com