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Lawsuit Filed to Defend Public Health, Safety, and Community From Fracking in Broomfield, Colorado
Nonprofit environmental advocacy group, WildEarth Guardians, and Residents Rights, an organization of impacted residents, joined together to file the suit. It targets the City Manager’s unlawful approval of a “Comprehensive Drilling Plan” allowing Extraction Oil and Gas to drill and frack 84 new wells in the City and County of Broomfield, despite the Plan’s failure to comply with the requirements of the Broomfield/Extraction Operator Agreement or the City’s own Charter and ordinances.
“The oil and gas industry needs to be held accountable to the very real risks their operations pose to residents in Broomfield and beyond,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “This lawsuit is about ensuring the City and County of Broomfield enforces that accountability and fully protects its residents. On behalf of our members in Broomfield, WildEarth Guardians is honored to be a part of this effort to defend residents and put communities first.”
With the advent of horizontal drilling and fracking, Broomfield has been under increasing pressure from the oil and gas industry. Although some development has occurred in the City and County in the past, new drilling plans would lead to more intensive development and heightened risks to public health and safety.
In response, voters passed initiative 301, in 2017 amending the Broomfield City and County Charter to allow oil and gas development only if it does not adversely impact the health, safety, and welfare of residents, wildlife or the environment.
In spite of this voter initiative, in September 2018 Broomfield City Manager, Charles Ozaki, authorized Extraction Oil and Gas, Inc. to begin drilling without including crucial conditions to assess, disclose, and prevent risks to public health and safety.
“This lawsuit is about holding our local government accountable to Broomfield’s Charter which requires the City to make sure there are no adverse impacts to the health, safety and welfare of Broomfield’s residents, wildlife and the environment from oil and gas development,” said Kim McNaughton, Broomfield resident and founding member of Residents Rights. “I think the City of Broomfield got it wrong by approving this drilling plan.”
The suit comes as the oil and gas industry is encroaching into Colorado communities throughout the Denver Metro and Front Range region, presenting new and more significant risks to the health and safety of more and more people. Spills and leaks of toxic materials, explosions, fires, injuries to workers, and even deaths of both workers and civilians are increasingly common.
Extraction Oil and Gas in particular, which is aggressively pursuing development in and around many communities in the Denver Metro area, has been frequently cited by state regulators for violating health and safety requirements and air quality regulations.
As concern has grown over the impacts of oil and gas development to the health and safety of Colorado residents, citizens have increasingly called for more stringent limits on drilling and fracking. This November, Coloradans will vote on Proposition 112, which would require oil and gas development to be set back at least 2,500 feet from homes and other structures.
Current setbacks of only 500 feet from homes means that thousands of residents will be in the evacuation zone if and when a typical-sized explosion or blowout occurs. And current setbacks are inadequate to protect the public from the effects of toxic air pollution that these massive fracking operations emit.
The lawsuit served today upon the City and County of Broomfield not only seeks to enforce health and safety requirements that were voted in by residents, but also seeks to defend the power of citizen initiative.
“Broomfield Residents have pleaded with City officials to listen to their people and defend the public interest,” said Cristen Logan, Broomfield resident and founding member of Residents Rights. “Unfortunately, they’ve refused to take seriously their duty to represent Broomfield residents and uphold the law. A lawsuit isn’t what we wanted to see happen, but we have been left with no other recourse.”
The case was filed in Colorado District Court in Broomfield County. WildEarth Guardians and Residents Rights are represented by Dan Leftwich of Mind Drive Legal Services and Kate Merlin of Colorado Environmental Advocates.
“The Broomfield Oil and Gas Comprehensive Plan update committee, of which I was a member, put the health, safety, welfare and environment of our community as our top priority. The Broomfield constituents later amended the Broomfield charter to condition oil and gas development to only occur in a manner that does not adversely impact the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. This suit is about enforcing these core values, which City officials have so far disregarded when making decisions concerning fracking operations within the city and county.”
- Tom Yeager, Broomfield resident, Broomfield Oil and Gas Comprehensive Plan update committee member, founding member of Residents Rights.
“As a retired geophysicist and meteorologist, I am very much aware of the hazards posed by potential mega-sized oil and gas operations in Broomfield. I am disappointed our city council has not followed the dictates of Initiative 301 as passed by Broomfield voters: to ensure oil and gas development in Broomfield will not adversely impact the health, safety, and welfare of Broomfield’s residents in their workplaces, their homes, their schools, and public parks.”
- Vince Miller, Broomfield resident of impacted neighborhood Anthem Ranch, retired geophysicist and meteorologist, founding member of Residents Rights
“I can’t sit by and let my rights be trounced. I have gone through every effort to prevent oil and gas development from encroaching and exposing our neighborhoods to danger over six years in Broomfield. Now, the City has approved an illegal Comprehensive Drilling Plan that would allow unknown levels of pollution and hazards. I support this lawsuit to protect myself, my family, my community, and my investment in my home.”
- Sarah Egolf-Tarr, Broomfield resident, cancer survivor, founding member of Residents Rights
“The citizens of Broomfield were so concerned about their health and safety that they overwhelmingly passed the 301 Initiative to be part of the City’s charter. I want to see the City uphold their charter and follow through with protecting their citizens from the adverse effects of oil and gas.”
- Becky Early, Broomfield resident, founding member of Residents Rights, and a mom who is concerned about the health and safety of my family with the proximity of so many wells near our homes, schools, and parks
“Public health and safety is paramount and residents of Broomfield have made that clear through the citizen initiative process. This case is about defending their fundamental right to decide for themselves what risks are acceptable and how best to protect themselves from the hazards of fracking in their community. ”
- Dan Leftwich, Attorney on Lawsuit
“Broomfield engaged in a ten-month process of amending its Operator Agreement with Extraction in 2017, only a few months after it made amendments in 2016. Then it folded in the face of legal threats from Extraction, and approved this Drilling Plan which doesn’t even comply with that Agreement, or with Broomfield’s Charter. The people of Broomfield deserve better than to have an unelected City Manager approving a non-compliant Plan which won’t protect them or their families from serious threats like explosions, fires, or toxic spills and leaks.”
- Kate Merlin, Attorney on Lawsuit
Tuesday Press Conference and Spokesperson Availability
Residents Rights and WildEarth Guardians will be hosting a press conference to address the filing of the suit and provide commentary from spokespeople and impacted residents. The press conference will be on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 from 2:30 – 3:00 p.m. at Anthem Community Park located at 15633 Sheridan Parkway, Broomfield, Colo., 80023.