As someone who is personally affected by what may or may not be done about oil and gas drilling in neighborhoods, I am reaching out to public servants in Colorado. Our State is at a moment in time where we must come together. For those who know me as a political activist, I am also a grandmother and a citizen of Colorado.
Over the past year, the conversation over oil and gas drilling has become extremely personal to me. In 2006, I noticed a dramatic increase in oil and gas rigs near my home just Northeast of Erie, Colorado. I stopped counting at 41 wells. Over the past year there has been an even bigger increase in oil and gas installations in the area around Erie.
We all watched in horror as the explosion in Firestone occurred. For my family, my thoughts immediately shifted to my daughter and her family who live about 350 feet from an older oil and gas well in Erie Highlands. We do not know where the pipelines are for this site or the condition of those pipelines. We do not know if there are chemicals leaking, although we have seen evidence of something coming off the well.
It became more personal for us when the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) inspector found the leak of toxic discharges next to Aspen Ridge Prep School. It was actually 75 feet from the playground where my granddaughters attend preschool. My daughter was alarmed enough at the idea of concentrated toxins in the air that she took my twin granddaughters, aged 4, out of school for 3 weeks.
In recent months, a pair of large-scale rigs went up down the road from our home. We are now encircled in all directions by oil and gas sites, but this is the closest. We have listened to industrial noise around the clock. The rigs regularly flare, and the scent of diesel and chemicals are nearly a daily occurrence. I have filed several complaints with COGCC.
My husband and I bought our home outside of Erie nearly 24 years ago. We came to Colorado because we loved the land, the wildlife, the Colorado way of life. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine having a 32-foot sound wall as our neighbor.
I have taken legislators, candidates and local officials around to see what is happening in the neighborhoods and close to schools. It is a dramatic visual experience of what occurs when industry is allowed to take over agricultural land and encroach on citizen living space.
We need leadership on behalf of the health and well-being of individuals and communities. We know this is complex issue, and we know that if you live in Denver, no one dares drill in your backyard or next to your children’s schools. Although recent reports about Stapleton have raised a question on that.
Coloradans can no longer simply accept that residential oil and gas development is safe. There have been fourteen explosions in Colorado since Firestone, and nearly a year later, there is still no accountability, no sense of urgency to get the large-scale industrial activity out of our neighborhoods.
I urge all leaders to take measures to proactively close the door on neighborhood drilling while ensuring that the aging infrastructure of flowlines and gathering are tested and mapped. The idea that Coloradans would have no say in whether one of these ugly, noisy, and frankly dangerous industrial facilities is sited near our largest investment as homeowners is frankly undemocratic and undermines our property rights.