Voters in four Colorado cities may call timeout on fracking
Four ballot measures put forth by residents of Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Lafayette will give voters the chance to declare timeout — and, in one case, ban new drilling and industry-waste disposal.
This resistance reflects Colorado’s emergence as a battle zone for hashing out the national problem of wanting increased domestic energy production but also an environmentally sustainable future.
The proposed ban, in Lafayette, also would try to codify community rights as superior to corporate mineral interests.
A moratorium in Loveland is being delayed until judicial authorities resolve a legal challenge.
In Greeley — where state regulators have permitted more than 200 wells inside city limits — anti-drilling groups are drafting a moratorium for a special election in 2014. And several groups are weighing a statewide moratorium or ban.
Proponents say they’re driven by health and environmental concerns as companies operating about 51,000 gas and oil wells around Colorado invest billions to expand — including drilling near neighborhoods and rivers.
“People on Colorado’s Front Range enjoy their quality of life, and this industry represents an immediate threat to public health and that quality of life,” said Cliff Willmeng, a leader of the activist group East Boulder County United, which pushed the Lafayette initiative. “People see that the question of the environment is not an abstraction — it’s something we’re living through now.”
And industry forces are mobilizing, funding grassroots groups to fight the anti-fracking initiatives.
“Yes, we are financially supporting the local groups who oppose the bans on behalf of the 100,000 Colorado families who have an enormous stake in the outcome of these ballot initiatives,” Colorado Oil and Gas Association spokesman Doug Flanders said in an e-mailed response. “These bans are not an energy plan.”
A complex set of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rules is designed to both facilitate drilling and protect the environment — COGCC’s dual mandate given by state lawmakers. However, spills have been happening at the rate of about one a day, contaminating soil and water, and recent state air data in rural Weld County show propane and butane pollution dozens of times worse than in cities. State authorities have yet to complete a human-health or environmental study of impacts.
But economic benefits of Colorado’s drilling boom are huge, and Gov. John Hickenlooper has been a steady supporter. State attorneys have sued Longmont, where the City Council toughened local zoning, to assert state regulatory authority. That lawsuit, looming for months, hasn’t been scheduled for trial.
A year ago, Longmont voters responded to the state’s lawsuit by adopting a citywide ban on hydraulic fracturing — drawing a lawsuit by COGA that was joined by the state.
Encana Oil and Gas USA would prefer that communities follow “a more constructive path,” company spokesman Doug Hock said. He pointed to an agreement with the town of Erie that allows some drilling while requiring Encana to meet town requirements — enforced by state regulators.
Without compromise, Hock said, “we are left in a situation where we cannot access minerals owned by members of the community and from which they derive income.”
Nationwide, the push for greater domestic production using multiwell platforms and horizontal drilling has led companies to move industrial activities into urbanized areas.
“People are concerned about impacts. This is understandable,” Hock said. “It is incumbent upon us as an industry to produce energy in a responsible manner, and the role of regulators and communities is to hold our feet to the fire to ensure that we do.”
State regulators declined to discuss the ballot questions. A spokesman e-mailed a statement saying COGCC works with communities statewide and that some had developed written agreements with oil and gas companies with provisions enforced by the agency.
And yet, four measures on ballots and more in the works suggest widening discomfort.
Conservation Colorado director Pete May-smith, who has pressed for tougher state-level protection rather than local measures, said the initiatives show “a fundamental lack of faith in the state’s ability or willingness to effectively regulate oil and gas.
“The answer is for the state to engage,” he said. “Make sure the strongest possible protections for our communities and our environment are in place. We need to see more.”
A proposed five-year moratorium in Fort Collins grew from concerns about scant information available about the potential health impacts of hydraulic fracturing, said Laurie Kadrich, the city’s community development director.
“From the citizens’ perspective, there’s reason to take pause. We know there are toxic chemicals contained in hydraulic fracturing fluids,” Kadrich said. “Before our community says go ahead, we want a timeout to see what the real health impacts are today and into the future.”
In Boulder, residents simply don’t trust state regulators to prioritize health and the environment, Councilwoman Suzanne Jones said.
“People are quite upset with the state’s appearing to care more about the industry than the citizens. Our local economy is very much tied to a high quality of life — the appeal of outdoor settings, clean air, beautiful vistas,” Jones said. “Allowing drilling within communities and our open space lands does not fit within that economic vision.”
Lafayette voters face a measure that has passed in several communities around the country and is being introduced in dozens more — complex legal wording that seemingly invites legal challenges over the extent of local authority.
City Council members have formally opposed the initiative. Trying to defuse activists’ momentum, they implemented a moratorium in August — even though no new well has been drilled in the area for more than 50 years.
Local elected officials say the citizen-pitched initiative — endorsed by the Boulder County Democratic Party — stands a chance.
“I’d be fine with supporting a ban,” not the other provisions, Councilman Pete d’Oronzio said.
But the fracking opponents pushing the initiative are passionate.
“(COGCC) has not acted in a way that is to protect the safety and the health of the citizens of Colorado with regard with oil and gas production,” d’Oronzio said. “They’re not acting on our behalf.”
Mr. Jimmy Manyi, grilled TKAG CEO Jonathan Deal in a probing interview this week. The interview will air on September 14th, Saturday at 15h30. True to form, Mr. Manyi gave effect to the show’s strapline : ‘Straight Talk, the show where ‘no comment’ is not an option.
The owners of Africa News Network 7 (ANN7) or “Gupta TV”, clearly have a lot of faith in former government spin doctor, Jimmy Manyi.
Not only did they headhunt him to anchor their weekly interview show, Straight Talk, they’re also putting him up against the likes of Chiefs, Pirates, the Boks, the Williams sisters and Tiger Woods.
The show is scheduled to go out every Saturday afternoon at 3.30pm on DStv channel 405 — when other channels have their premier sport offerings.
ANN7, an initiative of Infinity Media — a joint venture between India’s Essel Media and Oakbay Investments, which is owned by the influential and controversial Gupta family — was launched at a glitzy gala dinner at the Sandton Convention Centre on August 22.
The event featured performances by Zulu dancers, singer Zahara and new rapper on the block Kwesta — whose spirited performance seemed slightly incongruent to the grand and formal setting of the launch venue.
South Africa’s new communications minister, Yunus Carrim, delivered the keynote speech and launched the channel with ANN7 editor in chief, Moegsien Williams.
Other guests included former minister in the presidency and current editor of The Thinker magazine, Essop Pahad; ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu; and the Indian high commissioner, Virendra Gupta.
Manyi, looking dapper in a tailored black suit, worked the room at the ANN7 launch, and spoke candidly to the Mail & Guardian about his new career.
“I was headhunted,” he says matter-of-factly.
“They were looking for someone fresh and bold who is able to deal with different and difficult issues.”
He adds that the show’s name is modelled on his character.
“You get it how it is. With me it’s black or white, right or wrong. I’m genuine; when I smile I’m sincere and not buying face.”
And don’t expect sensationalism on his show, warns Manyi, who says Straight Talk will draw from Oprah Winfrey and Larry King’s styles.
“I’ve never seen them [Oprah and King] covering the superficial and sensational side. They get to the substance of the issue and that’s what I aim to do. There are enough shows on the market for those who want sensationalism,” Manyi says.
Some may argue that Manyi was “headhunted” purely because he is such a controversial figure.
The 49-year-old ruffled some feathers last year when he told motorists e-tolls in Gauteng are a reality.
“It’s a fact of life and it’s going to happen,” he said.
But Manyi was more notoriously known for a statement he made during his tenure as director general of labour in 2010 — about there being an oversupply of coloured people in the Western Cape.
In response to a question pertaining to his controversial statement and life thereafter, Manyi said: “If such a honourable man such as Jesus Christ, who brought good news and salvation, was harmed very viciously on the cross, who am I?
“I apologised because people got hurt by that statement. However, I was grossly misrepresented and I must voice my disappointment towards academics and analysts who formed their opinions on a 30-second clip and didn’t bother to take the time to listen to the whole clip.
“I lost all respect for these so-called experts and their inability to make an informed decision shows the shallowness we have in this country.”
verbatim quote #3 on Al Jazeera – North to South – from Shell SA Chairman and Vice President, Mr. Bonang Mohale.
“that is why up until now there has never been a single case of a well collapse and by definition never been a single case of water contamination as a direct result of Shell’s activity.”
COMMENT FROM JONATHAN DEAL
This well known case is still denied by Shell executives in South Africa. At the time of a visit in 2013 to the US, by Jonathan Deal, The Gee family no longer lived in this home – which was unoccupied.
Let’s journey (via the internet) to Tioga County, Pennsylvania.
Alarm bells sound for Karoo residents after US farmer’s water supply ruined
Sep 27 2011
DESPITE assurances by Shell that fracking in the Karoo will not affect the region’s water supply, shocking details have emerged in the United States of how shale drilling by the giant petroleum company has wiped out a farm’s pristine water supply.
An investigation by The Herald has revealed that the spring water supply on a small farm in Pennsylvania, once the pride of the state, is now unfit for human consumption, and the farmer and his family must now drink from supplies trucked in by Shell.
Owned by Jerry and Denise Gee, the water on the farm near Wellsboro in Tioga County bursts into flames when lit with a match, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has found Shell responsible for the migration of methane into the supply aquifer.
Although this case has been unfolding in the US for the past year, Shell South Africa’s Jan Willem Eggink said in Port Elizabeth last month that shale gas extraction drilling was safe, and that they were unaware of any case anywhere around the world where a Shell operation of this kind had been implicated in water pollution. One of the key issues in the US case is that the groundwater supply was contaminated before controversial hydraulic rock fracturing (fracking) even began.
Jeremiah Gee, 34, the Gees’ son, who is a PhD student at Penn State University but still lives on the family farm, said that while Shell had not been able to explain how this could have happened, the company’s own tests had revealed there were naturally occurring fissures running directly from its well pad adjacent to the farm, down to the spring and a large natural pond.
“It appears that the gas was disturbed either by the initial sinking of the shaft or by the perforating procedure. It then migrated up and along these fissures and into our water.”
Gee said the farm had been in the family for four generations, and the water in the pond had been “so good municipalities would pay to have it”.
Pre-drilling tests were done on this water by the fracking company East Resources, before it established itself on an adjoining property less than 100m above the pond. East Resources was then bought out by Shell. These quality tests clearly showed no presence of methane in the Gees’ water.
The trouble started last year with a diesel spill from the well pad which ran down into the pond. Then, in March, Shell constructed an additional pad, with no added erosion controls. “Spring came, the snow melted and washed tons of sediment into the pond.
“A test by the Pennsylvania DEP showed a dip in the water quality. There was a die-off of salamanders, fish and frogs.”
This situation had been left improperly addressed for months, despite a notice of violation sent by the DEP to Shell, he said.
At the same time, the taps inside the house had begun to splutter. The water coming out turned a milky colour and fizzed with bubbles. On April 6 this year the Gees were able for the first time to set this water on fire, revealing what they already suspected: it was full of gas.
In a May 20 letter to Shell, a copy of which is in The Herald’s possession, the DEP said the company had violated the Oil and Gas Act through its “failure to prevent the migration of gas or other fluids into sources of fresh water”.
“Our investigation revealed Shell has caused or allowed gas from lower formations to enter fresh groundwater.”
The department then wrote to the Gees, noting that “evidence such as isotopic data [chemical DNA] indicates one or more of the gas wells on Shell’s nearby well pad are the likely source of this methane… Our conclusion is that your water supply has been affected by gas drilling.”
Little life is left in the Gees’ pond. Most recently it has been “cross-contaminated” by bacteria introduced, as Shell has admitted, by equipment it has used to monitor not only the adjacent well but also others.
“Shell has given us a report that says the fracking fluid could follow the same route into our water as the methane has done,” Gee noted.
Shell has in the meanwhile been working on finding and closing off the gas migration route from the well pad.
This does not seem to be working, however, as the DEP took another water sample at the beginning of this month and the methane content was even higher than before this work started, he noted.
The department has so far, however, taken no further action against Shell.
Gee said while his family did not want to attack Shell unreasonably, “people around the world, including your residents in the Karoo, need to know the inherent dangers of shale gas drilling and that, once the damage has happened, their promises may mean nothing, and you may be left with the mess”.
“The damage cannot be reversed. Our peace is gone, our privacy is gone, our summer is gone. The way you live your life changes forever when you must rely on a global corporation to restore your property and bring water to your family. There is no end in sight.
“Before South Africa agrees to exploratory or experimental drilling, it should understand how dangerous it is for agriculture, for ecology, and for public health and safety.”
Graaff-Reinet lawyer Derek Light, who is representing more than 200 farmers and other parties opposing Shell’s Karoo fracking plans, said yesterday the Gee case was directly pertinent for what was being proposed by Shell in South Africa.
“This is first-hand experience of exactly the scenario that faces South Africa if the Shell applications here are approved.”
He said the groundwater contamination danger was multiplied in the Karoo because of the reliance of the residents on groundwater, and the complete lack of knowledge on just how far the aquifers and the underground fracture complex extended, and how the different parts connected.
Responding to questions, Shell SA spokesman Kim Bye Bruun said Shell had been notified in April of “the presence of methane in a water well…. north-east of Wellsboro”, and it immediately investigated.
“The investigation included sampling the home-owners’ water well and water wells in the surrounding area,” he said.
“Shell also inspected and sampled each of the gas wells on its well pad.
“To date, although there are some similarities, there is no conclusive link between the methane found in the water well and Shell’s operations.
“Shell is working together with the home-owners in question, and the DEP, and is continuing to investigate by conducting additional analysis of the gas sample,” he said.
Shell has furthermore, “as a precautionary measure” disconnected the groundwater supply from the Gees’ home and is supplying the family with alternative potable water, he said.
Asked about the statement in Port Elizabeth last month by Shell SA’s Jan Willem Eggink that he was not aware of any shale gas drilling contamination of ground water anywhere in the word – Bruun said Eggink had been referring to hydraulic fracturing in particular, and the well in question has not been fracked yet, only drilled.
“We are not aware of any cases of ground water contamination due to fracking.”
Bruun was lastly asked what guarantees Shell SA could give that the same or worse contamination will not happen in the Karoo, if the company goes ahead with shale gas drilling there.
He did not respond to this question.
- Out comes the truth about Dimock Pennsylvania (jonathandealblog.com)
- UCT Economist concedes fracking could create Karoo ghost towns (jonathandealblog.com)
- Fracking waste water – not a simple issue for SA (jonathandealblog.com)
- This Is What Fracking Really Looks Like (illuminatebytanya.wordpress.com)