You are invited to attend and participate in a free, non-partisan town hall meeting between the candidates for the city and county elections taking place in Westminster, Federal Heights, Thornton, Broomfield and Adams County, and the residents of the mobile home communities, affordable housing, and those currently living without housing.
The purpose of the evening, is to provide all of the candidates an opportunity to introduce themselves to residents who have otherwise been denied the opportunity to speak to the candidates regarding their platforms and goals for their term of office. This is not intended as a debate between candidates, merely an introduction and opportunity for the residents to make fair and informed decisions at the polls.
It is also a step towards solving the affordable housing crisis currently affecting both the state and the country. In all of the research being done to find a solution, one point shines clearly throughout. It is only thru communication between all jurisdictions, officials and residents, that we can find a viable, and effective solution to an ever growing crisis.
Above all, this evening is an effort to re-enforce the importance of the democratic process in all aspects of our society. A cooperative effort between parties, officials, advocates and non-profits is organizing this event to ensure that a positive message and experience are shared by all participants. Each candidate will have the opportunity to introduce themselves, and to answer a few pre-prepared questions. We will then have a “breakout” session, where candidates and residents will be able to interact one on one.
Fires, explosions and toxic releases: Front Range residents fight fracking boom. How oil and gas production is devastating Colorado communities and endangering the climate.
For Barb Binder, the bad news arrived with a knock on the door. That’s when she learned from a local activist that a patch of open public space across from her “forever home” in Broomfield County, the Denver suburb where she and her husband planned to retire, was about to become an industrial site.
Initially, she was comforted by the thought that state officials would not possibly allow residential hydraulic fracturing – or fracking, as it is known – to begin if it was not safe.
But two years on Binder feels naive for being so trusting. She believes her asthma has become worse since the construction near her home began, and blames the drilling mud that has been used on the site. And then there is the constant worry.
“I had to educate myself about exactly what’s involved in industrial-scale fracking,” she says. “It meant looking at the dangers – the fires, the explosions, the toxic releases, and recognising: ‘Oh my God, I am going to be living right next to this.’”
Binder now spends most of her free time opposing the plans of Extraction Oil and Gas, the Denver-based company that has plans to construct 84 wells around her neighborhood, 16 of them “literally” – she says – in her backyard.
She is not alone. Since the advent of the fracking boom in oil-rich Colorado – where there has been a fivefold increase in oil and gas production since 2008 – new wells and production sites have sprung up around residential neighbourhoods in the Front Range faster than environmental researchers can track them.
There are 40,000 active and inactive wells across the Denver basin, and new permits issued every month for more. They are built close to schools, playgrounds, and clusters of family homes.
Extraction Oil and Gas told the Guardian it had used new technologies to “minimise the impact of oil and gas development” in the Front Range, compared with the way oil was extracted in previous decades.
A spokesperson said the company had learned some lessons from an incident on its Livingston site, after it voluntarily switched a drilling fluid it had been using because residents complained about the odour. It said air monitoring results had found “no health impact” from the smell.
“To date, all published air-quality monitoring results have been stellar, and conclusively show that any effects of our development on the air we breathe are negligible,” the company said.
“We understand that there will always be those who oppose all oil and gas development whatsoever, or want to ‘leave it in the ground’, but we will continue our endeavours to minimise impacts of developing the energy we all use each day – and we will never stop innovating for the betterment of Colorado and our state’s economy.”
Yet the conflicts – between industry and residents, and sometimes neighbour versus neighbour – have felt, in the words of the local reporter Chase Woodruff, like a “civil war” at times.
And there have been accidents. In 2017, two men were killed, and a woman and child injured, after a house in Firestone, Colorado, exploded because of a leak of “fugitive gas” from an uncapped pipeline that was connected to a gas well near the home.
Erin Martinez, who lost her husband and brother in the blast, has moved house again after a new well began construction across from her home.
Environmental researchers from the not-for-profit Earthworks group travel from site to site in what sometimes seems like a game of whack-a-mole, using a special gas-finding imaging camera to track, document, and report what they describe as plumes of pollution that are being emitted from the sites, in what they claim is evidence of dangerous releases of methane and other volatile organic compounds that are not visible to the naked eye.
Dozens of complaints have been filed to state authorities, but regulators have deemed that most of those emissions are in the allowable range.
One proposal that would have forced oil and gas wells to be located at least 2,500ft (760 metres) – or half a mile – from homes and other buildings was voted down on a ballot initiative last year by a vote of 58% to 42%, in a significant blow to anti-fracking activists.
Oil and gas advocates argue the “setback” proposal would have decimated their operations in Colorado, in effect barring new drilling from the Denver suburbs where nine in 10 new wells are being constructed.
Colorado Rising, one of the leading activist groups in the state, reportedly raised about $1.2m (£1m) to support the initiative, but were outspent when – activists say – industry sources pumped $41m into the race.
Opponents of fracking have, however, won one big victory since then. Last April, Colorado’s new Democratic governor, Jared Polis, signed a new mandate into law that forced one of the state’s most powerful institutions, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), to completely upend its mission.
Instead of fostering the oil and gas industry, Senate bill 181 (SB181) has forced the COGCC to regulate it, with a specific priority on public health and safety and focus on the environment.
The new law has raised questions: about whether a state with deep ties to the fossil fuel industry can ever really change, and whether fears about the climate crisis, and the ill-effects of fracking, will ever make a difference.
For years, the oil sector has argued that Colorado needs the multibillion-dollar industry and the hundreds of thousands of job it sustains.
Sara Loflin, the executive director of the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans, a campaigning group that helped get SB181 passed, says the legislation was a product of decades of Coloradans living with oil and gas in their communities, and seeing the effect of its pollution: the industrial waste, the bad air, the noise, and the constant low thumping vibrations that have made residents physically ill.
For years, Loflin told the Guardian, locals who were concerned about debris from abandoned sites, or the way soil at a local playground had changed colour, would have to make more than a dozen calls to get answers from public officials, and still be treated with hostility.
Now her organisation is seeking to remind local governments, who have also been given more power under SB181, that they have “the jurisdiction, the right, and the responsibility” to say no to new permits if health and safety is jeopardised.
But despite its legal firepower, there is no sign of rapid change within the Colorado market. At a recent meeting of the COGCC in Thornton, on an unseasonably hot autumn day, residents’ frustrations were aimed at Jeff Robbins, the director of the COGCC, who was appointed by Polis.Advertisement
Since May, Robbins and the COGCC have approved 650 drilling permits and 82 location sites. Some permit applications have been delayed, but not a single one has been denied, despite the COGCC’s new mandate.
Pressed by the Guardian about whether he saw it as his job to say no to industry, Robbins said he believed it was his mission to take “a close look” at permit applications that were located close to homes.
“And that’s exactly what I’m doing,” he said. “What 181 says is that we don’t want to see all of the pending permits get a free pass. And we don’t want to see all pending permits be under a moratorium. It says we want you – director – using objective criteria to permit those that can be permitted, and potentially delay others that can’t be permitted, because they are not protected.”
When he was asked whether the climate crisis would affect the COGCC’s permit allocations under the new law, Robbins said climate could potentially be considered since SB181 required the commission to evaluate the cumulative effects of oil and gas operations on the environment.
But Robbins said he would look for “stakeholder input” for guidance. He meets once a month with environmental activists and residents, and twice a month with industry.Advertisement
For residents like Connie Beach, who returned home from a vacation in November 2017 to a letter that said she would soon be living next to a 30-well mega-pad for drilling, and was told there was “nothing to do about it”, the promise of SB181 is losing its lustre.
On a local Facebook group, people in her neighbourhood post about favoured local candidates who will fight industry. Most end up being challenged by opponents with deep pockets and ties to oil and gas.
Joe Salazar, a former Democratic state legislator and civil rights lawyer who recently became the head of Colorado Rising, is keeping his eye on a proposed fracking site called Acme, which has been described by environmental experts as one of the most problematic in the state of Colorado. Permits have not yet been approved, but if they are, the site will contain 36 wells within 500ft (150 metres) of homes, and 100ft from a small airport runway.
The COGCC recently reopened a public comment period, inviting residents to air their views before the commission makes a decision.
“This is going to be one hell of a test case,” Salazar said. “The community is fighting like hell to get the COGCC to deny that. It really is left to the whims and wishes of the director … that’s why there is so much pressure on him.”
My heart goes out to everyone negatively impacted by fracking. No one should have to live like this. None of us moved to Broomfield to put up with this. I’ve been fighting against this industry since 2012, which is what led me to running for office. If you experience headaches, nosebleeds, coughing, tightness of breath. If you have recently been diagnosed with asthma, need nebulizer treatments, or have begun to have heart issues. If you experience odors, noise, light from the rigs, or even your house shaking, please take the time to report it. Here are the complaint links for O&G Health and Safety related issues for both the local and state.
A special meeting was held on Monday September 30th at the City Council Chambers to discuss a methane leak the City and County of Broomfield discovered during routine soil and gas testing in Anthem Highlands. Those present included the City and County of Broomfield staff, representatives from COGCC, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, and North Metro Fire Department. The source of the leak has still not been identified, and no wells will be shut down in the interim.
This was the first time we’ve gotten to see Broomfield’s new City Manager, Jennifer Hoffman, display her leadership style. Personally, as a long time advocate for Health & Safety, Broomfield may have finally gotten the City Manager we need.
Here is the City video from the Meeting. The meeting begins at 5 minutes into the video. Because it is a two hour video, please give it a moment to buffer on your device.
Sunday afternoon, I got to participate in an amazing Peaceful Protest at the corner of Lowell Blvd. and Sheridan Parkway. I was joined by many familiar faces I’ve known for the last seven years. And many new faces of the next generation and those who are now aware of the dangers of fracking. Thank you again for everyone who spoke, everyone who planted, everyone who had the courage to come and be present. Thank you to the Elders who opened and closed the Ceremony. Thank you to Christiaan Van Woudenberg for speaking and for your continued support. And a special thank you to the Police who did not intervene and let us exercise our First Amendment Rights.
Broomfield Days main event is the Saturday Parade. My family has been participating in the parade going back to when my children were in Elementary School representing Aspen Creek. The exciting chance to march down Midway, representing our community, and being part of what it means to live in Broomfield. From high school marching bands to celebrating and honoring our veterans. Then after the parade is over, wandering through the myriad of booths and stages for food, information, exhibitions, and bands. A day for locals to show their flair, and for residents to learn a little more about their community.
Broomfield Crescent Grange was honored to participate in the Broomfield History Tour, along with our friends at the Broomfield Depot Museum and Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum. Marci Heiser gave a fantastic presentation to the group, and Beau Juenemann serenaded them by guitar. Thanks to Marci, Karen, Tara, Beau, and Chris Cleary (photography).
Broomfield hosts several events throughout the year that benefit local charities, support the arts, featuring local breweries, food trucks, and bands. It’s a great chance to meet others and to visit different booths that highlight some of the best of Broomfield. This year marks the fourth annual BrewHaha, which takes place at Arista Park on Saturday June 8.
Processing, approval of applications on hold until Dec. 4
Broomfield officials have enacted a six-month oil and gas moratorium aimed at giving the city time to update local ordinances to be more in line with the newly-passed state law that gives municipalities more control over such matters.
The moratorium, approved at the May 28 city council meeting, will halt until Dec. 4 the processing or approval of applications for use by special review or operator agreements to allow oil and gas operations in Broomfield.
Several residents came to speak in favor of the moratorium and Chris McGowne, who identified himself as the associate director of the Colorado Petroleum Council, came to speak against.
Residents in favor of the moratorium said they think it will give Broomfield time to dissect what can be done and revisit Issue 301 – a voter initiative that passed by a 57 % vote in 2017.
Essentially, the measure requires any vote about oil and gas development in Broomfield to consider the negative effects that the decision could have on residents. It requires the consideration of health and safety of Broomfield citizens to be the primary metric by which oil and gas decisions are made.
Some pointed out that rulemaking “hasn’t even begun” at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and that Broomfield needs time to work on their own regulations.
McGowne brought up the same concerns he shared at a May 14 meeting when this moratorium came up for a first reading. He said companies that are members of the council always have benefited from a positive, collaborative and engaging relationship with Broomfield and that members always have taken a “pragmatic and proactive” approach to working with Broomfield and hope to continue to do so in the future.
McGowne said he understands the city wants to codify the new regulations, but that this moratorium is not needed to take such an action. Instead, he sees the action as a way to delay oil and gas development for as “long a time frame as possible.”
Ward 1 Councilwoman Elizabeth Law-Evans directed one response to McGowne, saying Broomfield has no intention of banning or keeping industry work constantly halted by a moratorium. The goal is to update regulations per the new state law, she said, adding an apology if she gave him a different impression.
If Broomfield didn’t have any permits pending, Ward 2 Councilman Mike Shelton said he wouldn’t know how to feel about a moratorium.
“I want to believe that the oil and gas companies want to produce this product and respect everybody that’s around them,” he said. “I just haven’t seen it that way. I haven’t seen it be positive, I haven’t seen it be collaborative, and I haven’t seen them be proactive about it. We defiantly need a six-month moratorium if we’re going to have Crestone (Peak Resources) operate under new regulations and not the ones we had so long ago.”
Members of council brought up the idea of a moratorium at previous meetings as a way to give city officials time to react to the passage of Senate Bill 181, which changes the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and authorizes local governments to exercise additional regulatory authority over oil and gas operations without being preempted by state law. Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law on April 16.
Extraction Oil & Gas, Inc., in October 2017 signed an operator agreement with Broomfield to drill up to 84 new wells on six sites, which is not impacted by the new state law. Crews [split verb comment=”are “]currently are drilling on the Interchange B Pad south of the Northwest Parkway and between Interstate 25 and Huron Street.
Broomfield amended its oil and gas land use regulations in July and again in March, when the city increased setbacks of residential and “sensitive use developments” to oil and gas well sites.
The new law grants local governments more authority to regulate surface operations and nuisance impacts of oil and gas operations.
At an April 9 meeting, council members asked staff to review and begin drafting amendments to the Broomfield oil and gas ordinance to implement the broader authority granted by the law.
In late March, Adams County commissioners passed a moratorium, which can extend up to six months, for new applications for oil and gas drilling permits. Last month, Lafayette extended a moratorium that the council initially approved in November 2017.
The American Petroleum Institute issued a news release Tuesday evening, claiming Broomfield is the seventh Colorado community to enact a moratorium since SB 181 passed.
“We are disappointed that Broomfield City Council has chosen to impose a moratorium on new energy development. Its decision is misguided and harmful to our state,” Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Lynn Granger said about Broomfield’s vote. “Our industry prioritizes public health and safety and continues to take proactive measures to ensure that energy development is done safely and responsibly in collaboration with the priorities of Colorado communities. Nothing about Senate Bill 181 has changed our industry’s leadership role in environmental stewardship.”
On May 23rd Gov. Jared Polis signed several bills into law at the George Di Ciero City and County Building in Broomfield. Including House Bill 1309 to expand regulatory protections for residents across the state’s roughly 900 mobile home parks, a section of Colorado’s housing stock that communities have increasingly leaned on as a substitution for attainable and affordable housing.
The room was filled with legislators and residents that have been working on the number of bills that were signed. It was quite the experience. It was a gathering of hope, accomplishment, and joy. As several of the topics dealt with issues from healthcare to human rights.