It’s time for the citizens of Fort Collins to send City Council and COGA a message.
Last spring, the people of Fort Collins voted to impose a moratorium on fracking to allow time for studies to be conducted to determine the safety and environmental impacts of this process. However, City Council caved to belly-aching from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and outside business interests, and lifted the moratorium on Prospect Energy, the only company with fracking operations within city limits.
With the moratorium essentially lifted without voter approval, it is evident that we the people need to send a stronger message to our city and state. Banning fracking in Fort Collins is the right thing to do for the following reasons.
First of all, it has an uncertain impact on the community. Fracking is still a relatively new technology, and there are many contrasting claims regarding its safety and effects on the environment. This issue has sparked a contentious debate along the Front Range and each side wants you to believe it’s right.
Secondly, executives in the business, of course, will tell you that it’s a completely safe process, and anti-fracking groups will warn of its disastrous implications while rattling off quotes from Gasland. Both sides have evidence to back up their cases, but the most objective studies have yet to be completed. For example, the EPA’s study is ongoing and estimated to be publicly available in 2014. Banning fracking within city limits is the smartest move to make right now until we can get an unbiased prognosis on the security and byproducts of this practice. It will allow the members of City Council more time to collect adequate data in order to make an informed decision about the future of fracking in Fort Collins.
Then, there’s the lack of public awareness. Another aspect of this issue is that many people are misinformed or unaware about what fracking actually entails. Again, this is a result of both sides trying to win this debate, and words will be twisted to fit motives. Indeed, I run pretty “green” myself and would tell you in person how malicious and environmentally irresponsible fracking is, but let’s take a look at it in objective terms. Hydraulic fracturing, at its core, involves injecting a highly pressured mix of thousands of gallons of water, sand and chemicals down and across into horizontal wells far below the surface, sometimes as deep as 10,000 feet.
These highly pressurized mixtures are necessary to break open the thick layers of rock, and the sand holds the cracks open so that the natural gas can flow up the well. What exactly the “chemicals” are is not information that many oil and gas companies tend to share. The organization FracFocus lists the most commonly used chemicals on its website, but also states that there are hundreds of others that “could be” used as additives.
This lack of transparency on the part of the oil and gas industry makes it difficult for voters to comprehend the entirety of the situation. Along with these dubious mixes of “chemicals,” the other main concerns are the drilling locations themselves. Many companies operate very close to residential neighborhoods, though it is unclear whether this is an issue in Fort Collins. Due to the depth at which these wells are drilled, there is a high likelihood that water tables could be interfered with and groundwater contaminated. However, we cannot be certain for sure until studies are completed. Because of the potential implications of fracking, and the almost industry-wide refusal to cooperate with voters and be more transparent, we should ban the practice until more light is shed on the situation.
Last of all, minimal economic impact. COGA has already spent over $600,000 trying to fight bans and moratoriums in Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette and Fort Collins, and will continue to expound about how banning fracking would be unfair to businesses. That’s a very valid point, but note that there is only one company that “fracks” in Fort Collins. Just one. The industry’s argument of unfair business practice holds little weight, since there are so few ties between the industry and this community.
Today, let’s send a message to City Council and COGA that we don’t want their fracking drills in our city anymore. There is simply too much that we still don’t know, and it’s only right to put it on hold until we can make an informed decision.
Sean Kennedy is a freshman undeclared major. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters @collegian.com