At Western Values Project, we understand the importance of oil and gas development not only in Colorado, but also across the West. We also understand that we all use energy in our daily lives. Yet one thing remains confusing. Safeguards for our air, water, communities, and families seem like logical steps our government and industry can take to mitigate the environmental impacts of oil and gas development. But at nearly every turn, it seems industry and their apologist’s intentionally mislead the public, and ignore calls for greater transparency into their operations.
Take for example a recent mailer to Coloradans from the industry led and paid for front group Citizens for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) as case and point. CRED recently sent out a paid mailer, which claims that industry has been fracking safely for 60 years. Yet the facts don’t support this claim.
So far in 2013, the oil and gas industry in Colorado has averaged one spill a day related to drilling and fracking. Of these daily spills, on average one spill per week has contaminated groundwater – nearly 25 percent of all spills led to water contamination.
Last year, Colorado’s oil and gas industry reported 402 spills related to drilling and fracking – of which 20 percent (or 85 spills) contaminated groundwater. Not to mention the huge spill into Parachute Creek – 10,000 gallons of gas and waste – which contaminated nearby water and soil with benzene, a known cancer causing chemical.
In addition to water pollution, a recent report found that fracking poses health risks from air pollution – to people living within 1/2 mile from drilling sites.
CRED’s mailer also claims that fracking requires a tiny amount of water resources. Once again the facts don’t support their propaganda. According to an analysis from an independent nonprofit, annual fracking in Colorado requires enough water to supply a city up to the size of Cincinnati, Ohio or Ft. Collins, Colorado.
The industry front group’s mailer also says that fracking fluids include chemicals “similar to those in your household, under your sink, in your backyard or in the garage.” Once again, the industry seems to be swapping out fact for fiction. In 2008, an ER nurse in Durango was exposed to a worker who’d come into contact with fracking chemicals – and subsequently suffered liver, heart and lung failure, spending 30 hours in the intensive care unit.
We’re willing to bet that most Coloradans don’t keep frack-like chemicals on hand that can cause heart, liver and lung failure.
CRED’s un-credible mailer is an unfortunate example of the billion-dollar oil and gas industry’s bottom line – putting the health and safety of Colorado families and communities at risk for the sake of their profit margins.
Energy development is and will no doubt continue to play an important role in the Colorado economy. But one thing is clear, reasonable safeguards for our air, water, and communities are not barriers to doing business; rather those very safeguards are the responsible things to do for the communities the oil and gas industry operates and lives in. Until CRED understands that, Coloradans will remain skeptical.