Ground Zero of National Movement Against Hyrdrofracking Shifts to Erie, Colorado
Concerned Parents and Allies Oppose Controversial Natural Gas Extraction Near Local Schools
Denver, Colo.–The national debate surrounding hyrdraulic fracturing (fracking) took on new intensity today as a coalition of parents and consumer and environmental organizations convened here to protest the Encana Corporation’s plans to frack for natural gas near three local schools, as well as the state’s inadequate protection of its residents against the public health and environmental risks imposed by fracking. Under current Colorado law, oil and gas companies are permitted to frack for natural gas within 350 feet of homes in urban areas and 150 feet from homes in rural areas. Leaders from Erie Rising, Food & Water Watch, Sierra Club, Water Defense, the Mothers Project ™ and Project Forsaken gave voice to those affected by fracking in Erie and in communities across the United States.
“It is never appropriate to put wealth before health,” said Jennifer Palazzolo of Erie Rising. “We do not know enough about the short term or long term health effects of mining for oil and natural gas where families live and where children go to school. This industrial activity is inappropriate and unnecessary in residential areas.”
Encana has fracked for natural gas in Erie for many years. The company is now preparing to frack at a new multi well pad located near Red Hawk Elementary, Erie Elementary, Erie Middle School and Exploring Minds Childcare Center, and will transport toxic fracking by-products on roads built just feet from these institutions.
“Thousands of Americans are standing shoulder to shoulder with the parents in Erie who are working desperately to protect their children,” said Sam Schabacker, Mountain West Region director of Food & Water Watch. “The evidence that fracking and related oil and gas activity contaminates drinking water, poses serious health risks and pollutes our environment is undeniable. Encana has no business subjecting the children of Erie, or any other town, to these risks.”
So urgent is Erie’s predicament that it caught the attention of The Mothers Project™, founded by Angela Monti Fox, mother of GASLAND filmmaker Josh Fox. The group has made Erie the first stop in its national fight to protect children from environmental danger, standing with Erie Rising and its allies against the new wells.
“We’re here today to support the courageous families of Erie Rising in their fight against Encana,” said Fox. “The health of our children is more important than oil and gas industry profits.”
Over the past two years, at least 10 studies have documented environmental problems associated with this increasingly controversial form of energy extraction. A study by researchers at Duke University found that methane in drinking water wells near active fracking sites are 17 times higher than those near inactive ones, and across the United States, residents with fracking wells on their land have seen their property values decrease by as much as 75 percent. A recent study but the University of Colorado’s School of Public Health found that people living within half a mile of fracked wells have a 66 percent greater chance of developing cancer.
“The best scientific evidence available indicates that fracking air emissions, which include benzene and ozone-causing gases like propane, put children at risk for everything from asthma to cancer,” said Water Defense Founder Mark Ruffalo. “No parent would willingly subject their children to a vast medical experiment, especially when all the preliminary tests suggest that the results will be irreparably harmful. We have faith that Governor Hickenlooper, who is charged with putting the people of Colorado above all else, will intervene to protect the health of children across the state.”
A 2011 New York Times investigation found that nearly three-quarters of more than 240 gas wells produced wastewater with high levels of radiation, and almost half of those wells produced waste 100 times higher than the EPA’s standard for drinking water. 15 of those wells produced waste with levels 1000 times the EPA’s standard. Wastewater tested in other studies found high levels of benzene and barium. According to the Centers for Disease Control, exposure to high levels of benzene has been known to cause headaches, tremors, confusion and unconsciousness. Exposure to barium has been known to cause gastrointestinal problems and muscle weakness.
“Colorado needs to move forward with a new rule-making on setbacks as soon as possible,” said Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action. “Drilling and fracking needs to move much farther back, away from schools, neighborhoods, playgrounds and homes.”
“The natural gas industry should not be allowed to proceed with harmful development and should not be exempted from any federal, state or local environmental, disclosure or safety laws and regulations,” added Shane Davis of the Sierra Club. “The industry should be held fully accountable for any and all adverse impacts to our air, water, soils and way of life.”
There are over 47,000 fracked wells throughout Colorado, and the oil and gas industry is aggressively moving to dramatically increase that number. According to a Denver Post analysis of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) database, there is more than one spill of fluids associated with oil and gas activity each day in Colorado. In 2008, a wastewater pit in the state leaked 1.6 million gallons of fluid, which migrated to the Colorado River, the source of drinking water for 30 million people.
“Federal exemptions, coupled with insufficient evidence to assure that modern drilling practices are safe, have left communities with ineffective local, state and federal oversight, as well as an industry hostile to common sense measures of accountability,” said Lisa Bracken of Project Foresaken. “The limitless potential of a healthy child’s life is best assured through the preservation of a clean environment. Both are without measure and must not be sacrificed to corporate profits.”
Over the past year, opposition to fracking has increased throughout the United States with over 200 municipalities passing measures against the process.
View photos of the event here.
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org; April Beach, Erie Rising, (303) 522.4334 , Press(at)erierising(dot)com.
Erie Rising is a parent-powered organization dedicated to protecting our children, our health, our environment and our community, as well as those beyond our reach. Founded by accomplished women, mothers and business owners, Erie Rising is quickly becoming an effective grassroots organization bringing awareness to the issues related to hydraulic fracturing and concerns for children’s health.