Clean Water Action has worked with local groups around the state to raise awareness of water dangers and other risks posed by oil and gas drilling and fracking. Together with local “fractivists” and municipalities, Clean Water Action helped win new fracking regulations and local moratorium measures, including those in Fort Collins and Boulder County. The Fort Collins moratorium is in effect through July 2013. The Boulder County moratorium expires this February, but will likely be extended to give the county time to update and strengthen its recently adopted fracking regulations. Helping additional communities exercise their rights for local control of drilling and fracking operations is a priority for the coming year.
“Setback” rules determining the distance allowed between drill sites and structures such as homes and schools were also hotly debated. Current state law allows drilling and fracking as close 350 feet in densely populated areas and 150 feet in rural areas. A state “setbacks stakeholder” group is recommending new drill site setback standards.
Communities along the Front Range are concerned about current standards and are looking to scientific studies to guide setbacks rulemaking. Clean Water Action supports a 2,000-foot minimum drill site setback in Colorado.
Drilling and fracking activities have crept closer and closer to neighborhoods and schools in Aurora, Erie, Longmont, Boulder, Fort Collins and other Colorado communities. In parts of eastern Aurora, neighborhoods and schools are surrounded by land leased by oil and gas companies. Clean Water Action convened three public educational meetings in 2012 to provide residents more information on drilling and fracking impacts. The meetings, which received strong news media attention, also gave participants an opportunity to submit public comments for the state’s “setbacks” rulemaking process.
Clean Water Action organized accountability activities and events to expose and critique Colorado’s U.S. Reps. Coffman (R-District 6, Aurora) and Tipton (R-District 3-Cortez, Pueblo, Grand Junction, Durango) for their support of Big Oil subsidies. Clean Water Action demanded that they also stop sponsoring bills to fast-track drilling and fracking on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands. Events covered on local and cable television channels in Pueblo featured appearances around the state by a “Big Oil Fat Cat” character thanking the Congressmen for their continued support of corporate welfare handouts for the oil and gas industry.
In Garfield County, Clean Water Action joined with area residents to place newspaper ads calling attention to oil shale extraction dangers on the Western Slope. Oil shale rocks found in Wyoming, western Colorado and Utah would be mined and then heated to 700 degrees over a period of months or years to be melted and processed into low-grade crude oil.
Large scale development of this oil shale could use up to 124 billion gallons of water each year, enough to supply 750,000 western households. This would be a staggering amount of destructive water use in a region with already-severe water resource limitations. Clean Water Action opposes this development and has been successful helping to slow down efforts to open BLM lands up for oil shale extraction.