(Editorial sent to Aurora Sentinel, April 21, 2012)
Contrary to the impression suggested by the April 19th Aurora Sentinel article “City Postpones Considering Oil and Gas Regs.”, Aurora City Council IS going to be considering new a new proposal for oil and gas development in Aurora on Saturday April 21. (See https://www.auroragov.org/cs/groups/public/documents/document/010209.pdf). Council will decide whether to accept the rules changes proposed by the Oil and Gas Subcommittee and can then vote it forward at an upcoming Council meeting. Also contrary to the April 19th article, the new rules being proposed do not require Best Practices for oil and gas development (the kind that would protect our health and quality of life and property values). Rather, Best Practices are only required in certain circumstances and “where practicable”.
Imagine if you or your business had that kind of leeway in following city ordinances! When pulled over for doing 75 in a 30 mph zone, you could tell the officer that it wasn’t “practicable” for you to obey the rules. That’s the kind of language you could drive a truck through, and that is exactly what the oil and gas industry will do. In fact, it will be driving thousands of heavy tanker trucks through it, an estimated thousand per frack at each well, and each well can be fracked up to 20 times.
Right now there 164 wells being considered in and around the city, but this number could increase dramatically, at any time and, per current rules, at any place in Aurora. Apparently, the city is not willing to put up a fight to keep heavy industry out of any corner of Aurora and will allow it everywhere. The city planner hasn’t prepared a truck route based on resident needs – he is awaiting input from industry, on where they would find it most convenient to send their 24/7 tanker convoys, convoys that are associated with a tremendous rise in both traffic time and accidents, as well as tremendous noise and dust and diesel fumes.
What about the Oil and Gas Joint Subcommittee, that was to study and forward a proposal to Council ? Of its 28 members, 11 are city staff, 5 represent the oil and gas industry, and at least 6 represent developers and mineral rights owners. Regular residents didn’t have any representation whatsoever, not even one representative from the concerned citizens group that has been presenting information to Council on the overlooked impact issues for almost one year. Nor were experts in public health and toxicology called upon to present information and answer questions about their recent findings of vastly increased risks to public health (cancer, neurological and respiratory disease) for residents who live within 1/2 mile of hydrofracking operations (with highest risks for children). Even though City Council likes the concept of the medical campus just down the road in Aurora, apparently they don’t want to hear what the School of Public Health (that did the study) or the rest of the medical community has to say on the health risks of toxic emissions, especially in the context of Council’s decision-making regarding oil and gas development toxic emissions in Aurora.
So, in the absence of any voices calling for science-based information or information based on quality of life or information relevant to home mortgage and home insurance guarantees and home appraisal values, issues that are of primary concern to actual residents, our new rule proposals were re-written to improve the profit margins of the oil and gas industry and developers. They are asking for a reduction in the allowable distance from an existing well and new development, from 350 to 150 feet. From what is known about human health, and about mortgage and insurance requirements like those of the FHA (prohibiting industrial activity and surface/subsurface rights within 300 feet of homes or property lines), that profit margin will create damages to our health and our wallets (our ability to obtain full value appraisal and full insurance and mortgage guarantees).
Additionally, the developers and oil and gas reps want Aurora to not require disclosure regarding proximity to nearby wells to potential homebuyers, except at closing, for buyers of brand new development homes. Under this scenario, you would not find out until all your plans had been made (upon closing), if buying in a new development, and not until your health began to suffer if you purchased a used house (see Erie mom’s “Letter to whom it may concern” about just this scenario, at www.erierising.com).
Mr. Sayre has prepared a package of proposals for City Council to vote on April 21, including the terms outlined above. The proposal lists general “community benefits” (listed as if fact, but with no facts referenced), but cites absolutely no community “costs or impacts”, even though anticipated impact and long term cost information is available from other towns in Colorado and based on experience all over the country, particularly in Ft . Worth, Texas. (Watch Deborah Rogers presentation of summary statistics on long term municipal losses associated with horizontal hydrofracking, on YouTube.) The proposal goes on to state that it has no financial impact to the city or its individual residents. This statement has no basis in fact and is belied by readily available information, such as the information that our concerned citizens group, What the Frack?! Arapahoe has been presenting to Council for almost one year. Although it may be news to Council and to the oil and gas industry and developers, health impacts carry high costs for us mere mortals who have limited medical benefits, and for most of us, our investment portfolio consists of our homes, whose values will be at risk for uncompensated losses from oil and gas development, if we live near oil wells.
Residents in nearby Green Valley Ranch, Denver, discovered the readily available impact studies and information re elevated risks and costs in short order, after learning of their developer’s deal with oil and gas company Anadarko, to develop 7 oil wells on nearby Aurora land owned by the developer. One well is sited within 1/4 mile of GVR schools and residences. At their community meeting on Tuesday, residents made it clear they were not interested in living in the midst of heavy industrial activity and toxic processes and clamored for the developer to buy back their houses! Residents in Aurora neighborhoods where drilling is planned are discovering that, if they have their homes on the market, some potential contracts are being lost when buyers learn of incoming drilling. They are also learning that realtors are steering buyers into other neighborhoods that have fewer uncertainties and radical changes on the horizon.
Meanwhile, the all-volunteer concerned citizens group, What the Frack?! Arapahoe, presented Council with a list of questions this week, regarding financial and legal responsibility associated with numerous negative impacts of horizontal fracking. Based on the principle of community right to know, we asked questions on behalf of all Aurora residents, asking who will be financially and legally liable for potential harms that the oil and gas industry and our city has thus far assumed that we are ready to take on, without consideration of any compensation for harm. We have asked for a written response. We are now asking City Council to vote no to the sweet deal for industry and sour deal for residents that Mr. Sayres has sent forward for their consideration. We also continue to ask for a moratorium on new oil and gas applications, until Council has considered the full impact and cost facts and take the opportunity to write rules as protective of Aurorans as Elbert County’s new proposed rules are of Elbert County residents. Their rules outright prohibit oil and gas from toxic emissions and from degradation of their water!
We hope that more Aurorans will take the time to learn more about the issues associated with oil development in Aurora, will visit our website to learn of our concerns, and will join us in demanding that our City Council and City Manager exercise their full rights and responsibilities, to protect the quality of life, property values, water, and health of our city, particularly the health of Aurora’s children: http://www.frackingcolorado.wordpress.com. Given that the oil and gas industry has exemptions from 8 key federal regs. that would otherwise be protecting our health and safety (such as Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Community Right to Know Act, Toxics Act, CERCLA Superfund Act, etc) and our state regs. are hopelessly inadequate, it’s is up to our local government to assert rules that mitigate preventable harm and uncompensated losses to residents.
For What the Frack?! Arapahoe
Posted: Wednesday, January 4, 2012 7:16 am | Updated: 7:43 am, Thu Jan 5, 2012. By SARA CASTELLANOS Staff writer Aurora Sentinel
AURORA | After two months of public hearings, Arapahoe County officials decided Jan. 3. to not move forward with their own set of oil and gas regulations.
The Arapahoe County Board of County Commissioners voted not to amend the county’s Land Development Code and instead continue working on local land-use concerns with the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission.
Opponents of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial oil drilling technique, have said they’re concerned that the process will pollute drinking water and cause property values to decrease.
County and city officials seem to be more concerned about truck traffic, noise, and dust. There’s no mention of fracking’s impact on our air, land, and water.
June 24, 2011
Thanks for following up on the issue of fracking likely coming to the Aurora area! Most Aurorans are completely unaware of it.
I was flabbergasted to find out (from an article in the Denver Business Journal, February) that fracking appears to be coming to Aurora/Arapahoe County, at the Former Lowry Bombing Range, just north of the Aurora Reservoir (and above 4 aquifers), on land owned by the State Land Board…. a “sensitive area” currently designated for “conservation” use (!). Horizontal fracking for oil (18 to 98 wells!) at that site would hyper- industrialize the area and open it up to the possibility of toxic chemical spills (according to research done last June by the Denver Post, spills happen almost daily in Colorado), toxic air pollution with methane and benzene and other extremely hazardous chemicals, and the possibility of contaminating one or more of the 4 aquifers in the area (our area water security). Quality of life in the immediate area (with 24/7 operations, massive large truck traffic, noise, tremors, fumes, etc) would change dramatically (see the Health Assessment report from the Colorado Department of Health, describing the likely impact of fracking to a community, in response to petition request from residents of Battlement Mesa). The people who live in that area immediately surrounding it haven’t a clue about it yet.
I became active in trying to get the word out on this issue when I learned that news of this project and its impact was not getting out to area residents and that the City of Aurora and Arapahoe County have not alerted the public nor provided a formal statement of concern to the State Land Board. I believe that one of the fundamental purposes of government is protection of public health and safety, just as it states at the end of every bill passed in this state. Fracking 18-98 wells would definitely have a huge impact on area quality of life and roads, high likelihood of impact on area health and safety, and possible huge impact on area water security (the current reservoir, the 4 additional adjudicated reservoirs, the 4 aquifers, area groundwater).
Further, the City of Aurora and Arapahoe County (and the area public) were active “stakeholders” in the State Land Board’s 2007 consensus process to determine appropriate land use for the land they own north of Quincy, when all agreed that the area is “sensitive” and should be designated for “conservation” use. They should be active stakeholders again, negotiating for protection of the quality of life, health and safety of area residents and our water security.
That is why the petitions were written and this grassroots campaign about fracking coming to Aurora was started: to make area residents aware of otherwise little publicized project and to make our local governments aware of the mounting concerns of area residents as they learn about the project (attached community info flyer, which gives the web blog link, where hard copy petitions can be read).
The petitions (currently being circulated) request that the stakeholders who determined the conservation designation for the land in 2007 (City of Aurora, Arapahoe County, Elbert County, etc) be reconvened to deliberate on the proposal, requesting public hearings that would allow area input from residents, and requesting that specific terms be stipulated if fracking is to take place on that land, since fracking is not currently bound by federal regs such as the Safe Water Drinking Act, the Clean Air Act, or CERCLA (the EPA Superfund toxic investigation and cleanup act). I presented the petitions to the State Land Board at their June 3 public meeting in Denver and to the City Council of Aurora on June 6, (my 3 min presentation is on Aurora city website televised coverage of the meeting, just after the opening swearing in of new commission members). My presentations were made in order to make the State Land Board and City of Aurora aware of the mounting concerns of area residents, as they learn about the otherwise little publicized project. Signed petitions will be turned in at the end of July. We have formed a grassroots group to get the word out (see “events” on the web blog: http://frackingcolorado.wordpress.com/, and our petitions can be found there as well).
It is ironic that the Former Lowry Bombing Range land includes the EPA Superfund site in its NW corner, where the EPA finally oversaw hugely toxic dumping, with the polluters paying the cost of remediation. That toxic nightmare at the LFBR Range was only addressed under public scrutiny and without our area paying the cost of clean up because of federal regulations that were emerging right at that time, regulations such as CERCLA, which funded the EPA to do investigation, declare toxic Superfund sites, oversee remediation of the land, and enforce the polluters paying the cost. Now, in 2011, oil and gas companies are exempt from federal regs that normally protect the public from the impact of their activities. CERCLA doesn’t apply to them, nor does the neither Clean Water Act nor Clean Air Act. Alone among all US industries, oil and gas was exempted from these protective regulations in 2005 (“the Halliburton Loophole”) and they continue to be so exempted.
So, if horizontal hydraulic fracturing is allowed to proceed at the FLBR land in 2011 and if there is a major spill that contaminates groundwater or aquifers, there will be no such clear oversight and enforceable public process that will apply, since oil and gas has these federal reg exemptions. Unfortunately, Colorado regulations do not go far enough in requiring terms that would more adequately protect public health and safety and water security. Air quality associated with fracking is not monitored comprehensively and at every well by the state or the feds, so the toxic fumes of volatile organic toxins just spew, causing area respiratory and neurological and endocrine syndromes in areas they frack, with no state or federal agency having ‘jurisdiction’ to have them stop such releases; it becomes the health and financial problem of ‘individuals” left with impaired health. If fracking fluid, containing carcinogenic and neurotoxin chemicals, are spilled (which is common), they might do a superficial clean-up, but the area is left with the problem.
If aquifers are contaminated, there is often no effective clean up possible, and again the area is left with the problem (no water security). (That was the focus of the rally yesterday at the State Land Board office: calling for tougher CO regs and for federal regs to apply through the EPA).
Again, thanks for providing coverage on the issue of fracking in Aurora. I hope you consider making it a several part story (the background, the probable impact, etc). Attached is a community flyer our group made up (with links to the YouTube interview, petitions, etc).
Information about the Lowry Bombing Range, including present use and future use are at this website: (added note: current oil and gas wells on site are traditional vertical wells, not horizontally fracked wells)
Information about the Colorado State Land Board’s 37 acres of the Lowry Bombing Range Land is at
An article in the Denver Business Journal, by Cathy Proctor, Feb. 18, 2011, describing the fracking being considered for the Lowry Bombing Range Land by the Colorado State Land Board: ”Lowry’s Oil Royalties Could Yield Millions”
An article in the Denver Business Journal, by Cathy Proctor, August 29, 2010, describing the oil and gas company frenzy to obtain mineral rights to metro Denver & county Niobrara shale drilling: “Niobrara Fever Hits Metro Counties”
A YouTube interview, with Wes Wilson speaking about fracking at the Lowry Bombing Range, Arapahoe County, Colorado. Wes Wilson, an Environmental Protection Agency whistle-blower, brought to light the dangers of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to our air and water in 2004.
Voice your opinion to our city, county and state officials by writing letters. They need to hear that citizens are concerned about fracking. Here are addresses of people to contact.
Colorado State Land Board
Melissa Yoder, Lowry Range Project Manager
Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners
1127 Sherman St., Suite 300
Denver, CO 20203-2206
The five State Land Board Commissioners can be reached at the same address and their
names and information can be found at: