Conservation Colorado Executive Director Kelly Nordini has released the following statement on the failure of Proposition 112:

Let’s be clear: the oil and gas industry spent at least $30 million to beat this measure by fear-mongering about jobs. No one in this state would be foolish enough to say that tonight’s result mean that voters want an oil and gas rig closer to their homes, schools, or hospitals.

The fact remains: the oil and gas problem in this state has not been solved. Local communities still have too little say in where dangerous facilities are sited; the industry benefits from loopholes to laws meant to protect our environment; our state’s severance tax is the lowest effective severance tax in the nation; and spills, fires, explosions, and pollution remain all too commonplace.

In recent years, the oil and gas industry has stood in the way of basic, common-sense protections like keeping drilling away from our schools or tracking where pipelines exist so we don’t experience another Firestone tragedy. We need our leaders to take action in 2019 to ensure that Colorado has the strongest protections in the west.

By changing only eleven words in the Colorado state constitution, Amendment 74 has the power to upend how our local governments function and fund important public programs. Here’s five things Colorado voters need to know about Amendment 74 before ballots drop on October 15.

1. What does Amendment 74 really say?

Amendment 74 is intentionally vague and confusing – but don’t let that stop you from investigating the impacts of this dangerous ballot measure. Under the pretense of property rights, Amendment 74 would require the government – and consequently, taxpaying Coloradans – to foot the bill for disgruntled property owners, corporations, and special interests that believe a regulation hurt their property value, even in a negligible way.

2. Who’s behind the ballot measure?

A vibrant red sunset with a silhouette of an oil rigThe oil and gas industry has pumped money into this measure since day one. Although Colorado Farm Bureau is the publicly-named proponent, the state’s largest oil and gas companies have invested $21 million in support of Amendment 74 – and against oil and gas setbacks – through the Protect Colorado PAC. Its top three contributors are some of the largest oil and gas players in the state: Anadarko Petroleum, Extraction Oil and Gas, and Noble Energy.

As of September 12, Anadarko has donated nearly $6 million, Noble Energy contributed almost $5 million, and Extraction Oil and Gas committed almost $4 million. The industry remains as the only contributor to the cause.

3. Who’s against the ballot measure?

Oil and gas development behind cows grazingOver 100 local elected officials and legislators have spoken out against Amendment 74, reiterating that the ballot measure is too broad and goes too far. Outspoken opponents so far include a host of environmental and progressive non-profits across issue areas, Club 20, Colorado Association of Realtors, Colorado Municipal League, and Governor Hickenlooper.

“If passed, Initiative 108 will bring the work of local government to a screeching halt because Denver will be entangled in lawsuits filed against the city for any number of programs, projects, rules, policies, or zonings that anyone could challenge by indicating that it has harmed their property. This is not a way to govern — by tying the hands of your elected leaders who work on these matters on behalf of our communities,” said Denver City Council member Debbie Ortega.

4. Why do we need Amendment 74?

The short answer: we don’t. Here’s why:

  • The Colorado Constitution already protects private property owners and doesn’t allow private property to be taken for public use without compensation.
  • Amendment 74 would broaden some powers imparted by the state Constitution, unleashing sweeping effects and unintended consequences for communities across the state.

The motive behind Amendment 74 is clear:

Oil and gas companies want complete freedom over how and where they do business.

5. How could this impact my community?

Let’s go through a few scenarios:

  • Police lights at nightIf an oil and gas company wanted to place more pipelines, storage facilities and wells near homes – like the pipelines that caused an explosion and killed two people at a home in Firestone just last year – but was blocked by zoning laws or local rules, they could sue a local government for preventing them from making a profit.
  • Public health and safety laws that keep industrial activities away from hospitals and nursing homes may not be enforced if contractors and industry players sue.
  • Local governments would be unable to do their jobs as they waste taxpayer dollars fighting frivolous lawsuits. They could even be forced to raise taxes or cut services like police and fire departments in order to cover the cost. The ultimate losers would be the taxpayers.

We rely on our local governments to help craft plans for what our communities look like, and how to keep residents safe. They do this in open, public meetings to balance the needs of all citizens. This established, trusted democratic process would be upended under this measure.

Amendment 74 is not a measure about protecting private property rights: Amendment 74 aims to bankrupt any local and state government that tries to regulate the oil and gas industry.

Vote NO on Amendment 74 to save our communities, our environment, and our Colorado.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today officially began the process of rolling back safeguards that reduce waste and decrease air pollution from methane and other air pollutants. These safeguards are widely supported in Colorado; in fact, a recent poll by Center for Western Priorities showed that 67 percent of Coloradans oppose rolling back environmental regulations on oil and gas development.

“Colorado has led the way with strong state-based rules that have proven to be good for public health, for business, and for our environment. While these safeguards remain in place, smog and pollution don’t stay within state borders. Coloradans, especially working families and people of color, will feel the effects of this harmful and short-sighted rollback, which only serves to benefit oil and gas company profits,” said Kelly Nordini, executive director of Conservation Colorado.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas released into the air when oil and gas is extracted. The EPA’s New Source Performance Standards, which have been in place and working for almost a year, reduce emissions from more than 36,000 wells all around the country. These standards cut 21,635 tons of methane, around 6,000 tons of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and 450,000 pounds of toxic air pollutants each year. Capturing methane means less waste (because the methane is used for energy production) and less pollution (because toxic gases aren’t being released into the air).

While these critical safeguards are being rolled back at the federal level, Colorado continues to have strong rules, which served as a model for the EPA standards. While wells in Colorado will still be subject to these robust state regulations, Colorado’s air will be harmed by the undoing of the EPA rule. Air pollution doesn’t stop at state lines, and Coloradans will be impacted by this decision and the thousands of tons of methane pollution that the industry will again be allowed to emit.

Written by Sophia Guerrero-Murphy

This November, our ballots will be full of measures for voters to weigh in on. One of these – Amendment 74 – is an attempt by special interests to turn local decision making on its head.

Official Ballot EnvelopeAmendment 74 would allow any property holder, including corporations, to sue local and state governments over any regulation, from city planning to basic health and safety protections.

For the sake of protecting the Colorado we love, we cannot let this dangerous amendment pass.

What does it do?

The amendment is written to be purposely confusing and dangerously broad. Under the guise of protecting property rights, it would require the government – the taxpayers – to compensate property owners, including corporate interests and industry, for any decrease in the value of their property – including loss of profits – due to any government law or regulation. The cost of paying out the industries and special interests when enforcing codes and laws will eventually make enforcing even the most straightforward regulations too expensive. In short, it destroys the ability of local leaders to make decisions about what their communities look like.

This measure is unnecessary, too extreme, too broad, and was created by and for special interests.

 It’s unnecessary because the Colorado Constitution already protects private property owners; it doesn’t allow private property to be taken for public use without compensation.

→ This ballot measure would expand part of our Constitution in a way that is incredibly broad and would have sweeping effects on local governments and communities across the state. By requiring local governments to compensate corporate interests, Amendment 74 seeks to make any regulation too expensive to implement.

→ The motive of this measure is clear: it’s paid for by oil and gas companies because it would give them complete freedom over where and how they do business.

Here are three ways that Amendment 74 would hurt Coloradans:

1) Amendment 74 puts industry over people.

An oil rig near residential areaWhile you won’t find any mention of oil and gas in the measure itself, Amendment 74 was written to prevent local governments from limiting oil and gas drilling in any way. Cloaked in language that would have you believe that all Coloradans’ property rights would be strengthened under this measure, Amendment 74 is exclusively backed by oil and gas companies. Protect Colorado, a front group created by the state’s largest oil and gas companies, has raised a staggering $13 million so far in support of 74. Its top three contributors  – Anadarko Petroleum, Extraction Oil and Gas, and Noble Energy – each donated more than $2 million to the cause.

So, what’s in it for them?

If an oil and gas company wanted to drill near a hospital, school, or nursing home but was blocked by zoning laws, the company could sue the government for preventing them from making a profit. If this happened, the government would have to either pay the company or waive the zoning law. In most situations, city, county, and state governments would not be able to afford the payoff, so they would be forced to allow the company to drill wherever it wanted.

The scariest part of Amendment 74 is how broad it is. Far beyond allowing the oil and gas industry to ignore policies designed to protect public health, it could:

  • A sign for a liquor store near a churchAllow gun shops, strip clubs, and marijuana stores to be built near schools despite neighborhood or family concerns;
  • Allow industrial activities to be located right beside nursing homes, daycares, and hospitals;
  • Undo noise regulations that ensure we all get a good night’s sleep;
  • Undermine local decisions on landfills and hazardous waste storage, allowing them to be located virtually anywhere;
  • Get rid of public health standards governing restaurants, tattoo parlors, or hospitals;
  • Hurt safety rules like fire and building codes.

2) Expensive for taxpayers.

Measures similar to Amendment 74 that were passed in other states show just how burdensome it would be to Coloradans. By forcing local governments, like cities and counties, to pay individuals who “suffered any burden” as a result of a regulation, these measures were prohibitively expensive to governments and taxpayers.

Stacks of claims fill an office roomOver a three-year period in Oregon, a measure similar to 74 resulted in the filing of nearly 7,000 claims requesting a total of $19.8 billion in compensation. Faced with such a massive payment, cash-strapped governments were forced to waive rules for nine out of ten claims. This benefited agribusiness, developers, and extractive industries at the expense of taxpayers.

If Amendment 74 passes, the power of our state and local governments will be strangled. We rely on our local governments to listen to community members and plan for the future of our neighborhoods. They do this in open meetings with public input to balance the needs of all residents. That long-held, trusted process would be upended under this measure.

3) Threatens the property rights of most landowners.

Foreclosure sign in front of a houseUnder Amendment 74, Colorado landowners will suffer. Despite what proponents of 74 claim, waiving regulations would weaken, not strengthen, property owners’ rights. Since property values go down when an undesirable development – like a landfill – is planned near a community, one unregulated property owner has the potential to harm the property values of many.

This also happened in Oregon, where property owners could only sit and watch as an 80-acre gravel mine was built next to family ranches, 150 vacation homes were put up in a national monument, and subdivisions tore up agricultural land. As these landowners learned, waiving land-use rules not only generally damaged property values, it pitted neighbor against neighbor and put a stranglehold on local decision making. Two years after it passed, Oregon residents opposed the 74-like measure by nearly two to one.

With all the attacks on our environment occurring at the national level, it’s easy to lose track of the local ballot issues that Coloradans will be voting on this November. But this year, not paying attention could be dangerous.

Amendment 74 is not a measure about protecting private property rights. No, the purpose of this initiative is to bankrupt any local and state government that tries to regulate the oil and gas industry. It poses an unprecedented threat to our communities, our environment, and our way of life.

See Amendment 74 for what it is – a measure to deregulate and debilitate – and vote NO.

Contact: Jace Woodrum, 720-412-3772

Xcel Energy, the largest electricity provider in Colorado, today took the next step in its “Colorado Energy Plan,” which provides a roadmap for how Colorado can move toward a clean energy future. The new details show that bids from renewable energy developers were the lowest ever seen in the U.S. to date, meaning that Xcel customers will benefit from lower costs while Coloradans will enjoy cleaner air.

“The fact of the matter is this: renewable energy like wind and solar will save ratepayers money while cleaning up carbon pollution,” said Maria Handley, acting executive director at Conservation Colorado. “Nearly ten thousand Coloradans showed their continued and resounding support for clean energy by speaking out for this plan, and the economics prove that it’s time for our transition away from coal. We’re thrilled to live in a state that continues to be a leader in the nation when it comes to the environment and clean energy, and we encourage our Public Utilities Commissioners to approve the Colorado Energy Plan.”

The “120-day report,” filed with the Public Utilities Commission, contains details on the mix of energy sources Xcel hopes to use under its Electric Resource Plan. Not only does the plan include more than 1,800 megawatts of new wind and solar, but it would also double the amount of battery storage in the U.S., making our grid more resilient by storing renewable energy for later use. Prices for solar and wind paired with energy storage were priced lower than existing coal-generated power in Colorado, confirming that clean energy will actually save customers an estimated $213 million.

Xcel’s plan seeks to close two coal plants in Pueblo and replace them with three solar projects and two battery storage projects in the county. Taking these coal plants offline will reduce Xcel’s carbon emissions by approximately 4.5 million tons each year—a reduction of 59 percent from 2005 levels.

This latest report comes after months of public input, during which a record 9,428 people submitted comments to the Public Utilities Commission and dozens more packed their hearings in Denver and Pueblo. The overwhelming majority of this public input was in favor of a clean energy mix for Coloradans.

Written by Audrey Wheeler

Colorado oil and gas lobbyists and money keep Senate Republicans in their pocket.

In 2017, during Colorado’s legislative session, a deadly explosion killed two people in Firestone, CO. The explosion was due to an uncapped flow line from an oil well.

After such a tragedy, most Coloradans believed the oil and gas industry would work harder to keep people safe. But recently, several former Anadarko employees came forward during an investor lawsuit against the company, saying Anadarko can’t be trusted to maintain their equipment to protect health and safety, calling their operations in Colorado “a ticking time bomb.”

In 2018, on the one-year anniversary of the Firestone tragedy, state legislators had repeated opportunities to enact safeguards for people’s health and safety as the Colorado oil and gas industry moves closer and closer to our neighborhoods and schools. They didn’t take that opportunity. Instead, we saw one commonsense measure after another get shut down by the strength of the oil and gas industry’s lobbying.

Here are some of the stories that unfolded at the state Capitol:

Killed: a bill to keep oil and gas drilling away from kids


Currently, Colorado’s laws require oil and gas activity to be 1,000 feet away from school buildings. But there is no legal limit to how far this industrial activity should be from school playgrounds, outdoor lunch areas, modular classrooms, or athletic fields. HB 1352 would have required oil and gas activity to be 1,000 feet away from school property boundaries. This is in line with what all other industries have to do near schools, like liquor stores.

In support of this bill, dozens of students and parents came to the state Capitol and testified in committee, asking lawmakers to protect them and future students from the impacts of oil and gas, ranging from air pollution to dangerous explosions. In addition, 55 students, teachers, and parents signed on to an open letter to lawmakers to make their voices heard on this issue.

In an emotional moment, a young activist spoke out of turn when a legislator asked if an oil and gas explosion has ever happened near a school. “Why does it need to happen first?” she flatly responded.

Those powerful voices speaking up for this bill didn’t stop a Senate committee from killing it and continuing to put our kids at risk.

Killed: three oil and gas bills with small changes that would have made a big impact


One bill — HB 1071 — was an attempt to clarify the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). It currently states that the COGCC is in charge of fostering and regulating oil and gas in Colorado. This bill would have changed this contradictory mission to prioritize health, safety, and the environment over industry profits.

Another, HB 1157, would have ensured the industry is tracking and reporting all spills, fires, explosions, injuries, and deaths due to oil and gas well operations and production facilities. This bill would have made incident reports mandatory and required more detail for major and minor accidents, improving transparency to the public.

Third, HB 1419 was a bill to require pipeline mapping and transparency so we all know where oil and gas operations are taking place — exactly the kind of information that would have prevented the Firestone tragedy. It would have also prevented leaks, groundwater contamination, and explosions by ensuring wells are strong and up to industry standard.

All three of these bills were killed by Senate Republicans who continue to pander to oil and gas companies.

Killed: a bill to expand local government authority


While local governments (like cities, counties, or towns) cannot permanently ban oil and gas development in Colorado, they can put in place temporary halts on the industry. SB 048 would have protected the authority of local governments to regulate oil and gas facilities, allowing governments to determine oil and gas regulations according to the needs of residents. As is the story with most of these bills, this bill was killed in a Senate committee.

But there’s good news, too. We managed to block the passage of SB 192, a bill that would have forced local governments to pay oil and gas companies for any loss in profits due to a temporary moratorium or ban. This would have added a financial penalty to any local government trying to do the right thing by their residents. We helped keep this bill from going anywhere!

Protecting homeowners from forced pooling


Forced pooling is when an oil and gas operator wants to acquire rights to extract oil and gas, but a mineral rights owner — like a homeowner — does not want drilling in their backyard. In Colorado, if there are 100 homes in a development and one of them agrees to lease the mineral rights for oil and gas development, all 99 of the other homes are “force pooled,” and the operator can develop there.

Currently, forced pooling laws and practices are unfair to the mineral rights owners and are advantageous to oil and gas operators. Highly technical notices are sent to property owners who are given only 30 days to respond. People with little or no experience with the oil and gas industry are forced to make a tough decision without enough time or clear information.

One bill (HB 1289) would have prevented local government and school district minerals from being force pooled. This bill was blocked.

Finally, one bill that provided some improvements for mineral owners’ property rights passed this year. This bill (SB 230) was a compromise that will provide some immediate relief to homeowners by extending the amount of time homeowners have between getting notified about forced pooling and their hearing, and providing more easily understandable information about the process of being force pooled. Even with the passage of this bill, property owners still face an uphill battle when it comes to negotiating with industry. Compared to the many other commonsense bills that were killed this year, this one is a small step.

While it can be easy to feel disappointed that these bills we all fought so hard for did not pass, even bringing up these issues at the Capitol is a step in the right direction. Thank you for standing with us to fight for these bills, especially if you sent a message, called your legislator, came to testify, or took action in another way to protect our communities.

The best way to change this story next year and into the future is to elect more pro-conservation champions into office. This November, many of our state senators and all of our state representatives will be up for re-election. Help us build the majority we need to pass more life-saving bills that put our communities over the industry!

Contact: Jace Woodrum, 720-412-3772

Today, the House advanced HB-1071, Regulate Oil Gas Operations Protect Public Safety. The 7-6 vote comes just days after the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear the Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission appeal, shining a spotlight on the conflict between the oil and gas industry and the welfare of the public.

In response, Conservation Colorado and the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Citizens (LOGIC) issued the following statements:

“There really is no debate here: Colorado must prioritize the health and safety of our residents and the preservation of our environment when regulating the oil and gas industry. We need the state to set a strong standard that directs the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to put people over profits,” said Sophia Guerrero-Murphy, Energy Advocate, Conservation Colorado.

“Oil and gas has chosen to try to force large-scale industrial facilities nearer homes and schools while proclaiming they have the right to do so. But neither the state, nor the oil and gas industry can continue to make the claim that neighborhood drilling is safe. So when it comes to a question of protecting the public health and safety of Colorado residents, it should be a no brainer. Our state needs to take steps to make the well-being of Colorado families its first priority,” said Sara Loflin, LOGIC Executive Director.

About HB-1071
HB-1071, Regulate Oil Gas Operations Protect Public Safety, is a response to large-scale oil and gas development that has been expanding into neighborhoods, especially as Colorado grows and becomes more dense. For years, communities in Colorado have been struggling with how to balance health and safety with heavy industrial activities like oil and gas.
Tragically, in the Spring of 2017, oil and gas development led to a home explosion in Firestone, Colorado, where two people lost their lives, and another was seriously injured. Since then, there have been 14 more oil and gas-related explosions, 6 leaks that contaminated waterways, and 22 leaks that are under investigation for potential contamination of water wells. Even under the safest operating conditions, which aren’t always employed, this industrial activity poses a risk to health and safety.

HB-1071 seeks to compel the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize health, safety, and environmental welfare when considering new oil and gas permits. This bill seeks to clarify the state’s priorities in a quickly shifting landscape where the tensions between fostering industry and protecting public welfare are mounting. There are significant hazards and dangers associated with fracking and drilling, especially in urban areas, and any time a permit is considered, the potential impacts on the community and the environment must be weighed.

About Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has ignited the ongoing debate over how to protect the health and safety of Coloradans as oil and gas development expands into neighborhoods and developed areas.

In 2013, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and several other Colorado young people asked the COGCC to adopt a regulation stating that no drilling permits will be issued without a finding that drilling can occur without impairing Colorado’s air, water, and wildlife and that drilling does not adversely affect public health. The COGCC denied the request, holding that it lacked legal authority to issue such a rule. In March 2017, the Colorado Court of Appeals set aside the COGCC’s decision, holding that state law makes “protection of public health, safety and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources” a prerequisite for approving oil and gas development. While rejecting the COGCC’s legal interpretation, the Court did not address whether the agency should adopt the specific rule language requested by the Martinez plaintiffs.

The COGCC and the American Petroleum Institute appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court, which announced that it would take the case on January 29, 2018.

Contact: Jessica Goad, 720-206-4235

As the 2017 Colorado state legislative session comes to a close, Conservation Colorado celebrated seven victories but also lamented several important bills that were killed or left on the cutting room floor by the state Senate.

Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado, put it this way:
This year’s legislative session had several great, bipartisan wins for conservation issues. Conservation champions and legislators on both sides of the aisle stood up for our air, land, water, and communities, and we’re proud of the passage of meaningful and innovative bills to protect our environment.

 

But throughout the session, a group of obstructionist right-wing Republican senators repeatedly blocked progress by voting ideologically rather than for the needs of everyday Coloradans. Their opposition to simple, commonsense fixes to problems facing Colorado — such as giving citizens the opportunity to vote on a long-term sustainable funding to solve our transportation problems — should serve as a reminder about why voting matters.

Key victories that Conservation Colorado achieved were:

  • Extended a successful energy efficiency program (HB 1227)
  • Helped schools test for lead in their water (HB 1306)
  • Outlawed “rolling coal” (SB 278)
  • Defended tax credits for electric vehicles (SB 188)
  • Supported energy assistance to low-income households (HB 1116)
  • Secured funding for healthy rivers (HB 1248)
  • Prevented bills that would seize or sell off our public lands from being introduced

Despite the wins, several other environmental priorities were killed or stalled this session thanks to ideological opposition. These bills included:

  • Funding for the Colorado Energy Office and important clean energy programs, which Republicans held hostage in order to try to provide a windfall for natural gas companies (SB 301)
  • Improvements to transportation infrastructure and multimodal options (HB 1242)
  • Funding for our state parks (HB 1321)
  • Opening up new opportunities for investment in electric vehicle infrastructure (HB 1232)
  • Three measures to keep our communities safe from oil and gas drilling in neighborhoods:
    • Better protecting children from oil and gas wells located near schools (HB 1256)
    • Providing notice and transparency to property and mineral rights owners in the gas patch (HB 1372)
    • Securing mapping of and information about oil and gas lines, a critical necessity in the wake of the Firestone tragedy (HB 1336)

Conservation Colorado will be releasing its annual conservation scorecard with scores for legislators based on their environmental votes during the 2017 legislative session early this summer.

Contact: Jessica Goad, 720-206-4235

In a huge win for the environment and the “resistance” against the Trump agenda, the vote to move forward with repealing a rule protecting air quality from oil and gas development just failed in the U.S. Senate. However, Colorado Senator Gardner voted the wrong way.

Here is a reaction from Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado.

This is an incredible day for the environment and for citizens across the country who have been telling their members of Congress to vote for clean air. The vote should have been an easy one for the oil and gas lobby to win, but the power of citizen activism has broken through the political morass.

 

With that said, we are deeply disappointed in Senator Gardner’s vote. Despite more than 10,000 emails and calls from Coloradans and multiple protests at his offices on this issue, Senator Gardner managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by voting against Colorado’s clean air in what amounted to a futile vote for him.

 

It’s obvious from this vote that Senator Gardner is much more interested in joining the Washington, D.C. political club rather than representing the values of Coloradans. This is not the leadership that Colorado needs, and we will double down on our efforts to make sure that Coloradans of all stripes know what a threat Senator Gardner’s voting record poses to clean air and environment.

Senate Republicans today attempted to use a little-known procedure (the “Congressional Review Act”) to kill rules from previous presidential administrations. Today’s vote on the “motion to proceed” was 51-49, with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ) joining all 48 Democrats in rejecting the resolution.

Senator Gardner has a 100% record of voting with Trump and has voted against the environment seven times already this year, the methane vote being the eighth.

The BLM’s methane waste prevention rule was modeled on Colorado’s successful 2014 methane rules. The federal rule was finalized in November 2016 after three years of public process that included eight public meetings held across the country and 300,000 public comments. The rule would minimize the amount of wasted natural gas resources from oil and gas facilities on public and tribal lands by requiring companies to look for and repair leaks, minimize flaring (burning) and prohibit venting of gas directly into the atmosphere. All told, the rule could save $330 million worth of natural gas each year, which would result in increased royalties paid to the federal treasury saving taxpayers more than $800 million over a decade.

Last updated: 5/30/2017

Update 5/2/17 3pm: The Denver Post has reported that the fatal Firestone home explosion was the result of a cut supply line running from the nearby gas well. The cut seeped volatile gas into the home that ignited and caused the explosion.

News broke last week that a home explosion in which two people were killed and two were injured may have been caused by an oil and gas well that was located just 178 feet from the home. The news has caused two of Colorado’s top 10 oil and gas companies to temporarily shut down wells in the area.

Whether or not the investigation ultimately determines that a well was the cause, the tragedy is a grim reminder that oil and gas drilling is a dangerous industrial activity. Indeed, there have been several other recent disasters in Colorado caused by oil and gas drilling. Below we take a look at five that have occurred just within the last eight years.

The bottom line is this: there is mounting evidence that oil and gas extraction is dangerous activity, not only for the workers themselves, but also for those in close proximity to facilities. Colorado residents shouldn’t have to fear for their lives on a daily basis, worrying that a well or storage tank less than 500 feet from their home that they’ve been assured is safe is actually a danger to their health, well-being and maybe even their life. We cannot allow oil and gas drilling to take place near homes, schools, and other community buildings.

Oil and gas development isn’t slowing down or going anywhere anytime soon. Particularly in the Front Range, new leases and well pads with unprecedented numbers of wells are being approved within areas that are primarily residential, as seen in these maps of Adams and Arapahoe counties. If we are to prevent future tragic accidents, we must protect not just the areas that are already threatened, but those that face possible development in the months and years to come.

Whether the industry is at fault for the Firestone home explosion or not, this is a wake up call that the safety measures we have in place now are simply not good enough. We’ve long said that the burden of proof for proving that drilling is safe must be on the oil and gas industry. One example of a step the industry can take in response to this tragedy is to agree to a commonsense bill that set oil and gas wells further back from school property, which was voted down by a state Senate committee just a few weeks ago after strong opposition from the industry.

1. Tank Explosion, Mead, May 2017

Anadarko Petroleum Corporation

One person died and three were injured on Thursday, May 25th in an oil tank fire in Weld County. Workers were doing maintenance on an Anadarko oil tank battery when the fire sparked and caused the tank to explode.

2. Hudson Blowout, Weld County, January 2017

Anadarko Petroleum Corporation

A well blowout caused 28,000 gallons of oil, gas, and drilling waste water to gush from a damaged well over a period of three days. It shut down roads, and the effects were seen as far as 2,000 feet away from the site of the accident.

3. Legacy Elementary School, Frederick, April 2014

Unknown Operator

A storage tank exploded approximately 1,800 feet away from the elementary school and caused all students and teachers to shelter in place. Luckily, no one was injured.

The explosion that occurred just 1,800 feet away from an elementary school in 2014.

 

4. Windsor, February 2013

PDC Energy

A technical failure caused a valve to break and gush oil and green-colored flowback fluid for 30 hours before it was stopped. The spill was contained so that it did not affect nearby residential areas.

5. Ault, June 2013

Noble Energy

A worker failed to open a valve properly which resulted in the backup and eventual release of crude oil over 150,000 square feet of an organic farm. The farm had to scrape away and replace the contaminated soil. There were no reported injuries.

6. De BeQue, Colorado 2009

Unknown Operator

A spring used as a water source at a cabin in Western Colorado was contaminated with BTEX, a carcinogenic combination of benzene, toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene. The owner of the cabin drank multiple cups of the water before he realized it was contaminated. A tested sample of the spring water contained 100 micrograms per liter of BTEX. Five micrograms is the safety threshold for groundwater. A toxicologist with the oil and gas commission told him to get continued blood tests to check for liver or kidney damage. Because his spring is located within 3,000 feet of 18 wells and multiple other oil and gas activities, the exact cause of the contamination is unknown.