OPINION: Protecting Our Communities from Oil & Gas Dangers

News is breaking that the tragic accident in Firestone, Colorado, where two people were killed in a home explosion, was caused by natural gas leaking from a cut flow line.

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

The Firestone tragedy is the most recent — and heart-breaking — wake-up call that oil and gas exploration is a dangerous, heavy industrial activity that must be kept away from homes and schools. For years, communities across the state have raised concerns about the perils of siting homes and oil and gas facilities near each other, but these cries for change have fallen upon deaf ears. We have been left with empty promises from the oil and gas industry and tragedies such as this.

Our elected officials must act with great urgency to strengthen the rules and laws governing oil and gas drilling. This means taking any action necessary to put the burden of proof for showing that drilling is safe onto the industry, not onto concerned community members.

Moving forward, the COGCC must take decisive action and not allow any oil and gas activity unless it is proven to be safe to human health and our air and water. The fact that the commission is even considering appealing a court decision applying this standard is shocking.

A few items of interest regarding the state of play of oil and gas drilling in Colorado:

1. In a case (Martinez v. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) decided in mid-March, the Colorado Court of Appeals determined that protection of public health and the environment is “a condition that must be fulfilled” before the commission can issue permits. In its meeting yesterday, the commission noted that it is “still deciding whether to pursue an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.”

2. The state Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, supported and encouraged by the oil and gas industry, recently voted down a simple, clarifying bill that would keep oil and gas wells 1,000′ from school property, not just school buildings themselves.

3. Oil and gas development is coming soon to even more suburban neighborhoods, as seen in these maps of Adams and Arapahoe Counties.

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