WS Main Image Feb 2013

One of the biggest topics right now across the state is oil and gas development, specifically, hydraulic fracturing. Communities, industry, and the state are all working to ensure their interests are protected. But it’s a complicated issue, and often contentious. This month for Western Skies, we’re holding a magnifying glass up to fracking, the rules, regulations, and community concerns. (This month’s image by artist and rig-worker, Streeter Wright.)

You can listen to the entire episode here, or download it by right-clicking this link:

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You can also head to the individual segments and check out the pieces, conversations, and more by clicking any of the following links:

Roundtable: A State Perspective
Split Estate & Mineral Rights: Aligning Stakeholders
“Citizens for Huerfano County”
Longmont’s Decision
Rulemaking in Colorado Springs
Streeter Wright: Roughneck and Artist

Western Skies is a collaboration between KRCC News and the Big Something.

 


 

Roundtable: A State Perspective

L-R: Matt Lepore, Bente Birkeland, Pete Maysmith, Kathleen Sgamma

L-R: Matt Lepore, Bente Birkeland, Pete Maysmith, Kathleen Sgamma

Capitol Reporter Bente Birkeland sat down with Matt Lepore, who heads the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; Pete Maysmith, head of Conservation Colorado, and Kathleen Sgamma, with Western Energy Alliance to talk about the push and pull of hydraulic fracturing from a state perspective.

Listen to or download the edited conversation, which begins with Kathleen providing a definition of fracking (about 21 minutes):

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You can also listen to or download the full conversation here (about 43 minutes):

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Special thanks to Rocky Mountain PBS for lending us space to record this month’s roundtable.

 


 

Split Estate & Mineral Rights: Aligning Stakeholders

Dan Farmer’s land, east of Colorado Springs. Farmer has contemplated leasing some land to drilling operations. Photo: Katherine-Claire O’Connor

During Colorado’s early days, land ownership was all encompassing. But in the early 20th Century, the federal government began reserving the rights to use some of the land’s rich minerals. By 1916, Congress began withholding all mineral rights from new homesteads. As a result, the federal government currently owns over half the mineral rights across the state. The rest is owned by individuals and other entities. KRCC’s Katherine-Claire O’Connor takes a look at the process of aligning stakeholders when it comes to drilling.

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You can hear the story of another man’s experience with oil & gas drilling on his land, by visiting Rocky Mountain Community Radio sister station KDNK. Rick Roles: A Gas Lease Gone Wrong

 


 

“Citizens for Huerfano County”

Jack Yule, Jim McCain, Roz McCain, and Jeff Briggs look south from the McCains' property, toward Shell's Freeman well, where preliminary drilling took place in November of 2012.

(left to right) Jack Yule, Jim McCain, Roz McCain, and Jeff Briggs look south from the McCains’ property, toward a well site where preliminary drilling took place in November of 2012. Photo: Craig Richardson.

In Huerfano County, the possibility of a fracking boom has been on the minds of residents for a while now. While some have welcomed the oil and gas industry with open arms, others are worried about what this might mean for their communities. KRCC’s Jake Brownell has this story of a group of concerned citizens in Huerfano County, and the challenges they’ve faced in their attempts to be heard.

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To learn more about the Citizens for Huerfano County, head to their WEBSITE, where you’ll find a timeline of their lawsuit, information about proposed wells in the county, and much more.

HERE is a site outlining the steps taken by Shell and Huerfano County residents in third-party-moderated community forums. Shell sees these forums as an important way to address concerns and to ensure transparency as they do their work in the region.

Members of Citizens for Huerfano county urge people to regularly check the COGCC’s WEBSITE to learn about new drilling permit applications in their communities. The “permits” section of the site is searchable by county, and every permit is listed there along with documents and plans pertaining to it.

 


 

Longmont’s Decision

State regulators recently implemented new fracking regulations with regard to groundwater protections. But environmental groups and some communities in Colorado, particularly along the heavily populated Front Range, say the new rules don’t go far enough. Some city councils and county commissioners have imposed moratoriums on fracking, and this past November voters in Longmont overwhelmingly approved an outright ban on fracking within City limits. As Maeve Conran reports, that ban has drawn the ire of state regulators and the oil and gas industry with 2 lawsuits pending against the city.

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The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, or COGA, filed the lawsuit in reaction to the passage of ballot question 300. They weren’t available for an interview on tape for the story, but issued a statement that said Longmont’s ban on fracking is an illegal ban on oil and gas activity that denies private mineral rights owners the right to develop their property. It went on to say that the ban will economically damage Longmont with lost tax dollars and lost mineral royalties. COGA says they hope the lawsuit against the city will be resolved quickly.

 


 

Rulemaking in Colorado Springs

While Longmont faces several lawsuits, Colorado Springs officials are trying to write rules that won’t land the city in court. The council can regulate other industries, but as KRCC’s Liz Ruskin reports, its powers are limited when it comes to oil and gas development.

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Council is working on its oil and gas regulations this month but a final vote is weeks away.

 


 

Streeter Wright: Roughneck and Artist

While the techniques of hydraulic fracturing only recently come to the public attention, much of the physical labor of drilling on rigs is still performed by roughnecks. In this piece, The Big Something’s Noel Black spoke with artist Streeter Wright, a roughneck who paid his way through college on the rigs of Eastern Utah and Western Colorado. Here, Wright describes the life and culture of the rigs to original music composed for this piece by local musician Alex Koshak.

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Streeter Wright and his art was previously featured in The Big Something:

Artist Streeter Wright has been paying his way through Colorado College for the past five years by working as a roughneck on the gas rigs in Western Colorado. The schedule is grueling: 14 days of 12 hour shifts followed by 14 days off. While he’s working, Wright takes pictures of the people, tools and machinery on the rigs, which he then transforms into detailed pencil drawings on small pieces of vintage notebook paper he found in his grandparents’ storage locker. The resulting 34 drawings shown here have the look, feel and attention of a naturalist’s sketchbook discovered in an old trunk—a guidebook to the culture of the rigs. In this audio-slideshow, Wright walks us through a world that few outsiders ever visit.

 

15 Responses to Western Skies: February 2013, “Fracking”

  1. joyce cheney says:

    Thanks to KRCC for doing a show on fracking. While most of the pieces in today’s Western Skies are interesting and helpful, the State Roundtable piece is misleading and dangerously incomplete: two of the three organizations represented by the speakers are in the pocket of the oil and gas industry. It’s like asking Phillip Morris if cigarets are safe.

    Dr. Theo Coburn, expert on the health effects of fracking and opponent of the process, advises that whenever one encounters someone defending fracking, (1) Ask who pays their salary and (2) what training they have. Then, (3) if they claim that fracking does not poison surrounding water sources, give them a big glass of water from a water source close to a fracked well and ask them to drink it.

    Many things said in that roundtable were very misleading half-truths. Example: “…only a small amount of chemicals goes into the well.” What is a safe “small amount” of known carcinogens and greenhouse gasses? Etc Etc. Throughout the Roundtable, I found myself saying, “Yes, but…” to many comments about allegedly “safe” fracking. Please, Listeners, consider the source of any information you get. Don’t expect the Gas/Oil industry – or the gas/oil industry supported arms of our government – to protect our health and quality of life.

    As for those three questions, I volunteer to work against fracking and I’m self-taught. I’m not an expert on fracking, but I’ve lived long enough to know to vet my sources and follow the money. No, I won’t drink the water. Supporters of fracking say that opponents are coming from a place of fear. You bet! We should all be afraid of fracking!

  2. Jacquie Ostrom says:

    Anyone who cares about our Colorado air, water and land can’t be in favor of the corporate damage caused to our beautiful state from fracking. We have to respect the natural world that supports our life.

  3. Georgia Moen says:

    So, let me get this straight. KRCC attended the lecture by Wes Wilson and Phil Doe, two of the leading experts on the dangers and threats of fracking, and gave most of the airtime to talking heads for the oil and gas industry. KRCC also neglected to interview officials from the leading, local anti-fracking organization, Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights. There’s something quite wrong with this picture and I am sorely disappointed with KRCC for airing a very incomplete story on the most major issue that has ever threatened our city and county.

    • joyce cheney says:

      Georgia’s right on to be dismayed and disappointed. How about doing another substantial piece on fracking — and right away — because the City Council is going to act on the issue this month. As for calling fracking “the most major issue that has ever threatened our city and county”, I believe that climate change is that overarching, life-threatening issue and fracking is a part of it – a part that we need to grapple with immediately.

  4. Georgia Moen says:

    Thanks for the reply, Joyce. Your first comment segment is excellent. If one wants the biggest picture of all, though, I’d say that overpopulation trumps everything. I also vote for another fracking program–time is definitely of the essence.

  5. Georgia Moen says:

    Well said, Jacquie!

  6. Andrea Chalfin News Dir. says:

    Hi Joyce, Jacquie, and Georgia,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    Oil & gas development, and by extension, hydraulic fracturing, is clearly a contentious issue, with stakeholders ranging from industry to environmentalists and communities.

    Right now, policy decisions are happening at the state level. The roundtable brought the state, environmental concerns, and industry together to talk about the push and pull of those policy decisions. The COGCC is the state funded rule-making body. While they have the ability to create new policies, the legislature can come in and pass different laws.

    In regards to the piece on Colorado Springs, the intent was to show how the City Council is grappling with limitations imposed by state law as it tries to craft an oil and gas ordinance. It was not intended to be a debate about the pros and cons of fracking but an examination of the situation the City Council finds itself in.

    Additionally, in this edition of Western Skies, community concerns came to the forefront in the piece regarding Huerfano County.

    For additional information on hydraulic fracturing, I recommend visiting this series from NPR: The Fracking Boom: Missing Answers.

    “A natural gas boom is under way in the United States, with more than 200,000 wells drilled in just under a decade. But people living on the front door step of the natural gas bonanza have a question: Are these wells creating harmful pollutants? NPR explores why there isn’t an answer yet.”

    http://www.npr.org/series/151930969/science-and-the-fracking-boom-missing-answers

    Thanks again for listening, and for taking the time to respond to this episode.

    Andrea.

    • Nicole Rosa says:

      I completely agree with Joyce, Jacquie, and Georgia. I felt the Western Skies piece was very pro-industry and told many half-truths and outright lies. Why did you not mention that cancer rates increase by 66% for those living within the “safe” distance of 500 miles from a well? Why did you not mention that the Laramie-Fox Hills Aquifer has been confirmed contaminated by COGCC? Why did you not mention that Ozone levels in the Pinedale, WY area have been recorded at 5 times the limit considered safe by the EPA, so schools and ski areas had to be closed? I could go on and on. As Joyce, Jacquie and Georgia mentioned, why did you not call in experts such as Wes Wilson or Phil Doe to present a balanced story? I am extremely disappointed and am considering not renewing my membership.

  7. Karleen Fekete says:

    Andrea, I am sorry you fell short with your last quote. There IS proof that Fracking is harmful. I agree with Joyce, Jacquie, Georgia. Nicole is correct. There is confirmed contamination and what kind of reporting does note mention both sides of the story?

  8. Keli Kringel says:

    Thank you for covering Citizens for Huerfano County. I felt the brief segment was well done, but would have been more complete if it had mentioned the major, undisputed disaster that drilling and fracking have already caused in Huerfano County. In 2007, a whole drinking water aquifer was mixed with methane causing domestic water to be unusuable (it still is) and well houses to explode. (See COGCC Cease and Desist Order Nos. 1c-5 and 1c-6). Related to the question above: “But people living on the front door step of the natural gas bonanza have a question: Are these wells creating harmful pollutants? NPR explores why there isn’t an answer yet…” There IS a simple answer of “Yes” right here. And now it is now starting all over again with Shell’s plans for drilling through the Spanish Peaks dikes, the likely cause of the prior migration problems. And, if true here, couldn’t it also be true in many of the other places that people are now complaining? I hope that the story about “why there is no answer” will explore some of the real reasons outlined in the case study/article below: http://www.greenlaurel.com/greenlaurel.com/Articles/Entries/2013/2/21_Frackings_catch-22__How_legal_exemptions_shield_natural_gas_and_throw_citizens_under_the_bus.html

  9. Ceal Smith says:

    There does indeed appear to be a bias in favor of natural gas development in the Western Skies reporting. We need full disclosure here. Does KRCC and/or Western Skies receive funding — directly or indirectly — from the natural gas industry or any 3rd party foundation?

  10. Andrea Chalfin News Dir. says:

    KRCC News and Western Skies do not receive money for any specific coverage of any kind; as to whether or not KRCC receives “funding—directly or indirectly–from the natural gas industry or any 3rd part foundation” is not a question the news department can answer because we are appropriately shielded from funding sources.

    Again, this was largely a policy discussion, and not a discussion on the effects of hydraulic fracturing. The quote was a direct description of the fracking series that aired on NPR programming.

  11. Bob Powell says:

    Fracking clearly produces dangerous pollutants and endangers public health and the environment. That the question, “Are these wells creating harmful pollutants?”, is asked is astounding. The damage is the injury.

    Adding insult to injury is that oil production in the U.S. is not being produced for the benefit of the U.S. economy. It’s little known that U.S. oil imports have been steadily decreasing from 2005 through 2011, with U.S. exports steadily increasing by lots more. Current-trend projections show the U.S. will be a net oil exporter by around 2017. Incredible. That’s got to be a shock for those who chant “Drill, Baby, Drill” and “Drill Here, Drill Now”, thinking that increased U.S. production will be used here to reduce gas prices. Fully documented at http://www.exponentialimprovement.com/cms/oilexportssoar.shtml .

    U.S. resources are being plundered for private gain while endangering the health of its population and the environment, all the while depleting valuable U.S. natural resources. If public broadcasting won’t make this clear, who will? Not the corporate media, for sure.

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