On April 23, the Fort Collins City Council will once again discuss, and potentially vote on, the extremely controversial issue of banning fracking in Fort Collins. In March, the city council passed a ban on fracking that grandfathered in the one driller that currently operates on eight well pads in northern Fort Collins. But three weeks later, in a quiet vote with no public input by citizens or the city’s boards and commissions, the city council passed an “agreement” with that driller allowing the company to drill and frack on two new square miles of land surrounding the Budweiser brewery in North Fort Collins.
Councilman Gerry Horak, who has been at the center of the fracking controversy, has flip-flopped his votes, voting for the ban and then voting for the agreement that effectively negated the ban. Now, the council is deliberating on a second reading of an ordinance to lift the moratorium and allow the driller to begin drilling and fracking in the expanded areas in northern Fort Collins. Horak also voted "yes" on the first reading to lift the moratorium.
"Gerry Horak has flip-flopped votes for the benefit of the drilling company. He only votes as his constituents elected him to vote when under significant public pressure--and even then, his attempts to do right are veiled deceptions,” said Rico Moore of Frack Free Fort Collins. “A ban means a ban, Gerry Horak. It's time to represent the human and environmental health of Fort Collins."
A week ago, April 16, when the second reading was considered by the council, the meeting devolved into confusion with competing motions and amendments by various councilmembers. The meeting ended with a majority vote to postpone the decision until April 23 and have a "worksession" on the issue followed by an "adjourned meeting." At worksessions and adjourned meetings, citizens are not allowed to provide public comment. Further, last week, Councilmember Horak sent the city staff requests for even more resolutions and ordinances, but as of Monday morning, April 22, the only information available to the public was this statement on the city’s website: “Agenda materials for this item currently being developed and will be posted as soon as they are available.”
The April 16 meeting was the very first meeting of the newly elected Council on which Horak serves in the leadership team as the Mayor Pro Tem, a position he earned in another extremely controversial 4-3 vote only by voting for himself.
“It is outrageous that public input was not allowed when the city created the ‘agreement’ with the drilling and fracking company to open up two square miles of land for fracking,” said Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action. “And now to have a final vote on this extremely controversial issue in an adjourned meeting with no information available to the public or public input is ridiculous.”
"Councilmember Gerry Horak needs to vote to completely ban fracking in Fort Collins,” said Jodee Brekke of the Colorado chapter of The Mothers Project: Mothers for Sustainable Energy. “Otherwise it's a sad situation of an elected official being persuaded by industry wealth over the health and welfare of the families and citizens he is sworn to protect."
"The citizens of Fort Collins spoke loud and clear to ban this dangerous, industrial activity last month,” said Sam Schabacker of Food & Water Watch. “It is unconscionable that the City Council is considering lifting the moratorium and punching massive loopholes in the ban on fracking. We call upon the Fort Collins City Council to protect our health, environment and safety by keeping the fracking moratorium in place and the ban intact."
"The city council needs to listen to their constituents, who've made it abundantly clear that they don't want the dangerous polluting process of fracking near their community, and not let back room meetings sway their initial promise to voters to ban fracking," said Micah Parkin of 350 Colorado.
“Councilman Horak was elected by the citizens of Fort Collins, not by the oil and gas industry, and the citizens have been clear in their support of a ban on fracking. So we hope that is who Councilman Horak is representing on the Tuesday vote with a commitment to protect the public health and the environment of Fort Collins,” said Jeanne Bassett of Environment Colorado.
“Councilman Horak has an obligation to come clean with the citizens he represents,” said Shane Davis of the Sierra Club–Poudre Canyon Group. “It is important that he do so swiftly and in good faith.”
Clean Water Action will be live tweeting the meeting Tuesday evening from @CleanWaterCO1
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.