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Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life
A fracking well looms over a residential area of Liberty, Colorado on Aug. 19. WildEarth Guardians / Flickr

A new multiyear study found that people living or working within 2,000 feet, or nearly half a mile, of a hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drill site may be at a heightened risk of exposure to benzene and other toxic chemicals, according to research released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)

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Emma Bray of Denver, a plaintiff on the youth-led climate lawsuit, Martinez v. COGCC. @youthvgov / Twitter

Colorado's oil and gas industry breathed a sigh of relief on Monday after the state's highest court overturned a lower court decision that said state regulators must consider public health and the environment in permitting oil and gas production.

The unanimous ruling was a disappointment for the teenage plaintiffs, including high-profile climate activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, who led the closely watched lawsuit against the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Plateau Creek near De Beque, Colorado, where land has been leased for oil and gas production. Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post / Getty Images

By Randi Spivak

Slashing two national monuments in Utah may have received the most attention, but Trump's Interior Department and U.S. Forest Service have been quietly, systematically ceding control of America's public lands to fossil fuel, mining, timber and livestock interests since the day he took office.

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In Colorado, fracking often occurs right next to where people live. Tara O'Conner Shelley / CC BY-NC-SA

By Tara Opsal and Stephanie Malin

Coloradans will vote on a ballot initiative in November that requires new oil and gas projects to be set back at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings. If approved, the measure—known as both Initiative 97 and Proposition 112—would mark a major change from their state's current limits: 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools.

As sociologists who have researched oil and gas drilling in the communities that host it for the past seven years, we think this measure would provide local governments and Coloradans more say over where drilling occurs and enhance the rights of those who live near these sites.

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A fuel truck carries fuel into a fracking site past the warning signs Jan. 27, 2016 near Stillwater, Oklahoma. J Pat Carter / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

For more than three decades, the U.S. government has mismanaged toxic oil and gas waste containing carcinogens, heavy metals and radioactive materials, according to a new Earthworks report — and with the country on track to continue drilling and fracking for fossil fuels, the advocacy group warns of growing threats to the planet and public health.

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The land around Red Knoll near Kanab, UT that could have been razed for a frac sand mine. Tara Lohan

By Tara Lohan

A sign at the north end of Kanab, Utah, proclaims the town of 4,300 to be "The Greatest Earth on Show."

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The view from lease parcel COC77996 looking across the Colorado River and DeBeque State Wildlife Refuge toward parcel COC77999 and the Roan Plateau. Peter Hart / Wilderness Workshop

Conservation groups on Thursday sued Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the Bureau of Land Management for approving new leases to allow fracking on more than 45,000 acres in western Colorado, including within communities and within a half-mile of a K-12 public school, without analyzing or disclosing environmental and public health threats as required by federal law.

"Fracking is a filthy, dangerous business, and dodging environmental analysis puts people and public lands at risk," said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The Trump administration is trying to ignore science, public health and climate change threats to enrich corporate polluters, but it can't shrug off the law."

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Ruins at Chaco Canyon. pedrik / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is pushing ahead with the sale of oil and gas leases on land outside of Chaco Culture National Historical Park and other sites revered by Native American tribes, The Associated Press reported.

The latest listing—which quietly appeared on the BLM website not long after the government reopened after the shutdown—comes about a year after then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke postponed a lease sale in the Greater Chaco Region in response to intense public pressure over cultural and environmental concerns.

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Cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on could fall heavily on the public.
Susan Vineyard / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Justin Mikulka

Increasingly, U.S. shale firms appear unable to pay back investors for the money borrowed to fuel the last decade of the fracking boom. In a similar vein, those companies also seem poised to stiff the public on cleanup costs for abandoned oil and gas wells once the producers have moved on.

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Medano Creek, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Alamosa, CO. Gail K E / Flickr

Conservation groups are calling on the Trump administration to cancel plans to lease thousands of acres of federal public lands for oil and gas development near western Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park and Blanca Peak without fully analyzing environmental or cultural harms.

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Greenpeace

By Tim Donaghy

Time is running out for the oil and gas industry, and they know it. But delaying the transition to a clean energy economy even for a few more years means billions of dollars in profits for their investors. The 2018 elections show that even in their twilight years, oil cash can corrupt our democracy and block necessary progress on climate. The industry spent millions to kill off a Green New Deal-style initiative in Washington state and a Colorado initiative that would have increased the buffer between homes and schools and drilling areas.

When popular democracy threatened their profits, the oil industry opened up their checkbooks. And they'll run the same playbook on the fledgling Green New Deal too — unless we stop them.

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Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life
A protest against the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and Pacific Connector pipeline corresponding with the Department of State Lands hearing in Salem, Oregon. Rick Rappaport

By Simon Davis-Cohen

When the incumbent Democratic Governor Kate Brown defeated Republican Knute Buehler in a contentious race for Oregon's governorship, many in the state's climate movement let out a momentary sigh of relief. Brown had promised to "lead on climate" while Buehler had pledged his support for new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Now, residents are working to hold Governor Brown to task over what they see as the most pressing climate issue facing the state: the proposed Jordan Cove liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal and its Pacific Connector Gas pipeline. Backed by the Canadian company Pembina Pipeline Corporation, the project would transport natural gas extracted via hydraulic fracturing (fracking) from Colorado to Oregon's coast, where it would be super-cooled into liquid form and loaded on ships to international markets.

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Petrified Forest National Park. Andrew Kearns / National Park Service

A new Trump administration plan proposes to auction off 4,200 acres of public land for oil and gas development in northern Arizona. The lands straddle the Little Colorado River, are within three miles of Petrified Forest National Park, and are near habitat for a federally threatened fish called the Little Colorado spinedace. Drilling and fracking would threaten to deplete and pollute groundwater in the Little Colorado River Basin.

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Pexels

Last year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report sounded a global alarm about the need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reach "net zero" levels by 2050. While there have been stark climate warnings for decades, this time the reaction was different. There is an unprecedented global surge of inspired climate activism, and across the country governors and state legislatures are taking up emissions reduction plans. Even some top-tier Democratic presidential candidates are pushing climate policies that would have been mostly unthinkable just a few months ago.

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More than 300,000 acres are on the auction block in Nevada's Great Basin in 2017, including wild lands near the Ruby Mountains. PR vonB / Flickr

President Trump and Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke are continuing their onslaught against American public lands this holiday month and moving forward with plans to auction off 700,000 acres for fracking, endangering clean air and water, the climate and sacred lands.

"First it's our cherished national monuments, now Trump and Zinke are set to give away even more public lands to the fossil fuel industry," said Becca Fischer, climate guardian for WildEarth Guardians. "Rather than giving back this holiday season, this administration is proving that it will stop at nothing to put our public lands in the hands of dirty energy executives and sell off our rights to clean energy and a healthy environment."

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Erik (HASH) Hersman / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Today is election day in the U.S., which means that if you are a U.S. voter whose state doesn't have early voting, today is the day to head to the polls and make your voice heard.

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Colorado's attorney general is suing Boulder County over its fracking ban that has been in place for the last five years.

Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and the state of Colorado are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The complaint to initiate the lawsuit was received by county officials on Feb. 14, KUNC reported.

The AG's office had been threatening Boulder County with a lawsuit for several weeks over the county's moratorium on oil and gas development in unincorporated areas. The county first adopted the temporary ban back in Feb. 2, 2012 and has extended it several times.

In a Jan. 26 letter to county commissioners, Coffman gave a Feb. 10 deadline to rescind the moratorium as it violates state law. Last May, Colorado's Supreme Court rulings on two cases prohibited local governments from preventing oil and gas development through the use of local bans. In light of the court's decisions, Coffman called Boulder County's continued ban "clearly unlawful."

But Boulder County deputy attorney David Hughes disagrees.

"Our position is that we are complying with state law and if attorney General Coffman just held off and let us complete our process, we think that is a perfectly viable option," Hughes told KUNC. "A lot of the open space that we bought over the years, the mineral rights had already been severed, so the open space doesn't provide protection in those instances."

"In 2012 when the county adopted its regulations, it was looking at smaller well pads and now the trend is for these mega pads, we're looking at 20, 30 40 wells per pad," Hughes added. "Our regulations didn't really look at or address that issue."

As KUNC explains, "after the state Supreme Court rulings, Boulder County rescinded its moratorium on new oil and gas permits that was set to expire in 2018. It was replaced by county commissioners with shorter time-outs, usually four to six months long. Most recently commissioners voted in December 2016 to extend it until at least May 1, 2017, while they revise the county's oil and gas regulations."

But Coffman said in a statement about Tuesday's filing that the county had years to prepare with state law:

"The Boulder County Commissioners responded that they needed yet more time to draft regulations and prepare to accept new applications for oil or gas development. Because five years is more than reasonable time to complete such a project, and because Boulder County continues to operate in clear violation of Colorado law, the Attorney General today is filing suit in Boulder County District Court to compel compliance. It is not the job of industry to enforce Colorado law; that is the role of the Attorney General on behalf of the People of Colorado. Regrettably, Boulder County's open defiance of State law has made legal action the final recourse available to the State."

Incidentally, Coffman's lawsuit came just as the Colorado School of Public Health released a study that found that young Coloradans with "leukemia were 4.3 times more likely to live in the densest area of active oil and gas wells than those with other cancers."

County commissioners were critical of the lawsuit, saying they are already planning two public hearings next month to discuss the adoption of new oil and gas regulations for unincorporated Boulder County.

A statement from the commissioners reads:

"The Colorado Attorney General sent a special valentine to the oil and gas industry today by filing a lawsuit against Boulder County for our working to safeguard our community from the industrial impacts of oil and gas development.

"Drilling proposals of 20 to 40 wells per site are being proposed near residential neighborhoods, schools, parks and recreational areas up and down the Front Range, and we believe it is our responsibility to ensure that we have the strongest possible protections in place for the residents of Boulder County and the world-class environment we have worked hard to protect and preserve.

"It's a sweetheart deal for the oil and gas industry, but a massive waste of Coloradans' tax dollars for the state to sue us on industry's behalf, and we are prepared to defend our right to safeguard the health, safety, and wellbeing of our constituents.

"As we stated when we first responded to the Attorney General's January 26 letter, Boulder County understands its legal constraints on adopting local bans and lengthy moratoria; however, the current moratorium is of a materially shorter duration and is consistent with Colorado law."

Unsurprisingly, the oil and gas industry applauded the AG's legal action.

"It's not about drilling, or fracking, or pipelines, it's about the law. And the law is clear: Long-term moratoriums—and this one is over five years now—are illegal," said Dan Haley, President and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association in a statement. "Boulder County shouldn't be surprised that the Attorney General cares about the rule of law in Colorado."

According to the International Business Times, during her 2014 campaign for AG, "Coffman directly received nearly $20,000 from oil and gas interests—including maximum donations from fossil fuel companies' political action committees. She also was boosted in the 2014 election by the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which launched a $1.4 million political action committee that supported her candidacy. RAGA that year listed fossil fuel corporations and trade associations among its largest donors."

Democratic lawmakers in the state have denounced the lawsuit.

"We should all be outraged that the Colorado attorney general has chosen to use public tax dollars to bully Boulder County on behalf of the oil and gas industry," Democrat Rep. Jared Polis said in a statement to Denver7. "The oil and gas industry is more than equipped to bring their own lawsuits, and I suspect they have opted not to sue Boulder County because they know Colorado law allows for a short term fracking moratorium. What the attorney general has done today is a purely political waste of money, and it is not legally sound."

Democrat State Sen. Matt Jones also accused Coffman of colluding with the oil and gas industry.

"This is disgraceful. After seeing the Attorney General's and Oil and Gas industry's press releases about the lawsuit sent out almost at the same time, I think it's safe to assume the Attorney General is using the powers of her office and using tax dollars to intimidate and sue taxpayers at the behest of special interest industries," he said. "The question I have for the Attorney General is this: how many oil and gas corporations did she consult with before sending out her threat letter to Boulder County on January 26?"'

The fight between local governments versus oil and gas development runs deep. Last year, environmental groups tried to introduce two statewide measures to appear on Colorado's November ballot.

The first initiative would have amended the state constitution to enable local governments the option to enact regulations more protective of health and safety than those required by the state, largely addressing the Colorado Supreme Court's decision to strike down local fracking bans. The other initiative would create 2,500-foot buffer zones between homes, schools and sensitive areas like playgrounds and water sources, and all new oil and gas development. Both measures failed to make the ballot.

Records show that energy companies spent millions of dollars to stop the anti-fracking measures.

Rising temperatures and more frequent wildfires in Alaskan national parks could affect caribou's habitat and winter food sources. Zak Richter / NPS

By Stephen Nash

The Trump administration's decision to keep many U.S. national parks open during the current federal government shutdown, with few or no staff, spotlights how popular and how vulnerable these unique places are.

Some states, such as Utah and Arizona, have spent heavily to keep parks open rather than lose tourist revenues. Unfortunately, without rangers to enforce rules, some visitors have strewn garbage and vandalized scenic areas.

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YouTube/Cataclysmic

Colorado residents, public safety advocates and local lawmakers have raised multiple concerns following the deadly house explosion in the town of Firestone that happened less than 200 feet away from an older vertical oil operated by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.

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