Fracking Can Happen to Any of Us
For more than a decade now, I have had a small farm and weekend escape near Berthoud, north of Longmont. I really enjoyed having a quiet, private place with pristine acreage about 40 minutes from Boulder. I have grown alfalfa, tomatoes and corn, and I have even raised bees for six years, giving the honey to friends and colleagues every holiday season.
Our beautiful country house, with a pond inhabited by turtles and frogs, is a peaceful place for our family. Our two-year old son runs joyfully through the fields and "turtle" was one of his first words. A majestic crane visits us every year and nests near the pond. My Berthoud home in unincorporated Weld County has been part of our family's Colorado dream.
For the last four years my partner Marlon's father, Perry, and his sister, Nicole, have been living there full time.
But last weekend, our dream became a nightmare when Perry noticed a few trucks and construction occurring on the neighbor's property across the street. They raise horses, so we thought maybe they were building a new stable. We were shocked when a couple days later this bright tower went up overnight.
In the photograph I've provided, you can see our garage and guesthouse in the foreground. The huge fracking tower is just dozens of feet away from the foot of our driveway. Like the thousands of Coloradans unlucky enough to be in a similar situation, we received no notice or information about what is going on next door.
The noise has kept Perry and Nicole awake these last two nights (for some reason, the loudest activity is at night) and today Nicole has a headache. Concerned for their health and safety, Marlon and I invited our in-laws to stay with us in Boulder for now.
For years, I have fought for sensible fracking laws -- I have written op-eds, introduced legislation to close oil and gas loopholes in the Clean Air Act, and I have even testified before the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. I did all that because I have been concerned about the impact that fracking has on the health of communities as well as the economic impact as it relates to property value. But now it is personal for me, like it has been all along for too many Colorado families.
If something like this can happen overnight, without any warning, to any of us, there is clearly something wrong with the law. I am going to pursue every avenue available to me to stop this from ruining my home, but under current Colorado law, our options are limited and so the drilling continues.
I no longer even want to take our son up there to our country home, which has become an industrial zone. Who knows what kinds of chemicals are in all those drums we can see from the window of our home or the smoke in the air.
I keep thinking about our other neighbors like a retired union man who used his life savings to retire with his wife to the country. Now in their 70s and in declining health, they can't just up and leave. Neither of us are likely to see any compensation for the damage to our property value or our quality of life.
By pushing an oil-and-gas economy, Weld County may generate short-term revenues, but only at the cost of their long-term prosperity and declining property values. I, for one, would never have bought a weekend getaway next to a smelly, ugly, potentially dangerous drilling rig. Who would?
In our case, we did everything right. We even did our homework to make sure that we own the minerals under our own property. Did you know that many metro-area homeowners don't own the oil and gas beneath their feet and that a company can drill on their property without their permission? But apparently even owning your own minerals rights isn't enough; they came for our neighbors.
So much for the quiet country. And as for the health impacts, who knows?
Thank goodness for the wisdom of our Boulder County Commissioners Elise Jones, Cindy Domenico, and Deb Gardner in continuing the moratorium on fracking and preventing a similar fate from befalling our Boulder County communities. But all Coloradans citizens deserve protection from what I now face. I renew my call for the Governor and the Colorado state legislature to act. I pledge to continue my fight for sensible fracking regulations, and sadly I will now be telling my own story alongside yours.
As for my own special place, the racket has scared off the crane from our pond. And I don't think she's coming back.
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