I voted in favor of the current moratorium to place a hold on new oil & gas applications until the results of a study ordered by Governor Hickenlooper is released on about April 12th (http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_20073566). Hickenlooper issued an executive order that a study be conducted to determine the authority that municipalities have over oil & gas operations. In addition to placing a hold on new applications until the results of the Hickenlooper report is released, Erie’s moratorium gives Town staff time to negotiate an agreement with oil & gas operators to improve the safety of operations in Erie. Due to State laws that restrict the Town of Erie’s authority, any such agreement will be entered into voluntarily by the oil & gas companies.
It’s important to note that Erie’s 180-day moratorium affects only new oil & gas applications. The Town of Erie has no legal authority to stop drilling on any already approved wells, such as the one by Red Hawk Elementary School.
As an individual Board member, I explored the possibility of an ‘outside the box’ solution that might be more amenable to some residents of Erie. My idea was to force mineral rights owners to sell their mineral rights at market value, using the power of condemnation. While legally possible, market price of the mineral rights beneath Erie (in excess of $10 billion) makes such a plan unrealistic. The important point, however, is that I am creative and think big. I encourage all voters to choose candidates who will be visionary leaders in our community.
At the candidate forum held by the League of Women Voters (Thursday, March 15th) we were asked our position on fracking. My response was something like this;
In my time as a professor at the Colorado School of Mines, I once shared an office with a retired professor who wrote the only existing textbook on natural gas processing. I’ve taken the time to educate myself from top experts in the field. I’m not tremendously concerned about the actual fracking process. It happens about a mile and a half below the surface and the geology between there and the surface is such that it is highly unlikely that any of the fracking fluids will make it to the surface. Additionally, our water supply comes from the mountains, not from aquifers that would be at risk by the fracking process. I *am* concerned about the fracking chemicals while they are being transported to the site and while they exist on the surface.
My understanding is that other candidates have mis-represented statements I made at the candidate forum. In a bulk e-mail sent out to some Erie citizens, one candidate claimed that I’m not concerned about fracking with the statement clearly intended to imply that I’m not concerned about oil & gas operations in general. I’m used to my words being twisted and mis-represented–it’s politics. I just ask that you listen to my own words, not the words some other person is trying to put into my mouth.
I am deeply concerned about oil & gas operations in general, mostly due to air quality concerns. I’m also concerned that the drilling process is a heavy industrial activity that often occurs adjacent to land uses not compatible with heavy industrial. Additionally, the pad sites take up valuable acreage that could be better serve Erie citizens through other uses.
Town staff has recently learned about newly developed condensor technology that has the possibility to dramatically reduce, and possibly completely eliminate, emissions and flaring at well sites. A true cost-benefit analysis will need to be conducted, but it appears that the cost of installing such technology can be recovered by the oil & gas operators through sale of the captured gases that normally would have been emitted or flared. I hope we can work cooperatively with the oil & gas operators during this moratorium so that this new technology can be incorporated into every existing and future well site in Erie.
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