Monday, December 5, 2011

Frack — A problem that has little to do with writing

I live in Colorado Springs. It's a sprawling town with the beautiful Pikes Peak towering over us and a city park aptly named Garden of the Gods.

I've written before about the trials we had finding a house when we moved here. Despite our efforts to check into our subdivision when we purchased, the sprawling master planned community filed bankruptcy the day before our moving truck arrived or three days after we closed on our home.

Over the summer, 18,000 acres of the development were purchased by a Texas oil company. City officials are negotiating with the company in and out of court about the annexation agreement tied to the land. It is zoned for residential and commercial development.

I've been dealing with this issue for several months, but last week it hit me. You know in your gut like a realization that you can't do anything, no one will listen to you and others don't really care.

I am not a NIMBY — a Not in My Back Yard person. I swear. As a journalist, I reported on enough people, who were NIMBY's to know it makes no sense.

The technology to be used to extract oil and gas from the Niobrara Shale formation in Colorado Springs bothers me. I've studied the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process since July.

This video explain the process:


I have read reports from oil and gas associations, federal reports on fracking and news reports on the process. I have watched the documentary Gasland. I have read the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's response, which disputes some of the cases presented in Gasland. I watched Split Estates in horror. I have attended two county-sponsored oil and gas summits.

I am not a scientist, so I don't understand how a person's water is perfectly normal until fracking takes place nearby. The most common example is where methane gets released into the water system and a person can light their water on fire — from his or her faucet. Regulators say the methane isn't related to the oil and gas production. If it's naturally occurring methane, then it isn't ruled to be related to the drilling. However, most property owners contend the water was fine — without smell or flammable — prior to drilling.

Oil and gas officials will tell you there are no cases of water contamination related to fracking. I've heard them say this at meetings and heard it on documentaries. They will tell you the cement casing and the pipe protect the groundwater supply that is a few hundred feet below the surface.

Most oversight for natural gas exploration is on the state level as federal legislators exempted natural gas from regulations like the Safe Drinking Water Act.

I use several techniques to track fracking trends:
  • I search material daily through Google Alerts on the topic. 
  • I post stories on a blog. 
  • I evaluate the source of the materials I find — I question affiliation, presentation and spin.
I worry at random about property values; the quality of the neighborhood in a few years; whether we will be able to open our windows in the summer or not; and whether Colorado's environment is a good choice for our family. I know that last one sounds a little surreal. We moved to a master planned community, not a master planned oil field.

Of course, I don't worry a lot. Last Wednesday, I wrote "deep sigh" when I sent a Tweet to Robyn, who kindly shared a guest post here. I was dealing with an unexpected meeting on the oil and gas issue. I wrote a letter to city council members and then went about my day — there was no time to find a babysitter and well, Enzo deserved a regular day.

This whole fracking business is a tough one for lots of communities. I consume oil and natural gas products, so I understand the importance of reaching these oil and gas deposits. I wish it could be done differently.

You may already be familiar with fracking, as it's being used in 34 states in the U.S.

France banned the practice in June. In the United Kingdom this year, the country's first recorded earthquake was caused by fracking.

I never thought about checking into the practice until it arrived in my community. Have you?

20 comments:

  1. Good morning, Stacy.
    To be honest, no, I haven't thought about checking into the practice of fracking -- and I live in the Springs too. Technically, we're neighbors. Not next door neighboors, but same-city neighbors. This concerns me too--or at least it should.
    Thanks for posting about this today.

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  2. Fracking is a big issue in our area, too - mid-Hudson valley in NY. I'm very against it, as are many others, but so far I don't think our voices are being heard. Thank you for all this information and let's hope we manage to talk sense into the frackers!

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  3. @Beth - I think it's a city-wide issue, plus the oil company that bought 18k acres in my neighborhood (which borders a lot of other neighborhoods in the city), also has 100k acres under lease in the county.
    @Susanna - I know. Lots of states are either doing it or thinking about it. The volume of water used is tremendous.

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  4. I won't lie, I haven't even heard of this before, but I love that you have done so much research on it. It's important to be informed. I feel bad that you have to go through all of this though. That is so frustrating. I wish I had something helpful to say or do, but I will be thinking of you and hoping this all comes to a positive end - SOON!

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  5. Stacy I really feel for you. Am glad you are researching and keeping a level head. I certainly would fight something so close to your neighborhood. I have been against such practices for years. I don't believe it's healthy for people, the environment, water systems and wild life. Hope enough of you band together to stop it. We should be pursuing green alternatives.

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  6. Stacey, you are doing the right thing with all your research. I was stunned when I read about some of the recent consequences in the UK and have been happy about France's banning. Loved becoming more informed through this post!

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  7. Colorado Springs is a lovely area. I was there several years back. I hate to imagine it, and your neighborhood, impacted in this fashion. I'd never heard of it until you mentioned it once before. We have a huge oil industry and a coal industry here in ND, but in most places, I don't SEE a thing.

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  8. I had not heard of fracking, but I just looked it up to see if there has been anything like that in my area. Thanks for sharing your experience--it sounds frustrating, and even a bit frightening.

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  9. I haven't heard of fracking, either. Wow, just when you didn't think things could get worse, huh? It must be very frustrating for you.

    Always wanted to visit Colorado Springs, ever since the show 'Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.' LOL

    Nancy

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  10. I live near the oil capital of Alberta so I understand your concern, Stacy. The ramifications of the industry in our lifetime is scary but I worry about our children and our children's children. It's very sad to think that unless something is done to control all this, the future world of our great-great grandchildren won't be a pretty place to live.

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  11. Oh no! Stacy, this is horrible. Beyond horrible. I am so sorry. This country, this world is in deep trouble. You are my hero with all the research and letter writing you are doing. Thank you for informing us all. I am checking to see if this could become the norm, even in farm areas. Smooch, Stacy. Praying still.

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  12. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've not even heard of fracking until today. Thanks for the informative post on an important topic! I'll definitely seek more info...

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  13. I've never heard of fracking, but living near Lake Erie and knowing what goes into it, we had our water filtered etc. Ignorance is scary on the water front. And until we had the water thing (I'm so technical) put in both my kids were sick when we got here. Interesting. I hope you don't discover anything bad about your water, it's such a necessity after all.

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  14. @Abby - I didn't really know about it until a few months ago.
    @Patricia - Yes, I like the idea of greener solutions.
    @Joanna - The earthquakes in the UK are a unsettling.
    @Karen - I know. North Dakota is the new gold rush for oil. And, yes, Colorado Springs is a lovely area.
    @Coleen - The process is moving into a lot of communities as we search for more ways to be energy independent.
    @Nancy - It is frustrating. I never watched Dr. Quinn, I'll have to check that out for the Colorado Springs reference.
    @Sheila - True I am concerned about the land/resources we leave our children.
    @Robyn- Thanks. I appreciate you.
    @August -You'll probably hear more about it since you know about the process.
    @Catherine - We have city water where we are, but there are some communities near mine that don't. I love your technical description too.

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  15. I've never heard of fracking before - thanks for the education, and good luck!

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  16. Sorry to hear that you are dealing with these horrible issues. About a month ago (actually as I was writing a blog post) I felt my house tremble-in North Texas! It was a tremor from the Oklahoma earthquake that has been reported to have possibly been caused by excessive fracking.

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  17. @Susan - Thanks
    @KKorenck - Yep, the Oklahoma quake raised questions, but I haven't read all the report on that one. Other states have questioned recent quakes, too.

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  18. Wow, I had no idea about all that! It's a good thing you're doing research. I hope there are many who will listen to you and do the right thing.

    ~Debbie

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  19. @Debbie - It's happening all over Colorado and slowing making its way to the front range.

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