City Council should have drilled deeper for information

(Letter published 9/04/12 in Longmont Times-Call)

     THERE’S QUITE a bit of information pertaining to the gas/oil drilling controversy that I think should have been more thoroughly discussed prior to the Longmont City Council’s decision to take on the state government in a big-time lawsuit.
     —-Why haven’t we been told earlier that Greeley has already tried to over-regulate and the Colorado Supreme Court said no. Not good news, either, for the rules-changing initiative.
      —-It has been hinted that because Longmont is a home rule municipality, the state’s authority over drilling should end at the city’s borders. But remember, the state also writes other uniform codes, including one that regulates traffic, which every municipality is required to adopt and enforce, without revision.
       —-Does Longmont have an insurance back-up pool, perhaps something like the Boulder County commissioners had when they took their very expensive lawsuit against the Rocky Mountain Christian Church to the Supreme Court and lost?
      —-What sort of ongoing revenues do the city of Longmont and SVV schools get from these drilling activities?
      —–Longmont resident Paul Danish, author of Boulder’s Danish Plan who is now a columnist for The Boulder Weekly,* estimates that oil well drilling activity, thanks to fracking, will bring in from $3 billion to $5 billion in the next few years to boost Colorado’s economy. He calls it “Colorado’s ticket out of the recession.” He also suggests that if the well sites are as dangerous as the anti-frackers claim, then they should leave their children at home when protesting there.
       —–Meanwhile, Pres. Obama quietly slips an American aircraft carrier into the Strait of Hormuz to guarantee safe delivery of Saudi oil. And all along I thought we were trying to drill our way around these real war potentialities. Not in Longmont, apparently.

We’re losing the wildfires battle

       Unfortunately, Colorado seems unable to keep pace with its wildfires. The year 2002 was disastrous. Here we go again, a decade later, fighting desperately to contain yet another round of record-breaking, out-of-control conflagrations. Whatever lessons our policy makers may have learned from past wildfires, this knowledge does not appear to be having much effect on improving current prevention and containment methodology. We can and must do better.
       My state—I was born here back when “Big Ed” Johnson was in his first go-round as governor—has never met a crisis it couldn’t handle. It’s time for our current leaders in both the public and private sectors to step forward and vigorously target this issue for reform.
Percy Conarroe, Longmont

Some comments re: commentaries by Times-Call business editor

 Are the oil and gas people really all that terrible?

       Having written a column only a few Sundays ago skewering the oil and gas industry, Tony Kindelspire, business editor of the Times-Call is back again on May 27 with a similar offering, long on emotionalism and short on scientific proof.  

He keeps emphasizing the danger of drilling for oil and gas, especially the use of hydraulic fracturing, but offers no scientific proof that anyone’s illness around here is, or ever has been attributed to this activity. After all, drilling for oil and gas in Boulder County, including Longmont, is not a new phenomenon. Black gold was discovered just north of Boulder in 1901 and, according to the 1945 Colorado Yearbook, two wells were still producing there. (While residing in Louisville from 1965 to 1997, I knew of two active gas wells–one was located in Superior, the other just north of Louisville.)

       Does the oil and gas industry need regulating? Yes. But I don’t think it was necessary for the columnist to broad-brush the entire oil and gas industry (which would have to include its employees and their families, some of whom no doubt reside in Longmont) into his “Who do you trust?” category. He’s apparently upset that “20 inspectors for the state’s 45,000 wells are not enough.” Is this the number of currently producing oil and gas wells or is it the grand total of all the wells ever drilled in Colorado? How many are now capped or were dry holes to start with? And there’s not a word about the economic benefits and payment of things like severance taxes.

         I, too, appreciate Councilman Bagley’s willingness to serve on the Local Government Designee panel. However, did he stick around long enough to even get some play on his ideas, using his lawyerly skills to sway the other committee members? I don’t know.

        Contrary to Kindelspire’s criticism of the several City Council members who are allegedly dragging their feet on this issue, I commend them for resisting a quick rush to judgment.

        If we’re going to pass laws here in Longmont based on how many “fors” or “againsts” that can be lined up at the City Hall microphone beforehand or, if that fails, put every issue on the ballot so that outside talent and money can be brought in to achieve the desired outcome, then there’s no need for a City Council. And yes, I’m for free speech and the right to petition, although I quit signing petitions years ago because they were often misleading. Now I see where a petition drive is already underway. Only in Longmont. This is a clever strategy because it not only keeps things stirred up, it puts a lot of pressure on each council member.

         Drilling for gas and oil, the last I heard, is a legitimate business, not a function of government. To pretend that the outside business world is paying no attention as to what’s happening here in Longmont is wishful thinking. For decades, this community has enjoyed a positive reputation as a good place to do business—an image hard to gain, easily destroyed. Who cares? 

      Okay, there you have it. Blast away.

Percy Conarroe, Longmont

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water

Hey, look: We don’t want the oil companies to drill here (NIMBY), nor there or anywhere. So, how many of us have abandoned our automobiles (which are significantly more dangerous to our children) and unhooked our homes and businesses from natural gas to cancel our need for fossil fuels? While I appreciate NOAA’s mission to save us from ourselves, it seems odd that one of its scientists would be out discussing a study (Erie) that scares the daylights out of people, but apparently hasn’t been vetted or even published yet for review. This is a sure recipe for panic. Continue reading

Fracking: A new high in scaremongering

(A condensed version of the following letter appeared in the 3/4/12 Longmont Times-Call.)

President Obama’s anti-capitalistic agenda of killing our nation’s oil and gas industry is finally being felt locally as nervous politicians buy into the exaggerated fracking scare by issuing frantic moratoriums as if this practice will surely bring the World to an end tomorrow, when we should all know that this threatened destiny is simply not true. The big, bad oil companies—which sell members their gasoline–drill because they own or lease the mineral rights and Colorado already has pretty stiff rules regarding how and where they can drill (according to Gov. Hickenlooper, himself a former geologist) including the use of hydraulic fracturing chemicals. And of course, Obama’s act of stopping the Keystone Pipeline and its 20,000 jobs is never mentioned in any of the anti-fracking coverage or accompanying editorials. Continue reading