On a 6-3 vote, Broomfield City Council voted to postpone indefinitely a moratorium on fracking, meaning that in effect, the current move for a moratorium dies.
In what seemed to be an impromptu deal with the company Extraction Oil and Gas, some council members suggested “working with” the company. Those council members referred to a letter sent a day earlier by Extraction to the council in which the company agreed to withdraw its current application with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), if the council would vote down the moratorium. The memo suggested that the company wished to be involved with the process of developing an Oil and Gas Comprehensive Plan, “To be clear, there will be no new spacing unit hearings on our May applications until July. We will not undertake any permitting activity while participating in good faith in the Oil and Gas Comprehensive Plan update.”
The company said that regardless, it will still be filing new applications in May which would be scheduled to be heard by the COGCC in July. Then expected drilling would begin twelve months later.
During the public comment section, roaring applause and cheers came from the overflow areas outside of council chambers when someone happened to speak against fracking. Like prior meetings, hundreds showed to witness the meeting, but the sheer numbers of speakers who supported the moratorium did not reflect the numbers who cheered against fracking.
During the initial moments of public comment, the number of speakers in support of fracking outweighed those against. Drawing people who were watching the meeting live online “out of their homes and off their couches” to the council meeting to speak in person, were comments made by David Walden who said that every single person in the crowd who drives, heats a home, eats, and uses fossil fuels was a hypocrite if they don’t support fossil fuel extraction.
Lauren Petrie of the group Food and Water Watch said she wasn’t planning to speak until she heard Walden’s comment, “This is nothing more than outrageous and unfair hyperbole and I think crazy every time we hear it.” She referred to Walden’s comments as a tactic by the fossil fuel industry to “scare the public into continued reliance on fossil fuels.” Petrie warned the council that the contaminants that the extraction process would leave will remain in the community forever and that Broomfield would be left with the responsibility and the bill for clean up “for decades to come.” Petrie urged the council to support renewable energy that she referred to as “wasted resources” because renewables are cleaner, safer, and currently available.
Ten-year old Cadin Jage who held a sign before the meeting that read, “Health Over Wealth” told council that he had just moved to Broomfield in July, “When I moved here, I didn’t know that there would be fracking wells. If there is going to be fracking wells, I might have to move.”
Council members Stan Jezierski, Kevin Kreeger, and Sharon Tessier voted against tabling the moratorium. David Beacom, Bette Erickson, Elizabeth Law-Evans, Mike Shelton and Greg Stokes all voted in favor.
After the vote, Council Member Stan Jezierski expressed his disappointment to The Nation Report, “Having the ability to implement the moratorium down the road is important. The moratorium was about proper planning. It provides for our new oil and gas task force to perform their duty and dive into the data. It provides time for a well-thought-out permitting process based on the science and data. I think it was an important tool that we needed to hang onto. It’s disappointing tonight that council tonight decided to put that tool away.”
Petrie also expressed her disappointment, “There is no logical reason to be moving full speed ahead with fracking. This is really an issue that needs to be considered very thoughtfully. You only get one shot. If they come in here and they screw it up, the residents are the ones who ultimately have to live with that, and they have to pay for it.”
In a final agenda item, council chose twelve members who will serve on the Oil and Gas Comprehensive Committee. One of the committee’s initial tasks will be to answer questions that were left unanswered at a February 21 study session where 1000 attended and another 1000 tuned into the live-stream. The group is also tasked with reviewing research about health and safety impacts of fracking.
Jezierski responded to the process of having a committee that wouldn’t have time to fully research fracking impacts before Extraction will file for new permits, “The part that’s a little disheartening to me is that Extraction has indicated they will start their permitting process in the next few weeks, so I question, why are we doing a task force? I question why am I here right now, and I question why am I going to be here for another hour tonight [choosing the committee]?”