Take Your Seat at the Table: Citizens, Scientists and Policymakers Plan for 2019 at the LOGIC Summit

“Take your seat at the table because it is high time that you can do so,” said Sara Loflin, Director of League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans (LOGIC), to Colorado residents from across the state at the LOGIC 2019 Citizens, Science and Policy Summit held on December 8.  Her comments preceded a day of planning for 2019 by citizens, with input from Governor-elect Jared Polis and panels of scientists, attorneys and policymakers.

After LOGIC Board President Judy Kelly welcomed the attendees, Governor-elect Jared Polis referred to himself as “the leader of a total wave of change” and to the fact that “we need to give communities a voice” in oil and gas development.  He stated that it is important for “local governments to have local land use authority” and that “oil and gas development needs to protect the health and safety of a community.”  He also stated that he was excited to go forward with his campaign pledge for 100% renewable energy by 2040.

Lunch keynote speaker Rep. Joe Salazar said that he hoped that newly elected state officials “lived up to their promises,” telling the attendees to remind these officials that, “We elected you, you serve us at a critical time and we expect you to serve us.”  He warned of the oil and gas lobbyists who would again fill the Capitol, making up the largest lobby in the State.  These lobbyists were already warning Democrats of 2019 “overreach.”  Rep. Salazar encouraged citizens to keep motivated to work for the next generation as he stated that he lives “for the next seven generations,” referring to his Native American heritage.  He also mentioned that there would need to be transitioning of workers to solar jobs.

Panel 1: Creating Change:  Bringing Science to Oil and Gas Policy

Speakers: Lisa McKenzie, Kim Schultz, Stephanie Malin, Laurie Anderson, Facilitator:  Wes Wilson

Dr. Lisa McKenzie is a well-known CU researcher who has made significant contributions to the study of human exposure to oil and gas development.  She pointed to a recent study showing benzene spikes indicating “we don’t understand what happens to people with spike exposure,” in contrast with some information that is known about continuous exposure.  She also shared health study plots that showed hazard quotients above one for those within 1000 feet of oil and gas development.  She stated that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) did not show as great of a risk in their study published in August because they did not use studies that involved the risk to children and prenatal development.  Her hope for 2019 was that the new State administrators would want to work with academics.  Dr. McKenzie said that she would make her presentation available to LOGIC.

Kim Schultz of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) pointed to a list of 41 Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals in fracking wastewater at concentration levels that could cause prenatal problems like birth defects.  She was aware that CDPHE was in the process of evaluating their wastewater regulations.

Dr. Stephanie Malin of CSU studies the health and stress impacts of oil and gas development as an environmental sociologist. She pointed to the great impact of uncertainty and powerlessness that citizens feel on their quality of life.  She recognized that part of the citizen powerlessness surrounding oil and gas development can be traced back to the 1980s with the tobacco and pesticide industries, when the burden of proof shifted from industry proving that an industry was safe to citizens proving it was not safe.  She said that coalition building is the most important step to take to overcome the sense of powerlessness.  If anyone would like to be part of her study, you can contact her at Stephanie.malin@colostate.edu.

Panel 2: Creating Change:  Bringing Citizens and Science to Policy

Speakers: Matt Sura, Dan Leftwich, Mike Chiropolus, Lowell and Margie Lewis, Facilitator:  Kate Merlin

Attorney Matt Sura stated that local governments need greater control and suggested that all Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioners (COGCC) be dismissed and replaced with professionals, like the Colorado Public Utilities Commission operates.  He also supported having multilevel setbacks based on well count.

Attorney Dan Leftwich supported citizens demanding that there be an oil and gas moratorium in January.  He stated that protecting health and safety as upheld in the Martinez Appeals Court ruling should be the floor in the State and that the ceiling of local preemption by the State had to be removed.

Governor-elect Polis could state that the Martinez Appeals Court ruling be followed, according to Attorney Mike Chiropolus.  He also agreed in prioritizing local control but was not sure that the PUC was the correct model to use for the COGCC.

Margie and Lowell Lewis are Triple Creek (Greeley) residents who have been challenging the Extraction project next to their home since September 2014.  Margie experienced extreme worsening of her previously irregular mild asthma symptoms in Fall 2017 through January 2018.  They did not receive any notice during that period but found out later that Extraction was doing excessive flaring at the Triple Creek site to prevent a blowout when there were inadequate natural gas sales lines open.  Lowell said that there is prototype mobile technology available to prevent this if the COGCC would require it or operators choose to use it.

Panel 3: The State of Policy Making in 2019

Speakers: Broomfield City Council Member Kevin Kreeger, Commerce City Council Member Steven Douglas, Rep. Sonya Lewis, Adams County Commissioner Eva Henry, Jillian Coffey, Facilitator:  Rep. Mike Foote

Broomfield City Council Member Kevin Kreeger supported a new CDPHE director who would validate and act on peer-reviewed academic health studies.  Commerce City Council Member Steven Douglas stated that there was a need for a permitting moratorium by the State.

Rep. Sonya Lewis suggested that the class of eighteen first-year Colorado House Representatives would be bold in their legislative goals, with one of her bills being the reform of the COGCC.  She warned her own constituents that they should be alert because oil and gas development would be attempting to move into their open spaces.

Adams County Commissioner Eva Henry hoped that State reform would include local land use authority and the COGCC allowing adjoining jurisdictions to have standing.  She warned attendees that if citizens want to express their concerns to lawmakers, they need to write handwritten notes as petitions do not make an impact.  Both Commissioner Henry and advocacy associate Jillian Coffey stated the importance of establishing relationships with your lawmakers over coffee and clearly expressing what your community needs.

Attendees then discussed plans for 2019 in breakout groups covering health and safety, local control, the COGCC and climate change.  Sara Loflin acknowledged the effort that these citizens made to attend an all-day event on a Saturday in December.

Note:  Broomfield Concerned is under the neighborhood group umbrella of LOGIC.  If you would like to be on their mailing list, go to http://www.coloradologic.org/