An anti-fracking group in Colorado has released a series of ads blasting claims made by the oil and gas industry in the state as four communities prepare to vote on bans or moratoriums on drilling and fracking in their regions.
Fort Collins, Broomfield and Boulder voters all face ballot initiatives that would put a moratorium on fracking and drilling inside city limits for five years. Lafayette voters will consider a measure that, if passed, would amend the city charter with a community bill of rights -- one that would make it illegal for any person or company to drill for oil and gas within the city limits.
Released by Frack Free Colorado and called "Frack Check", the videos offer counterpoints to the industry's drilling safety claims.
In one video (watch above), Weston Wilson, an EPA whistleblower who worked at the Environmental Protection Agency for 37 years, talks about the threat of groundwater contamination due to fracking. He cites a leaked EPA powerpoint slideshow from August, one that Wilson says reveals a clear link between fracking and groundwater contamination in Pennsylvania.
"The presentation concludes that the methane and other gasses released during drilling caused significant damage to the water quality there," Wilson says in the video. "Charges from that leaked document shows that wells being fracked for gas create pathways that allow gas to migrate to shallow aquifers."
Wilson also points to a Duke University study that found drinking water wells near fracking sites have 17-times more methane than those wells that are farther away.
"This EPA report backs up other studies like the one done by Duke University that found drinking water wells near fracking sites have 17 times more methane than those wells that are farther away."
"It's now clear that EPA had prior knowledge that fracking does cause contamination of groundwater and contaminate the air we breathe," Wilson concludes.
In the second video (below), Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University who has also served as a oil and gas industry consultant for more than 25 years, talks about how much fracking has changed over the years (story continues below video):
"The gas industry is going to tell anybody who is going to listen that fracking has been around since 1947," Ingraffea says in the video. "Saying that fracking has been around since 1947 and shouldn't be of concern now is pretty misleading. Fracking has changed tremendously in the last 65 years as have many industries. For instance, in 1947 a frack job would consist of about 1000 gallons of water or napalm going into a single well. Today fracking for shale gas or shale oil can involve 10 or more wells on one pad and collectively consuming over 50 million gallons of water and chemicals."
Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial process of injecting water, sand, and chemicals underground at very high pressures to release natural gas. Most companies however have declined to reveal what components make up their fracking fluids, calling them "trade secrets."
It has been less than a year since Gov. John Hickenlooper said that the state would sue any city in Colorado that bans fracking and only a few months since the state filed its first lawsuit against Longmont's drilling rules.
The push in the four communities follows a surge in drilling around the state which has become home to a total of more than 51,000 operating oil and gas drill sites. A recent report from advocacy group Environment America reported that Colorado is the second-highest fracked state in the U.S. with 18,168 fracking wells, second only to Texas.
"Colorado has been called the ground zero of fracking," Ana Tinsly, spokesperson for Frack Free Colorado, said in a press statement. "Gas and oil companies are virtually self-regulated, with devastating consequences, as we saw in the recent flooding of thousands of fracking sites that were allowed to be built on a flood zone. Governor Hickenlooper, in fact, is such a supporter, he once claimed to have drunk fracking fluid."
Tinsley refers to controversial testimony Hickenlooper gave to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources back in February.
"You can drink it. We did drink it around the table, almost ritual-like, in a funny way," Hickenlooper said, The Washington Times reported.
Last year when Hickenlooper was invited to give the keynote address at The Atlantic's Next Generation Energy Forum, he vigorously defended the practice and even went so far as to say that the anxiety about fracking "isn't directly connected to the facts."
"There's a lot of anxiety out there, certainly with hydraulic fracturing and the kind of unorthodox technologies for the extraction of natural gas, but oftentimes that anxiety isn't directly connected to facts," Hickenlooper said during the forum.