Some of our friends had recently encouraged us to watch the documentary Gasland and so we decided to check it out. It really opened our eyes to how much oil and gas drilling and production really goes on in our community, especially in Weld County which is our county. Of course, we had seen the industry as a part of the background that you don’t really notice, but after watching the movie, we began seeing all the pads and rigs everywhere!
The most controversial part of this drilling is the hydrofracturing process also known as “fracking” where they shoot millions of gallons of our precious water and various chemicals into the ground as deep as 8000 feet or more until it creates a mini earthquake that releases the natural gas that is trapped below. The toxic water sludge that comes back and is unfit for anything is called “produced water”. The chemicals are then vented from this water mixture and results in major air emissions as well.
This industry brings in a ton of money to our county and we just sort of assumed that everything about it was well-regulated and watched. However, what we learned from the movie was that this industry is exempted from the Clean Air and Water Acts and could be much less safe than we had ever imagined. This is especially a concern for people in rural areas who have water wells as we saw in 2009 when people in Fort Lupton were actually able to light their drinking water on fire! The movie even highlighted some of the local people.
The sheer number of drill permits in Weld County (the saturated northeast section) is astounding as of June 2012!
Then just this week we heard news that Josh Fox, the creator of Gasland was coming to the University of Northern Colorado to give a presentation about the movie, so we thought it would be really interesting to hear him speak. We learned that Greeley is one of the last oases in Weld County not to be hydrofractured but that was soon about to change as well. UNC and the school district both signed on to allow for directional drilling and fracking under their properties. About 500 people turned out and want to see fracking banned or at least better regulated. Recently Longmont has completely disallowed fracking and other areas are implementing moritoriums. But not in Weld County. Weld County is a free for all and it is concerning to us because we live right near many of the wells and pads.
So we decided to go out near our house and see what we could find nearby. Within less than a mile this is what we found:
Houses in the Background are in our Neighborhood
Cassie at a pad site (“produced water sign” click to enlarge)
So while the movie Gasland definitely had an anti-fracking bent to it, it does make you wonder just how much is being done to make sure it is safe and with the health and wellbeing of the community in mind first and foremost. We would definitely support more regulation and transparency in this industry that is literally in our backyard.