Broomfield’s oil & gas COVID order tests SB181’s prioritization of public health

Statement of Earthworks CO/NM Field Advocate Nathalie Eddy

Background:


Last week the Broomfield city government announced it was going to issue an emergency order banning flowback operations while Governor Polis’ stay-at-home order is in place to combat the COVID crisis.

After an oil or gas well is fracked, flowback is when frack fluids flow back up the well bore. During flowback, air pollution — including toxics like benzene, a carcinogen — is particularly likely. Residents living in close proximity to oil and gas operations, as many in Broomfield are, would be at particular risk. In Broomfield, increased community complaints regarding health impacts are associated with flowback operations.

Last week Extraction Oil & Gas secured a Temporary Restraining Order blocking Broomfield from issuing the emergency order. On Monday the city filed its response. During this back and forth, COGCC head Jeff Robbins made a public statement apparently opposing Broomfield’s emergency order.

Why this is important:


After his election, Governor Polis led the effort to pass SB181 that fundamentally reordered the state’s oil and gas regulatory priorities: state regulators are now statutorily required to prioritize public health and safety before oil and gas production, and to allow local governments to enact more stringent safeguards than the state’s. Furthermore, CDPHE’s oil and gas health impact study released in October found negative health impacts from 300 to 2000 feet from pre-production activities — including flowback.

Statement by Nathalie Eddy, Earthworks’ Colorado/New Mexico Field Advocate:

“Coloradans required to stay-at-home to protect against the COVID crisis shouldn’t be forced to breathe fracking toxics as a result. Broomfield’s intended emergency flowback ban is a crystal clear example of SB181’s intent: allow state and local government to prioritize public health before oil and gas industry interests. Extraction’s insistence on continuing with flowback at a site next to a retirement community, with the COGCC’s approval, flies in the face of everything SB181 was intended to achieve.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION
• Earthworks press release regarding the main Extraction Oil & Gas site in Broomfield: Oil & gas co. claims Rep Ocasio-Cortez video shows no pollution as facility was 1st ever ordered by regulator to change operations in response to health & safety concerns
• Earthworks report: Putting the Public First – How CDPHE can overcome its legacy of prioritizing oil and gas industry interests ahead of public health, safety, welfare and the environment