Glenwood Springs City Council wants a health impact statement from BLM
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Glenwood Springs joined a handful of regional governments in asking the Bureau of Land Management to carefully study the health impacts of oil and gas drilling.Pitkin and Eagle counties plus Rifle and Carbondale have made the same statement to the BLM. They’re asking for a health impact assessment to be included in the BLM’s Glenwood Springs and Kremmling Resource Management Plan revision. The plan is expected to affect oil and gas industry activity on hundreds of thousands of acres of West Slope land for 10 to 15 years.The health assessment would examine a wide range of possible impacts from things like air quality and contamination risks to sociological effects like increased substance abuse, crime and traffic accidents.”I would strongly support this motion in that the fact is the BLM is making decisions on use of public lands that potentially are having significant health impacts,” Mayor Bruce Christensen said at a City Council meeting Thursday night. “Right now people in the western United States are being asked to bear a large responsibility for assisting at least what are perceived to be solutions to international problems, and I think it’s only fair that as these processes move forward that there be some protection at least in assessment of the negative health impacts on those of us who live here.”Councilman Dave Merritt, who cast the only vote against asking for the assessment, said, “I’m concerned over how much additional work we want to put into each EIS (environmental impact statement). This essentially sets a precedent for us also.”He said asking for the assessment could require Glenwood Springs to have to go through the extra health assessment for any project the city would undertake in the future that’s subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”What they’re requesting here is pretty intensive,” he said. “We’re asking them to address alcoholism, traffic accidents, everything else. I think it is pretty extensive and goes beyond what we would want to see done if we have to do it and pay for it ourselves.”Councilman Russ Arensman disagreed with the statement that asking for the extra health assessment would set a precedent Glenwood would have to follow.”We’re making a very specific request,” he said. “That for this particular EIS process that the BLM is going through, that’s a 10-year process that they consider health and some of the associated environmental impacts. I don’t think we’re asking that every single BLM decision from here on out necessarily incorporate that.”Merritt said a memo distributed about the request says the request would create a new standard for NEPA. Christensen agreed with Arensman that the request being considered pertains only to this one BLM plan.The National Resources Defense Council, Colorado Mountain Club, The Wilderness Society, Wilderness Workshop, Western Colorado Congress and Grand Valley Citizens Alliance asked local governments to make the request to the BLM. A memo from the groups says a 2007 BLM draft environmental impact statement for oil and gas development in Alaska was the first time a comprehensive health impact assessment was included in a NEPA document.”We’re already seeing signs this boom is putting our health at risk. Across the Rockies, we’ve seen how less-than-responsible development threatens clean air, clean water and community health,” said Pitkin County Commissioner Jack Hatfield, in a news release earlier this month. “We need to know what to expect from oil and gas development so that we can make well-informed decisions.”
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