Retrofit the energy bill |

Retrofit the energy bill

Retrofit the energy bill

Dear Editor,

In February, a group of Western Organization of Resource Council (WORC) members from seven Western states descended on Washington, D.C., to educate and inform members of the Senate and federal organizations regarding our concerns with the inefficient Senate Energy Bill (S517). The House Energy Bill (HR4) that passed earlier subsidizes fossil fuel and nuclear production to the tune of $28 billion in new and expanded subsidies but lacks emphasis on renewable energy resources.

HR4 also includes alarming provisions that roll back existing environmental standards to safeguard public lands (e.g., the Roan Plateau which is ripe for drilling now) and instructs the Secretary of Interior to rethink decisions already in place to protect these lands from irresponsible oil and gas drilling as well as existing protections for water and wildlife.

That said, the Senate passed its version of the energy bill totally lacking in visionary leadership.

S517 suspends regulations for the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracing) under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Fracing is a method of forcing water, sand and toxic fluids into underground formations to fracture and force the gas to the surface. What does this do to the underground water table, a source of our drinking water? In our area, we have already seen wells gone dry and blown out by gas drilling one-half mile from the owner’s water wells.

The Senate bill does include a federal renewables standard (solar, wind, biomass energy development) but nowhere near the amount of subsidies for the tax credits in “Section 29” for coal bed methane development and “clean coal” technology which will cost taxpayers over $1 billion per year.

We already have experience with the dangers of coal bed method (highly flammable) which produces caustic water killing plants and soil as it flows up and out of the coal bed methane (gas) well.

But the highlight and main focus for Westerners and WORC concerning the Senate bill is the total lack of surface protection for owners who do not own their mineral rights.

We are completely powerless to stop the irresponsible oil and gas drilling on our own land without mineral rights ownership.

I have contacted over 200 owners, both mineral rights owners and non, and the identical story is repeated, of damages caused by irresponsible drillers.

The drillers are supposed to notify owners when they intend to come on their property, yet often they do not.

The complaints are consistent: the noise of the huge trucks needed for drilling which tear up the roads and property; trees and bushes damaged; the five-acres totally barren around each drill site, often not reclaimed after drilling; the erosion on cliff-sides; the danger of water runoff flowing onto homes below; the horror of fracing noise; dust from endless truck traffic; pollution from the pits (unfenced) where the gas is flared for days – sometimes two weeks or more – releasing toxic chemicals such as benzene, a known carcinogen, into the air as well as black smoke which billows skyward; and the smell and the jet roar of the giant compressors.

Owners complain of many things, but simple courtesy would help.

If all of this is necessary to drill for gas, then sensible bonding should be upped for some redemption to the surface owners. That is not in the Senate bill.

For years, we in Colorado have fought in and out of court to stop well pads from being down-sized. We are now at 20 acres and some are at 10-acre well-pad spacing. With five acres necessary to drill a well, that leaves drills dangerously close to residences.

We are beginning to look like Dantes Inferno and smell the flames of hell in this once beautiful land.

Congress needs to retrofit the Energy Bill now!

Peggy Rawlins


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