Drill Baby, Drill?? Do it right -- No Shortcuts With Our Wildlife, Land and Health.

November 19, 2008

 

Talking Points for Wildlife
 
Drill Baby, Drill?!?
Not Unless it is Colorado Clean!
 
I am Harvey Nyberg. I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. The Colorado Wildlife Federation is committed to developing collaborative solutions to difficult problems that have the potential to adversely affect fish and wildlife populations and habitats
 
I’m happy to be here today to help kick off this exciting effort to increase public awareness of appropriate energy development.
 
We’re here today to move beyond slogans to solutions that make energy production in Colorado cleaner.
 
As you can see from the billboard in my hands, we are concerned that the deer, antelope, and other species including the rare Greater Sage Grouse, will have too few places to run and play in Colorado. 
 
Some of the key facts are that:
 
·        Hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing are big sustainable business here, pumping more than billion into the economy each year and supporting over 33,000 jobs.
 
·        The greatest threat to the long-term health of fish and wildlife populations isthe loss of adequate quantity and quality of habitat.In Colorado, oil and gas development has been identified as one of the greatest threats to wildlife habitats and populations.
·        Colorado is home to world famous wildlife resources. We boast North America’s largest elk and migratory mule deer herds as well as outstanding populations of pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep and other big game species. Colorado also is renowned for its fisheries with 9000 miles of trout streams, including 168 miles of “gold medal” waters.
·        Colorado also is home to some fish and wildlife populations that have declined over time, including the Gunnison and Greater Sage Grouse. If populations of these species are allowed to decline further as a result of inadequately regulated development, they may qualify for protection under the endangered species act. That would have significant social, economic and political effects in Colorado.
·        If we are going to maintain fish and wildlife we have to maintain habitat. Experience has shown that the mitigation measures historically used to guide oil and gas development are not adequate to protect wildlife resources, especially antelope, mule deer and sage grouse.
·        It is critical that we protect our fish and wildliferesources by requiring that the timing and spacing of wells in critical habitat ranges be planned in advance to ensure that the requirements of both energy development and wildlife are met.
·        Examples of damage to wildlife habitat that must be avoided or minimized include:
Ø      Blockage or constriction of migration corridors (avoid excess roads, powerline and pipeline routes)
Ø      Disturbance of breeding, nesting and rearing habitats for sage grouse and other wildlife
Ø      Chemical leakage and sedimentation into native cutthroat trout and other streams 
Ø      Fragmentation of mule deer, bighorn sheep and elk critical winter ranges needed for survival.
Ø      Studies have documented a 46% decline in wintering mule deer population in a heavily drilled (Sublette) county in Wyoming. We know that there are serious impacts on fish and wildlife if we allow the oil and gas industry to take shortcuts when they drill. 
Too often these discussion have been couched in terms of either or. Either we have oil and gas development, or we have fish and wildlife habitat. We know that is not the true choice. We know there will be oil and gas drilling in Colorado. But, we need to make sure that oil and gas development is not done in such a manner that it unnecessarily damages wildlife and aquatic habitat. In the past we have used our knowledge and technology to correct mistakes. This time, we have the chance to use those to prevent problems. In the long run that is a more effective strategy.
 
This means that the Colorado legislature should ratify the soon-to-be completed work of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The state was long overdue to update oil and gas protections to make sure that drilling does not harm our wildlife habitat and public health. The Commission has done a commendable, and exhaustive, job. Their final vote will culminate the most extensive oil and gas rulemaking ever in Colorado including more than 6,000 hours of meetings, hearings, and testimony and over 2,000 written comments. The new protections are not perfect and we would have liked to see them stronger in some areas. However, they are an important step forward.
 
Enough with the Drill, Baby, Drill chants – let’s be sure the oil and gas industry doesn’t take shortcuts with our fish, wildlife, land, health and wallets.
 

Thank you and I’ll be happy to take your questions.

 

 

I am Dr. Ken Gerdes. I specialize in internal and environmental medicine, and am based in Denver. I have been a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) since 1982. Physicians for Social Responsibility believes the United States must rapidly begin a transition away from reliance on fossil fuels, which create numerous hazards for human health and the environment.   I am happy to be here today to help kick off this public awareness effort on energy.
 
Sportsmen, ranchers, doctors and taxpayer watchdog groups all agree – “Drill, Baby, Drill” may have sounded catchy on the campaign trail but we need to carefully balance our energy needs with protection of wildlife, land, health and taxpayers. These groups are moving toward solutions rather than slogans to make energy production Clean.
 
The billboard over my shoulders [Broadway and 22nd in Denver] dramatizes the public health risks associated with oil and gas drilling.
 
Some 215 products containing 278 chemicals, as well as arsenic and mercury have been used in natural gas production in Colorado. Ninety-three of those products have one or more severe health effects. And yet currently, the oil and gas industry is exempted from key environmental laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the responsibility to notify local communities of chemicals used in their areas.
 
As you may have read just yesterday morning in the lead article of the Denver Post [November 17] , recent tests in a heavily drilled county in Wyoming discovered dangerously high levels of benzene in water wells as a result of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Tests show that 88 of the 220 wells tested in Sublette County, Wyoming were contaminated. (That’s 40%.)
 
Despite the known risks of benzene to human health, fracking is not covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act. With this warning from Wyoming, knowing that fracking is used extensively in Colorado, we should all take heed.
 
Furthermore, based on data from the EPA, Western Regional Air Partnership and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action found that in the Denver metro area, oil and gas production is the largest growing source of ozone producing air pollution.
 
High ozone levels reduce lung function, cause throat irritation, among other harmful impacts. It is clear that high ozone levels cause premature deaths in vulnerable groups like children, seniors, and the sick. 
 
All of these known health impacts are all the more of a concern since oil and gas drilling is on a sharp increase here in Colorado. There has been a seven-fold increase in drilling permits in the last ten years. We know that there will be oil and gas drilling in Colorado but it is critical that the public understands that there are risks that come with ramped up drilling. We must ensure that the oil and gas industry does not take shortcuts that would harm public health. The new Congress in January should change the outgoing Administration’s “drill everywhere despite the costs” policies, which mandated that oil and gas extraction trump all other values on America’s public lands, including wildlife habitat, drinking water supplies and economically important recreation like hunting and fishing and viewing. Congress needs to ensure the oil and gas industry obeys our environmental laws like all other industries must do.
 
Likewise, the new administration should end the environmental rollbacks of the outgoing administration by restoring balance to the management of America’s public lands.   We need to protect the places that make Colorado and the West what it is, like proposed wilderness areas and key wildlife habitat that are too sensitive and too important to drill. 
 
 
 
 
 
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