Impacted Resident Testimony

David wins over Goliath only in the movies

Our loss was predictable: David wins over Goliath only in the movies. But two years and 1000 volunteer hours ago, the choice to enter into a lawsuit to protect our health didn’t seem like a choice as much as a moral imperative. 500 feet from my neighbors’ houses was too close. That the scientific studies hadn’t proved causality over correlation to the satisfaction of the oil and gas industry didn’t matter. The logic to us was clear—if fracking causes heightened emissions of VOCs, and those same VOCs cause cancer, premature births, and a host of other ills, then 500 feet was too close. It was two years before we were (mostly) done: 64 hours I had to take off work without pay, over $20,000 raised, and over $3,000 donated personally (not counting labor) on a teacher’s salary.

In early spring, 2017 Crestone submitted an application to drill 15 wells at the border between Broomfield and Erie, 500 feet from residents’ homes, 500 feet from a small airport runway, 500 feet from a gas station, and 1000 feet from a retirement community. Residents didn’t find out about the application until June, when a local magazine published a map of proposed oil and gas locations—we never heard about it from the town or the company until the operator agreement–that included approval of the megapad—was all but a done deal. By then, the number of wells had risen to 30, an exchange in order to remove another project that the Board felt would preclude economic development in the center of Erie. Ironically, they realized that people wouldn’t want to work near a large fracking pad—but they were willing to force us to live near one. Throwing us under the bus had been the idea, as I understand it, of our own mayor.

Residents didn’t find out about the [proposed wells] until June, when a local magazine published a map of proposed oil and gas locations—we never heard about it from the town or the company until the operator agreement–that included approval of the megapad—was all but a done deal. ”

I am a public high school teacher, a justice worker, a person who aspires to address root causes in order to create systemic change for people and planet—I am not an environmental activist. But months after we found out about Crestone’s initial application—during which we were ignorant to the secret negotiations with Crestone and were naively engaging in conversations with board members about maximizing the distance between fracking projects and homes–the town of Erie passed the Crestone Operator Agreement (OA) that included the project. The OA and rushed meetings were a surprise to all but members of the BoT. All roads pointed to me as the person who would step up and put her name on a lawsuit combatting closed door negotiations and protecting our health. It was my ignorance to the personal and financial weight of legal processes that allowed [word] me to do so.
Transition about Dan and Residents Rights.

The first time I read our lawyer Dan’s website, I got tears in my eyes. He had a whole page on the rights of nature–the global imperative many have begun to see, including the state of [what?] that granted rights to its river, the country of Ecuador that granted rights to all of nature in its constitution, and less surprisingly the Anishnabe, who granted rights to their sacred rice (after tex… had already patented it, stealing it away from the people who had developed relationship with the plant for millenia). This short, white, verbally dominating, former [corporate?] lawyer from [state] espoused the values we dream of our lawyers having but that so few do (although that will surely change by the century’s end).

Once I got him in the central room of my house, 40 strangers I had gathered from a facebook invitation and word of mouth surrounding him, his expertise and passion were infectious. Oil and gas is a ponzi scheme. Towns have police power to protect their residents regardless of state law. The constitution is king, and residents are the real enforcers.

There is a reason the movies highlight large corporations and their injustices. There is a reason big tobacco, [oxycontin], and even Johnson and Johnson were allowed to harm people for so long. There is a reason [name] is under house arrest after the most significant Indigenous win against a multinational corporation in history, and there is a reason you don’t know who I’m talking about.

In a system that values profit over life, life is consistently harmed. Even now, after the CDPHE released a study verifying the harm fracking does to neighborhoods, projects are approved every month.

I already have my life’s work, and it’s ensuring that the glorious diversity of our students in public schools have equitable access—the question is, access to what? I don’t want them to be successful in a system that values profit over life—in that system, I want them to be unsuccessful, to fail and falter and wake up and redesign, recreate. I have spent 20 years working to help students succeed in our systems in order to change them from the inside. What I observe, though, is that the systems are the same as always, 20 years making no difference—indeed, perhaps they are even more focused on winning, on profit, on squeezing out the last drop before it’s all gone. My students are doing ordinary and remarkable things in the world, communicating well and loving each other. One has done microlending to women in Africa, one is in a local program to run for office and will be amazing at it, and one is a published author, convincing others of righteous causes. A couple are teachers, relying on their students to do what they couldn’t do, just like me. But none has provided the chisel that severs the rock of our economic system.

I have not personally suffered from the negative health effects of fracking projects in close proximity, as my neighbors and friends have. I have not been awoken at night by sound and vibration, had to keep all the windows of my house closed for months and months because of the fumes, had my children suffer nose bleeds or mysterious sickness that doctors tell me is likely due to fracking, and I haven’t had to suffer the infuriating sense of betrayal when my innumerable logged complaints to authorities, to the people hired to protect me, yield no result. But I do know what it is to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars, on top of a 60-70 hour work week, to defend myself and my neighbors. I do know the betrayal. Today, the government of my own town–the one that failed to protect us—claims that we owe them $6,000 in court costs after we lost the case. We had to engage in this time consuming, costly, grief-producing work in order to defend ourselves from those who should protect us, and they demand more money from us. It’s an overused phrase on social media, but it seems appropriate here: I do think they should feel shame.

Rachel B., Erie