Impacted Resident Testimony

The Real Cost of Extractive Economies on Communities

by

My name is Lowell Lewis, I’m going to be 70 this year. My wife, son and I moved here from Connecticut in 1985, and we’ve lived in Greeley in two different homes since that time. We built our first home and we moved to this home about 12 years ago. When we moved, what sold us on this place was its pasture out back. While we were both still working, we’d wake up on Saturday morning and the cows would be grazing right there, and they’d be mooing and it was just the coolest thing on four feet. It was really nice. And in the winter we have got a good view of the Rockies. All of this changed when oil and gas came knocking.

“When this drilling proposal first came up it was clear that it had to go through several layers of permitting before it could be a reality. The first organization that it went through was the Greeley Planning Commission so we presented to them and they voted unanimously to turn the project down and life was good. Despite the Planning Commission vote the City Council City Council voted to allow the drilling project.

The contrast in the vote of the Planning Commission vs. City Council was likely due to the fact that the Planning Commission is not an elected body, and the City Council is an elected body. Because the City Council is an elected body they rely on contributions from businesses including the oil and gas industry to help with their election campaigns. By contrast the Planning Commission does not get campaign contributions and as a result is more likely to base its decisions on the merits of a case. In our case it was clear that oil and gas industry campaign contributions heavily impacted the outcome of the City Council vote.

The company, [Extraction Oil and Gas], has consistently lied about the project.”

“During the hearing about the Triple Creek drilling proposal the Mayor turned it into a debate over whether or not the company had the right to extract the oil, rather than whether or not the drilling company met the “use by special review” standard. The “use by special review” standard requires a development meet five separate criteria. If one of the criteria is not met the project cannot move forward. In my opinion, the project failed to meet at least one of the criteria set forth.

But, here in the Denver-Julesberg Basin mineral rights are sacred. And that is why mineral rights are what ultimately guided the decision made by the City Council.

The Denver-Julesburg Basin is a huge oil basin insofar as Colorado is concerned. And most of the oil is right here in Greeley and Weld County. Greeley and Weld County are making big money from, I’m assuming, royalty payments. But also the boost in employment is amazing, and it has meant that many people are moving here and spending money in Greeley. It’s definitely financially an amazing deal for the city and the county, so their perspective is “how could we turn it down?”.

This mentality is probably why I am not aware of any time that either Greeley or the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission turned down a permit for an oil well.

The company, [Extraction Oil and Gas], has consistently lied about the project. In September 2014, they told us that there would be a pipeline to carry the minerals off the site, and take them to a processing facility elsewhere. Well, that story lasted for about a year, until the price of oil had dropped to under $40. That’s when they started to tell us that there was no way they were going to have a pipeline, and that instead they would have to truck the oil off site. Trucking the oil off the site meant a major disturbance to our neighborhood. It has been estimated that over the life of (25-30 years) the drilling project that more than 200,000 truck trips would be required to move the oil from this project to pipelines or processing facilities. And now that the price of oil is up, they are saying they will build a pipeline, which is wonderful when compared to 200,000 truck trips.

Lowell L., Greeley, CO