Story by The Denver Post
The “Don’t Frack Denver” campaign by environmental and community activists on Wednesday delivered petitions to the Denver City Council and mayor’s offices to underline its push for city officials to take pre-emptive action on two fronts.
Two months ago, the groups called for the council and Mayor Michael Hancock to pass a ban on new fracking operations. It also wants them to voice opposition to potential fracking leases on federal land in South Park, near the headwaters of the South Platte River — a major source of metro area drinking water. Any lease decisions by the feds are on hold, for now.
So far, the effort hasn’t gained traction with city officials, but the activists hope the petitions help.
Greenpeace says in a news release that nearly 2,000 people have signed on, either on paper or by posing for photos holding signs, with the images collected in a photo book.
“We believe that the current Denver community and our future generations have the right to clean water, clean air, and to a protected quality of life,” Greenpeace campaign coordinator Michael Gately said in the news release. “We stand with Denver residents in asking local officials to represent those who put them in office by keeping fracking out of our community, and in doing so protecting our health and well-being.”
Interestingly, while the petition language (see image above) says the signers are Denver residents, not one of the nine listed on the page shown to me lists Denver as home. They live in St. Paul, Minn., Boulder, Santa Fe, Aurora, Glendale and Fort Collins.
But the groups, which also include the Colorado Progressive Coalition, Food & Water Watch, 350 Denver and Sierra Club-Denver Metro Network, have drawn support from several northeast Denver community groups, activists and businesses.
And some residents of Green Valley Ranch have told The Post that they hadn’t been aware of the fracking potential so close to home, which worried them.
The push prompted stark criticism from industry groups in February, with pro-business advocacy group Vital for Colorado equated the effort to scare-mongering that was akin to “declaring war on Denver’s economy.”
So far, Hancock and council members, including some sympathetic to environmental causes, have hesitated to introduce any proposals in line with what the activists want.
“Of course we’re in support of keeping our water safe, but there’s not actually anything on the table moving forward in any kind of urgent fashion that needs immediate attention,” Councilwoman Susan Shepherd said Wednesday, calling the request odd.
For now, the federal Bureau of Land Management has paused consideration of potential fracking leases near South Park while officials study environmental safety and other issues.
“But we’re certainly willing to always talk to people,” Shepherd said, “and I know that (my office) has a meeting coming up with the coalition soon.”
Councilman Charlie Brown, who’s less in tune with the activists’ objectives, said he’s had “zero phone calls and one e-mail from my district. Of all the challenges we face in this city, this is not one of them, in my judgment. … I think they’re trying to stir up their side and bring what they perceive as a very liberal city to their side.”
Mayoral spokeswoman Amber Miller wrote in an e-mail: “Thanks to some of the toughest regulations and protections in the country, Colorado has proven there is a way to responsibly balance production of our energy resources while also protecting our air, water and public health. Denver remains engaged in the discussion underway at the state level, and Mayor Hancock is committed to ensuring we protect our environment, natural resources and high quality of life.”
Hydraulic fracturing operations are common along the Front Range, but it’s rare within Denver’s city limits. Denver International Airport, which has 70 active wells leased out to oil and gas companies for fracking, is an exception.
The activists have focused on far northeast Denver because they say they worry that open land within Denver’s boundaries — as well as mineral rights below newer housing subdivisions there and in nearby suburbs — could be eyed for fracking. So far, oil and gas companies and Green Valley Ranch developer Oakwood Homes have said they have no plans for that in northeast Denver. However, oil companies have leased ground nearby in Aurora.
But the council could be in murky legal territory if it declares a fracking moratorium. Recent state court rulings that now are on appeal have overturned other cities’ fracking bans, and the industry likely would argue a moratorium is akin to a ban.