The Denver Post

Board hears from researcher­s on risks of oil, gas extraction

- By Max Levy

Berthoud’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday heard from environmen­tal researcher­s about the health risks associated with oil and gas developmen­t.

Detlev Helmig of the University of Colorado, Stephanie Malin of Colorado State University and Nathalie Eddy of advocacy group Earthworks were invited to speak by Mayor William Karspeck, who pushed for a local ban on extraction.

While he acknowledg­ed that regulation could reduce the health risks posed by hydraulic fracturing, Karspeck said if the risks could not be eliminated, he would have misgivings about the oil and gas industry operating in Berthoud.

“In any other industry, if there were these types of impacts, we’d tell them we could no longer handle that and see how else they could produce their product,” he said. “I don’t believe this industry can.”

The town board voted unanimousl­y last March to place a moratorium on approving new oil and gas permits. At the time, the board indicated that it wanted to halt the flow of new applicatio­ns while it studied permitting and the regulatory powers granted to local government­s by Senate Bill 19-181.

Trustees Maureen Dower and Jeff Hindman also said they would support having the staff look into the costs associated with introducin­g regular air quality monitoring in Berthoud and investigat­ing how local abandoned well sites are managed.

Helmig presented the results of local air quality monitoring, in particular data collected at the Boulder Reservoir, which indicates that pollutants such as ethane are blowing in from Weld County and impacting the rest of the Front Range.

In response to questions by Hindman, Helmig estimated that ozone monitoring in Berthoud would likely cost about $20,000 per year, carbon dioxide and methane monitoring would cost $50,000 each and equipment would cost $55,000 up front, and monitoring of volatile organic compounds could cost more.

Malin presented evidence that oil and gas developmen­t has a detrimenta­l impact on the mental health of communitie­s that accommodat­e it, even when controllin­g for factors such as socioecono­mic status and involvemen­t with the industry.

“Living, and working, and having their kids go to school near those industrial activities is manifestin­g as very chronicall­y stressful,” she said.

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