The Denver Post
Board hears from researchers on risks of oil, gas extraction
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.