Full Report: Permian fracking boom will bust the climate and intensify environmental injustice

December 15, 2021
Latest News

In response to deadly explosions, fracking health threats, and companies running roughshod over community concerns, Coloradans have demanded for years that the state strengthen oversight and accountability for the oil and gas industry. 

In 2019, the Colorado legislature and Governor Jared Polis took an important step in meeting those demands with the passage of Senate Bill-181, a law that prioritizes the protection of public safety, health, welfare, and the environment over oil and gas industry interests. 

This is a critical first step to protection of communities, air and water, and the climate.

Earthworks is dedicated to ensuring state government makes good on its promises for the benefit of all Coloradans.

Colorado’s oil and gas pollution problem

Oil and gas operations in Colorado via the Oil & Gas Threat Map.

Nearly 250,000 Coloradans live within a one-half mile health threat radius of more than 50,000 active oil and gas operations.  

These operations too often pollute the places where people live, work, learn, and play with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other toxic substances that can cause respiratory illness, headaches, increased risk of cancer, and a range of other health problems. Noise, light, and odors from oil and gas sites also decrease quality of life and the value and enjoyment of one’s community. 

Oil and gas operations also harm the climate. They emit large quantities of methane—which is 86 times worse for climate than carbon dioxide—making the oil and gas industry as bad for the climate as coal and oil, and perhaps worse. This is important because climate science tells us we need to drastically reduce all climate pollution in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C and avoid climate catastrophe by 2030.

Colorado’s policies must change to put the public first

Because we only have 10 years to cut climate pollution in half to avoid climate catastrophe, Earthworks opposes new oil and gas production and infrastructure permits. 

Existing oil and gas operations threaten nearby communities’ health, now. That’s why Earthworks also supports strong safeguards to better protect air, water, health and climate.

Putting the Public First

Our recent report on how Colorado upholds rules that protect health and the environment shows a lack of accountability, transparency, and capacity to safeguard residents.

Currently, Colorado doesn’t take important measures to reduce pollution from existing oil and gas operations, and continues permitting new ones.  So, in order to protect health and climate, Colorado must enact rules and policies that result in the strongest possible protections.

Specifically, that means:

  • Rules flowing from SB181 must provide the strongest possible protection of public health and environmental conservation, including:
    • CO Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) sets a 2000ft minimum setbacks from schools, residents, and public gathering places for new oil and gas operations;
    • COGCC prohibits routine pollution through venting and flaring and requires operators to demonstrate an ability to capture 100% of the gas they produce; and 
    • CO Department of Public Health and Environment improves an inadequate oil and gas citizen complaints system with a user-friendly, publicly accessible complaint tool and map.
  • Governor Polis must close the gap between his ambitious climate goals as part of his greenhouse gas roadmap and his administration’s continued support for oil and gas expansion–in part by significantly limiting future operations.

Earthworks’ Role

Since 2014, Earthworks has been using optical gas imaging (OGI) to document and expose oil and gas pollution. We use this video evidence to make oil and gas pollution visible.

We are engaging communities living with the impacts of pollution, and compelling state public officials to protect health and the climate. We further work with local communities and local public officials to educate and support efforts to increase local oversight and protections.

Take Action!

Governor Polis has made promises to put public health and climate before polluters in our state. While we’ve made a lot of progress in the past two years, there’s still a lot of work to do, and the need for climate action grows more urgent each day.

For the sake of our communities’ health and the climate, we’re calling on Governor Polis to demand more of oil and gas polluters and the state agencies whose mission is to protect Coloradans from polluters’ harms. Join us by taking action now!


Nathalie Eddy, Interim Field Team Manager and Colorado & New Mexico Field Advocate Andrew Klooster, Colorado Field Advocate
neddy@earthworks.org aklooster@earthworks.org

For More Information:

Full Report: Permian fracking boom will bust the climate and intensify environmental injustice

December 15, 2021
Latest News