I want to talk to you about Colorado’s air. In order to do that, first I have to talk to you about West Virginia’s water.
First thing I should tell you is, I’m a West Virginian, born and raised. If you don’t know much about West Virginia and West Virginians, let me give you a quick primer. We’re a proud, independent, close-knit lot. Life has never been easy for folks in West Virginia, so we’re never surprised when bad things happen.
This past week, bad things happened in West Virginia. If you haven’t heard yet, there was a nasty chemical spill–a really toxic chemical used to process coal leaked into the Elk River just upstream from where a major water supplier takes in the water they deliver to West Virginians. For an entire week, 300,000 folks haven’t been able to drink their water, take a bath, cook, or do laundry. And the smell…folks back home tell me the smell is something awful. Take a second are read this article about what’s happening in West Virginia, because it’s really important to something that’s happening right here in Colorado.
See, back home in West Virginia, coal is life. It means jobs and food on the table and clothes on your kids’ backs. When a state gives itself over to an industry the way West Virginia has to coal, things get a little out of whack. You don’t get elected to office in West Virginia unless you support the coal industry 100%. That means when it comes to things like regulations and protecting the environment, there’s really no one to stand up and speak out. That’s what we saw happen last week. A chemical holding plant hadn’t been inspected in over 20 years. So, when thousands of gallons of a toxic substance leaked into a major water source for the state, there’s really no one to blame. It just happened. Bad things happen to West Virginians. We shrug our shoulders, help out our neighbors and keep our distrust of the government firmly in place.
What’s all this have to do with Colorado? Colorado is more of an oil and gas state than a coal state. We’ve seen a pretty good boom these past few years in oil and gas drilling. It’s good for the economy. It brings in jobs and tax revenue. But oil and gas has its own types of pollution to worry about. Methane gas leaking from wells and storage tanks is one of the big ones. That pollution goes into our air and then into our lungs and causes people to get sick and to suffer.
We live in Colorado because it’s a beautiful, special place. We love our mountains. We love to be outdoors. None of that is worth much if you can’t breathe the air. Just like folks in West Virginia are struggling right now because they can’t drink their water.
But Colorado isn’t West Virginia. We haven’t completely given ourselves over to an industry and let them run roughshod over us. We believe out here that you can drill for oil and gas, give people good jobs, and still protect our land and our air. Coloradans tend to step up and fight for that.
And there’s a fight brewing right now. There’s a commission–called the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission–writing the rules to govern how the oil and gas industry regulate their emissions. Scientists, environmentalists and responsible leaders in the oil and gas industry all came together and wrote a first-of-its-kind draft rule that would set the standard for regulating the emissions that come from oil and gas production. Groups that don’t always agree with each other sat down and worked together to set rules to help Colorado have cleaner air, without hurting the economy. Gov. Hickenlooper supports this draft rule and is standing behind it. It’s something we should be proud of.
But there’s a problem. We have some responsible industry leaders who are working to do the right thing for Colorado–Noble, Encana, Anadarko. But there are others who want to keep these rules as lax as possible so they can be free to pollute as much as they want. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the Colorado Petroleum Association are working to gut these rules. They want a free pass to pollute our air, make our children sick, hurt our economy and the beauty that is Colorado.
All we need to do is take a look at West Virginia to see what happens when you let industry become irresponsible and pollute without consequence.
I love West Virginia. I love Colorado. I’m hoping my new home state can learn a lot from the lessons my childhood home state is learning the hard way.
The final rule will be decided in February. Sign our petition. Stand with Gov. Hickenlooper and support clean air in Colorado. We can’t afford not to.