ELife: Why I am an Activist


This article is reprinted from the Holiday 2017 issue of Elife.

ac·tiv·ist noun /ˈæk.tə.vɪst/a person who believes strongly in political or social change and takes part in activities such as public protests to try to make this happen 1)http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/activist

As I sit down in my family room to write this column, the sound wall from the Pratt site dominates my former mountain view, and the constant drone of the hydraulic pumps at the temporary completion site ring in my ears. My windows have been closed all summer; I haven’t spent a single evening on my deck. My neighbors are reporting respiratory issues, headaches, and nose bleeds. This is the story of how I became a self-professed anti-fracking activist.

When Crestone Peak Resources resumed drilling operations at the Waste Connections and Pratt sites earlier this year, they used an electric rig to reduce noise, but chose to use a petroleum-based drilling mud called Gibson D822. Noxious odors wafting through adjacent neighborhoods prompted residents to file over 1,000 complaints with the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). The COGCC dismissed every complaint, indicating that on at least 19 occasions, an inspector did not detect any odors or “abnormal drilling conditions.”

After the drilling phase completed, noise became the next onslaught faced by residents as millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals were pumped into the wells by noisy hydraulic pumps. Hundreds of residents have complained about the incessant noise, often reaching 70 dB(A). COGCC regulations, however, allow noise to reach 75 dB(A) at night with a 10 dB(A) increase allowed for 15 minutes in any one hour period2)https://cogcc.state.co.us/documents/reg/Rules/LATEST/800Series.pdf. Did I mention the COGCC has yet to deny a single drilling permit3)http://www.coloradoindependent.com/165739/colorado-cogcc-drilling-permits-martinez?

Given fracking operators are exempt from many federal laws4)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exemptions_for_hydraulic_fracturing_under_United_States_federal_law, we live in a state that sues localities for trying to ban fracking5)http://www.timescall.com/longmont-local-news/ci_29839751/colo-supreme-court-strikes-down-longmont-fracking-ban, the COGCC exists only to rubber-stamp O&G activities, and our town officials insist their “hands are tied,6)http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_197172077)http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_30985443/erie-officials-seek-probe-into-fracking-setbacks-after” what can we do?

We can acknowledge that the system isn’t broken. It’s working exactly as it was intended: for the benefit of corporations, at the expense of the people. We can acknowledge that our actions thus far have achieved little; it’s time to use other methods such as public protest to tell these corporations that they’re not welcome in our neighborhoods.

We are the Erie Protectors. By residents, for residents. To find out more, visit our web site at https://erieprotectors.com , or find us on Facebook at https://fb.com/erieprotectors and Twitter at @ErieProtectors. But odds are good that you’ll just see us around your neighborhood.


Christiaan van Woudenberg has lived in Erie for over 10 years. When he’s not working as a software architect, he enjoys time with his fiancée and two daughters, photography, and collecting pop surrealist art. Often, he’s skating in circles, yelling at girls as a roller derby referee.

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