Colorado Proposition 112 Would Require 2500 ft. Setbacks for Human Safety.

by Duane Nichols on October 28, 2018

Public health versus corporate profits in Colorado

Colorado Proposition 112: Dissecting the science behind the oil and gas setbacks initiative

From an Article by John Aguilar, Denver Post Newspaper, October 16, 2018

The fight over Prop. 112 has lured big money and clashes over interpretation of health studies.

“The OEHHA chronic benzene REL considers several studies published after USEPA’s 2002 benzene assessment, which found increased efficiency of benzene metabolism at low doses, decreased peripheral blood cell counts at low doses (800−1860 μg/m3)…”

It takes another 20 words — with terms like “metabolic enzymes” and “benzene detoxification” — to close out this sentence from a recent University of Colorado study that looked at the potential health impacts of Front Range oil and gas operations. Thousands of equally abstruse passages fill hundreds of other studies from around the world examining the effects of drilling and hydraulic fracturing on human health.

Welcome to the science behind Proposition 112, the oil and gas setbacks measure that will likely be among the most complex ballot issues to ever go before Colorado voters.

The initiative aims to increase the required distance of any newly drilled wells from homes, schools and water sources to 2,500 feet. The current setback is 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from densely occupied buildings, like hospitals and schools.

Opponents say the measure will block off so much acreage to drill rigs — it’s estimated that 85 percent of non-federal land in Colorado would be off-limits — that the $31 billion industry in Colorado would virtually collapse.

Backers of 112 say without bigger buffers, Coloradans will continue to be exposed to noxious emissions from well sites, like toluene, formaldehyde, xylene, and cancer-causing benzene, to say nothing of the environmental harm from potent greenhouse gases, like methane.

What is the average voter supposed to do with the reams of data, some in conflict with one another, in deciding whether Proposition 112 is critical to public health or ruinous to Colorado’s economy?

“It’s hard when we ask voters to vote on technical issues like this,” said Tanya Heikkila, a professor at CU Denver’s School of Public Affairs who focuses on environmental policy, management and law.

She said few voters have the time, patience or expertise to navigate through the copious scientific research that has been done on energy extraction. As such, she said, they’ll likely turn to the people they know for advice on which box to check on the ballot — their friends, their neighbors, their doctor.

“I don’t think people’s decision on this will come down to what the science says — it will come down to who they trust,” Heikkila said.

It’s also likely, she said, that voters will employ “motivated reasoning” or be swayed by “confirmation bias” to make their choice on Proposition 112.

“Cognitive research has shown that when people are emotionally attached to an issue, it’s easier to reason away or dismiss the information that contradicts those beliefs — or conversely use information that supports their beliefs to confirm those beliefs,” Heikkila said.

Arguments from each camp are compelling, she said, and voters may find virtue on both sides of the issue.

“No one wants to be exposed to carcinogens, to noise, to (truck) traffic,” she said. “At the same time, when people say 112 is going to cost them their jobs and ruin the tax base, that resonates too.”

Something is happening here

Anne Lee Foster, who is with the pro-112 group Colorado Rising, knows she can’t fight the oil and gas industry on the financial front. As of the most recent reporting period from late September, the anti-112 group Protect Colorado had dropped just over $20 million on its battle against the measure, while Colorado Rising had spent less than $650,000.

Foster hopes science speaks louder than cash. She and her allies point to a compendium of studies — now numbering more than 1,300 — that are assembled and updated on the Physicians for Social Responsibility website. The studies have examined one aspect or another of fracking’s harms and risks, pointing out connections to cancer, low birth-weight babies, asthma, headaches and bloody noses for families living near oil and gas wells.

Industry lobby outspending concerned citizens

This article continues ………. see here.


Driven by Trump Policy Changes, Fracking Booms on Public Lands – The New York Times

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