A panel of three experts spoke to a full house during a public forum at the Senior Center on Monday, October 14, to address the negative effects of oil and gas extraction on air quality in Larimer County. After three 30-minute presentations, the panel was available to answer questions.
The Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety, and the Environment, a coalition of concerned Northern Colorado citizens, sponsored the event. They organized to ensure that Larimer County develops rules for oil and gas extraction in accordance with Colorado Senate Bill 19-181. The bill prioritizes public health and safety and the integrity of public lands. The coalition advocates for suspension of all pending applications for extraction in Larimer County until the county agrees to enforce the rules set out in the Senate bill.
University of Colorado atmospheric scientist, Dr. Detlev Helmig, discussed his findings from a continuous air quality monitoring study he conducts at Boulder Reservoir. He identified the culprits as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and other pollutants such as methane and ozone, emitted by oil and gas extraction processes. Helmig explained that VOCs combine and are dispersed by wind. He explains that the pollutants spike at certain times because of weather conditions and can be traced back to nearby oil and gas wells.
Family practice doctor Cory Carroll, MD, a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Colorado, described the health impacts he has observed in his patients. Problems range from skin and respiratory issues to heart problems. He made a powerful comparison with a time when the health effects of cigarette smoking were ignored and often covered up by tobacco companies. He suggested that we could well be in a similar situation now as the impact of poor air quality caused by oil and gas extraction tends to be downplayed by certain interested parties.
Longmont City Council member Marcia Martin spoke about citizen activism and the long road to convincing the Longmont City Council to invest in a continuous air monitoring system for Longmont.
Berthoud Mayor, the Honorable William Karspeck moderated the panel and conducted a lively question and answer period following the presentations. Audience members were curious as to how and where Fort Collins might be able to install an air monitoring system.
L to R, Dr. Detlev Helmig, Dr. Cory Carroll, Marcia Martin, and moderator William Karspeck address air quality issues in Larimer County