Fracking the North Fork: Paonia residents rally against drilling assault

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Thanks to the increasing push for more oil and gas drilling, communities once considered out of the fray are being drawn into the controversies over hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" -- even folks in the stunning North Fork Valley, an area better known for its organic farms, ranches operated by the same families for generations, and great hiking and fishing.

Here at the Culture Desk, we also know the area, which encompasses the towns of Paonia, Crawford and Hotchkiss, as an arts center and home to sci-fi writers Paolo Bacigalupi and Rob Ziegler. But to the Bureau of Land Management, it's just another prospect for drill pads. The BLM wants to offer up to 30,000 acres of federal land in the area for energy development at a lease auction next summer; see this CNN report and this follow on ColoradoPols.

But a community with a high quotient of ranchers and environmentalists (High Country News is based in Paonia) isn't one you want to frack with. Locals have already put up an informative Facebook page and are peppering BLM offices with inquiries, protests, and requests for more comprehensive review.

Last week Governor John Hickenlooper unveiled tough new state regulations for fracking and promised that Colorado would closely monitor the process, which involves injecting water and chemicals into tight formations to free oil and gas. But that's failed to allay concerns about possible contamination of groundwater and other threats from expanded drilling; even Commerce City officials are taking a second look at fracking in their backyard and weighing a moratorium on the activity.

Fracking fears, in other words, aren't just for the tree huggers. Don't expect the folks of the North Fork, where pristine water and untrammeled scenery are at the heart of a lot of livelihoods, to go quietly into the new era.


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8 comments
Dea Jacobson
Dea Jacobson

FYI, There is an interface between state regs and the BLM, John Q. Inform yourself before you call someone a fool, ok? Tone it down. This is the business of the people of the North Fork and they will demonstrate how a community comes together and works for its wellbeing.

Urbanhome
Urbanhome

Responsible energy development is critical to our future.  As a northfork resident, I'm not ready to get paranoid about this issue yet.

JQPublic
JQPublic

This is a biased piece not based on facts. About what one would expect from westword actually.  "Stunning" and "great" are subjective terms and is just used to reinforce an opinion.  Stick to the facts. Sci-fi writers are irrelevant. So what, who cares.  The BLM doesn't want to do anything, they are required by law to offer nominated parcels for lease.  Get educated. "Frack with" ? How juvenile.  Grow up if you want to write legitimate, respectable pieces. What are you, 12?  Redundant form responses absolutely do not constitute a 'peppering' you moron. BLM is not involved with state regs.  You mix levels of oversight like a FOOL. Before you write something that makes you look stupid, get educated about what you are writing about FIRST.  Then someone of average intelligence might take you serious!

Lotuswaterfall
Lotuswaterfall

You are absolutely right in most respects Dea, the only thing that I will disagree with is that its ONLY the business of the people of the North Fork. I do live in Paonia and I have done some extensive research on the subject of fracking and even have friends in other areas of the country where the fracking was allowed, and since the fracking their water is now unusable. There is a loophole in the 2005 Safe Drinking Water Act that allows the gas companies to not be liable for any damage they cause to wells and drinking water. EVERYONE in the country also has the right to say what goes on with BLM land because it is federal land; just like bills that go before our national government, we as citizens of the United States of America have the right to petition, write letters and express our beliefs that this land should or should not be sold whether we live in the area, whether we live there or not! I am not saying that the natural gas on this land should not being extracted at all, but this method of extraction is UNREGULATED and the chemicals that are put in the fracking are proven unsafe. The Facebook site linked in the article above will tell you, you can even write letters via email to the persons involved with the sale of this land. I encourage all citizens to at leat research. KNOW what is going on and hold our government representatives responsible. We are signing their paycheck after all.

Toddent
Toddent

You sir, do not in any way represent John Q public...obviously you don't live in this beautiful area and share our concerns. Frack off

moony
moony

Yes, it's very important to be taken serious. :) Very important indeed.

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