What the Frack?!: Grassroots group pushes for fracking moratorium in Arapahoe County

Categories: Politics

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The first time Sonia Skakich-Scrima learned about fracking, she was reading the Denver Business Journal almost a year ago to date. What she read alarmed her, but what she Googled afterward tripled that.

"I tried to understand why we didn't care about the environment or the aftermath," she says. "I still don't know the answer."

One year later, she believes little has changed inside the oil and gas industry -- which is why she founded a grassroots movement to target the issue in Colorado. What the Frack?! Arapahoe County shares the first half of its name with a handful of other Internet chapters, but its message is definitively local: The still-small group is aiming to at the very least bring awareness to the hydraulic fracturing industry in Aurora, Arapahoe County and Colorado.

As a native of Arapahoe County, home to a handful of potential residential fracking sites near communities such as Murphy Creek and Cross Creek, Skakich-Scrima has been investigating the possible repercussions from fracking for her hometown. Lowry Range, for instance, is home to four area aquifers.

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Michele Swenson
What the Frack?! protesters take to a Colorado State Land Board review in June.
"I started looking deeper into our Colorado regulations, and I was really alarmed to discover that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the regulatory committee, appears to be primarily promotional and is willing to overlook all these significant questions," she says. "The reason the industry and the regulatory industry has been so successful about keeping the cost of all this away from the public is that they are exempt from most of the acts that would prohibit this action. And I know Arapahoe County is small, and I know this sounds cheesy, but you have to start somewhere."

When she calls What the Frack?! a grassroots organization, she isn't kidding: In its first few weeks, the group consisted solely of Skakich-Scrima speaking to small groups at libraries and to the homeowners' associations of neighborhoods that could be affected by fracking. She lectured on water security, public health and property values, and while some residents were put off, others paid attention.

The group has since guaranteed the consistent involvement of ten regular volunteers, though its size swells at protests such as one What the Frack?! staged during Colorado State Land Board reviews. What the Frack?! has circulated three petitions against fracking in Arapahoe County, with the most popular earning about 900 signatures. It's a step, she says.

A December town hall meeting in Aurora about fracking was attended by approximately 150 people, with the event showcasing input from both industry people and What the Frack?! supporters. And while Skakick-Scrima hopes to increase the second category, the group's greatest focus in coming months will be on efforts to prohibit fracking in Aurora altogether by finalizing the moratorium a handful of other cities have already accepted.

In neighboring cities such as Colorado Springs, moratoriums have been a success, and similar considerations are on the table in Longmont and Commerce City.

"It seems like everyone, the governor and the attorney general and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, is telling everyone that there is nothing a small city or town can do about fracking, and that's not true," volunteer Pat Dunn says. "We got a call recently from a woman in Brighton who said she just bought her dream home and tomorrow they'll be fracking in her backyard. She asked what could she do. What do you say to that?"

In the coming months, the issue will come to public debate before it reaches Aurora City Council in an official capacity, and What the Frack?! volunteers plan to be there to promote it.

"We're calling for another study session on fracking," Dunn says. "It is our intention to make sure it's a public meeting, and we've asked for the oil and gas industry to be there and for there to be speakers for What the Frack?! to be included. We want both sides to speak, but we want that moratorium."

More from our Politics archive: "Fracking: Gas industry pours $747 million into lobbying and Congress."

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While I very much appreciated the opportunity to interview on the topic of our concerned citizens group, What the Frack?!  Arapahoe, there are some misrepresentations that may be due to the fact that the interview was cut short when my phone battery died. 

My research has not been limited to Google and I don't recall mentioning Google in the interview.  I have studied lectures and scientific reports of geologists,  public health physicans, and toxicologists, listened to industry and regulatory  presentations, did an extensive interview with the former EPA engineer whose job involved environmental assessments of oil and gas operations and who blew the whistle on horizontal hydraulic slickwater fracturing's ("fracking")  potential impacts to drinking water to Congress, studied state regulations and legal rulings on oil and gas extraction in Colorado, and have spoken with citizen groups from all over Colorado, many in areas that have faced these issues for several years.

A moratorium would not ban the  practice, but would allow local governments the opportunity to engage in additional factfinding regarding the many significant longterm impacts that the oil and gas industry and our state regulatory agency, the COGCC is overlooking in their agressive promotion.  These significant potential harms include threats to Colorado water security, the industrialization of rural and suburban areas, serious health and safety issues pertaining to highly toxic emissions and the unearthing of radioactive nucleotides and the failure to monitor and dispose of these per hazardous protocols, extraordinary impacts to quality of life and to  the Colorado "brand" of healthy lifestyle that brings people here to visit and to live, decline in  property values and in the  full guarantees of mortgage and insurance.   It would allow them the time to tally up the costs of all of these negative longterm impacts and uncompensated losses to their residents and their area, to make a more realistic assessment of the pros and cons.   It would also allow our local governments the opportunity to then fight to exercise their full legal rights to preserve the clean water, health, and quality of life  that their residents have every right to insist upon defending.


If the President of the U.S. thinks that fracking is safe, most of this hype is just voodoo, and Republican skeptisicm.  There are good companies out there and bad ones.  You don't hear too much about BP's oil spill lately, and that ordeal is seen as safe, and ready for more drilling now.  If you are Republican, you should make more than $250,000/ year, otherwise your are just voting on rifles or religion.  The Republicans and others bought off like Reagan, are playing on all of your emotions and fears, to make oil barrel, and gasoline more and more expensive.  Take for example the chevy volt.  It is expensive, and now has issues with some fire in the past.  Bottum line, they don't want electric, they don't want wind, and they don't want any form of gas to get to market any cheaper than oil and gasoline.  With that in mind, you are not a true American if you do not want to get rid of high oil prices and the imports thereof.   


"What she read alarmed her, but what she Googled afterward tripled that."

Google searches, the gold standard for credible, reliable information.  Clearly this woman knows that fracking is killing babies, raping mothers, as well as destroying the earth...Google told her! 

Delve a bit deeper before you waste all our times why don't you?


Sources, please...  Which geologists, public health physicians, toxicologists, EPA engineers, studied regulations, rulings?


Well, it makes sense, in a way.  We have to fear SOMETHING.  Many don't fear God anymore.  The Cold War is over.  AIDS no longer means dying in 5 years.  There were no WMD's in Iraq.  Eggs are actually good for us.  The Swine Flu didn't devastate the nation (though it did keep me on the couch for 4 days)...  Aside from identity theft and high cholesterol, environmental fear mongering is the only way to get people to pay attention anymore.  Besides, fracking is only bad when the oil companies fuck up and cause pollution by cutting corners, spilling stuff, drilling poorly and through irresponsible/sub-par reclamation methods. Other than those all-too-common factors, it's not a bad way to produce energy.

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