While the immense amount of rain and devastating floods that hit Colorado nearly two weeks ago were already tragic, they have also exposed a larger issue of concern regarding the lax environmental regulations that allow the oil and gas industry to drill in flood zones.
According to The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Weld County, which saw severe flooding happens to be one of the most drilled counties in the nation.
Hard-hit Weld County has the highest number of active oil and gas wells in the state at 20,554 - more than a third of the statewide total of 51,228. Yuma County to the east has the third highest number of active wells at 3,343.
Last week, Lawrence O’Donnell interviewed David Sirota, a Colorado resident and columnist at Salon, about how the oil and gas industry has been allowed to transform the landscape in the Western United States in such a drastic way. Here's what Sirota has to say in the video above.
“I think when you look at a lot of the west, the west has become essentially an energy colony. The energy industry dictates its orders to the governments in the west and people forget that Colorado is one of the biggest natural gas reserves in the entire world not just the United States.
And so here you have a situation where you've got $4 billion of energy and fossil fuel investment on a floodplain in the era of climate change. And now, only months after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that individuals in the government need to be looking at climate change and are not looking at climate change when making permit decisions. Only months after that happened, guess what? We have a climate-enhanced, climate change-intensified flood hitting in the middle of energy country now.
And now you have got, as you showed, the breaking news of oil spills and major river ways. And, here’s the thing. This shows that what we are talking about here is not just a situation that affects one city or a couple of counties. The South Platte River, which you just mentioned, that goes all the way out to Nebraska. That goes all the way out and filters into the Ogallala Aquifer which serves much of the middle of the country.
Sirota goes on to make an important point that while a spill of 5,000 gallons of oil is very small compared to the volume of oil that spilled during the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the problem is that the oil and gas spilled in Colorado is contaminating fresh water, which is already depleted due to drought.
Will this disaster spark a moment of industry introspection or citizen outcry to improve these safety regulations? We'll have to wait and see.
via Diane Sweet