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Colorado lawmakers aim to tighten oil and gas regs

A spreading network of oil and gas drilling rigs has heightened public concern over potential impacts to public health and the environment.

A spreading network of oil and gas drilling rigs has heightened public concern over potential impacts to public health and the environment.

Proposed bills would up fines, reduce perceived conflicts of interest

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With many Colorado residents feeling that Gov. Hickenlooper has tilted the playing field in favor of fossil fuel development, the Colorado General Assembly will begin to explore new laws that could help balance fossil fuel extraction with public health and safety and concerns about impacts to the environment.

House Bill 13-1267 would increase the maximum daily fine for serious accidents from $1,000 to $15,000 per day and set a minimum fine of $5,000 per violation per day for violations that have a significant adverse impact on public health, safety, or welfare, including the environment. It would also repeal the cap on the maximum total fine.

House Bill 12-1269 would make it clear that the primary mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is to make sure that public health and safety and natural resources are adequately protected during the course of fossil fuel development. It also addresses the inherent conflict of interest that currently exists on the commission by prohibiting future commissioners from being employees, officers, or directors of oil and gas companies. Continue reading

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Will global warming intensify flu outbreaks?

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Warmer winters have been linked with more severe flu outbreaks. Graphic courtesy NASA.

Infection patterns suggest a link between warm winters followed by more severe outbreaks

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After study waves of flu sickness going back to about 1997 and matching them against climate records, researchers say that the warmer winters expected with global warming could lead to earlier and more severe flu seasons.

The researchers said data from the Centers for Disease Control, indicates a pattern for both A and B strains: Warm winters are usually followed by heavy flu seasons.

“It appears that fewer people contract influenza during warm winters, and this causes a major portion of the population to remain vulnerable into the next season, causing an early and strong emergence,” said Sherry Towers, research professor in the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center at Arizona State University. “And when a flu season begins exceptionally early, much of the population has not had a chance to get vaccinated, potentially making that flu season even worse.” Continue reading

Colorado: State to study drilling emissions

Methane leakage from the gas production fields of northeastern Colorado may be twice as high as previously estimated, according to new research from NOAA.

Methane leakage from the gas production fields of northeastern Colorado may be twice as high as previously estimated, according to new research from NOAA.

Energy boom contributes to regional haze problems and potential health impacts

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado officials took another small step to address growing public concerns about the impacts of the state’s energy boom by announcing a $1.3 million study of emissions from oil and gas drilling operations.

According to a press release from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, the study will help provide information about how oil and gas emissions behave, how they travel and their characteristics in areas along the northern Front Range.

A second phase would assess possible health effects using data collected in the first phase. Testimony at this week’s Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rulemaking hearing reinforced the views of experts for both industry and the conservation community that more and better science is needed related to oil and gas emissions. Continue reading

Colorado: Battle lines drawn over fracking setbacks

Oil and gas drilling near schools and homes in Firestone, Colorado. Photo courtesy Shane Davis, Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Chapter. Please click on the image to learn more.

Conservation advocates want 1,000-foot buffer that offers ‘presumptive protection’

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With no end in sight to Colorado’s fracking boom, state officials are preparing to publish new rules on setbacks and groundwater monitoring — but those rules don’t do enough to protect the health and welfare of residents near gas drilling sites, according to a coalition of conservation groups.

“The state’s proposed change to minimum distances between fracking and homes is to keep current policy virtually unchanged,” said Charlie Montgomery, energy organizer of Conservation Colorado. “The current separation in urban and suburban areas is 350 feet.  The state’s proposed separation is 350 feet.”

State officials say they’ve been meeting with stakeholders for several months to develop the proposed new rules. Documents from the stakeholder process are online here. Continue reading

Environment: Formal hearing set for proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill in southwestern Colorado

New hearing to meet legal requirements for noticing and public comments.

State’s previous approval voided as unlawful

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Residents of southwest Colorado will have their chance to scrutinize plans for the proposed Piñon Ridge uranium mill in the Paradox Valley later this year at a court-ordered hearing in Montrose County.

The new hearing was scheduled after Denver District Court Judge John McMullen ruled in June that the state’s previous review process was unlawful. Conservation groups and community activists and towns in the area have repeatedly expressed concerns about potential impacts to air and water quality from the proposed mill.

McMullen found that the state had denied the public its right to a formal, adjudicatory hearing and ordered the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to start a new public review process.

“We are pleased that the public will finally get a formal chance to scrutinize this proposal,” said Hilary White, executive director of Sheep Mountain Alliance. “As a party in this hearing process, we will continue to ensure that the clean air and clean water of this region are protected.” Continue reading

Global warming poses huge public health risks

Report calls for grassroots advocacy to raise awareness of the connection between climate and health

April 2012 global temperature anomalies.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Health experts say more botton-up grassroots activism is needed to make it clear that global warming poses a public health risk that’s at least equal to the impact of tobacco.

The international group of researchers published their report last week in the journal PLoS Medicine. The authors included public health experts from institutions in Sweden, Germany and South Africa.

From their report:

“It is becoming increasingly clear that maintaining a sustainable and healthy climate is something that can only be achieved by means of a concerted global effort, including large-scale and small-scale actions, in which the public health community must play an active part … As yet there seems to be a lack of coherence in terms of clear public health messages about climate aimed at populations in general.” Continue reading

Global warming: Doctors foresee major health impacts

Asthma, allergies and infectious disease could surge in warming world

A NASA graphic showing February 2012 temperature anomalies.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Infants, children and the elderly will be the first to experience serious climate change-related health problems, a panel of lung and respiratory specialists said in a recent position paper aimed at helping members respond to an expected surge in asthma, allergies, infectious and cardiovascular disease.

The increase is expected as a result of  rising temperatures, worsening ozone levels in urban areas, the spread of desertification, and expansions of the ranges of communicable diseases. Specific examples include mold spores that previously only were seen in Central America now being found as far north as Vancouver, British Columbia, promoting increases in allergy and asthma, with climate-change conditions implicated. Infectious diseases common in the Mediterranean region now are being seen as far north as Scandinavia, as that area grows warmer.

The paper recommended adoption of public health policies aimed at supporting vulnerable populations during specific climate-change related events, such as heat waves or severe air pollution episodes and other extreme weather events (e.g., extreme rainfall and floods) or rising sea levels and storm surges that challenge or threaten community infrastructure. Continue reading

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