Anti-fracking demonstrators disrupt, delay Boulder County oil and gas hearing

Anti-fracking demonstrators disrupt, delay Boulder County oil and gas hearing
Group demands ban or commissioners' resignation
By John Fryar Longmont Times-Call

Posted:   12/04/2012 04:50:45 PM MST, Updated:   12/05/2012 02:42:05 PM MST

Neshama Abraham, of Boulder, right, applauds while other anti-fracking supporters silently show their support during public discussion, Dec. 4, 2012, at Boulder County Court House (Matthew Jonas/Times-Call) (Matthew Jonas)

BOULDER -- Anti-fracking activists delayed the start of the Boulder County commissioners' Tuesday afternoon meeting on oil and gas regulations for nearly half an hour, chanting their opposition to that drilling technique and demanding the commissioners resign if they won't ban hydraulic fracturing in unincorporated Boulder County.

Among those reading loudly from prepared scripts was a pair of school children, one of whom said, "We are standing up for our future ... Protect us from the dangers of fracking."

"We deserve a fighting chance," said Zapporah Abraham Paiss, a 13-year-old Centennial Middle School student. "With vibrant water, soil and plants," said Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, a 12-year-old Centennial School student. They said afterward that they're members of Earth Guardians.

Commissoners Will Toor, Cindy Domenico and Deb Gardner left their seats and the packed hearing room when the demonstration began and returned only after it had ended.

As the commissioners departed from the hearing room, one person in the audience shouted: "You can run but cannot hide!"

When the meeting resumed, Domenico, chairwoman of the county board, asked the standing-room-only crowd to "behave in a manner that is respectful" so the commissioners would have a chance to hear everyone wanting to make comments at the formal public hearing.

Earlier, members of the audience repeating the materials being read by several people who stood to lead the demonstration, told the commissioners -- who'd already left -- that "we will not give into you" or the oil and gas industry or Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Hearing-goers who joined in the chants said they "command" the commissioners to ban hydraulic fracturing -- and that if the commissioners do not -- "we demand your immediate resignations."

"You have been served notice," the chanting audience said at one point, with the commissioners still waiting outside the hearing room for the demonstration to

Jill Sowell of Louisville, left, Mandi Papich, Lafayette, and Bob Ross, Louisville, stand outside the Boulder County Courthouse where the commissioners are holding a hearing on the oil and gas issues in Boulder on Tuesday. (JESSICA CUNEO)end. "We will not go away."

Jill Sowell of Louisville, left, Mandi Papich, Lafayette, and Bob Ross, Louisville, stand outside the Boulder County Courthouse where the commissioners are holding a hearing on the oil and gas issues in Boulder on Tuesday. (JESSICA CUNEO)

Tuesday's meeting was to have started at 4 p.m. The Boulder County staff finally got its presentation of the latest draft of proposed county oil and gas regulations under way at about 4:35 p.m. The actual public hearing began at about 5:30 and lasted nearly 21/2 hours as more than 30 people spoke.

By the time the overall discussion of the draft regulations had ended at about 9 p.m., the commissioners had decided to put off acting on the proposed rules until at least Dec. 13, raising several questions they indicated they wanted answered in the meantime.

Several of the members of the public who spoke during Tuesday night's hearing continued to emphasize their dissatisfaction with the county commissioners' decision to go ahead with adopting oil and gas regulations about drilling in unincorporated parts of the county, rather than standing up to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, former oil geologist Hickenlooper, and the oil and gas industry -- standing up by enacting a ban.

A number of those speakers also urged the Boulder County commissioners not to worry about the industry or the state suing the county -- something the state agency has done with Longmont, over drilling restrictions the City Council adopted last summer, and something the state and the industry are expected to do over the local fracking ban adopted by Longmont voters in last month's election.

"Let Boulder County sue the state" for the inadequacy of Colorado's oil and gas regs, urged rural Boulder County resident Nancy Hall. "We need injunctive relief against immediate danger" that she suggested is being posed by a resumption of county-permitted oil and gas drilling in general, and fracking in particular.

Evan Ravitz of Boulder told the commissioners that "we hired you to represent us," and he said Longmont voters' anti-fracking decision shows that "a vast majority of us" in the county "are against fracking."

Said Ravitz: "You will represent us, or you will be fired."

A number of people in the audience jeered during a presentation by Wendy Wiedenbeck, a Denver-based community relations adviser for Encana Oil and Gas USA, who asked the commissioners "to thoughtfully consider our feedback."

Wiedenbeck, the lone speaker representing the industry, said that though Boulder County has responded to some of the oil and gas industry's concerns about earlier versions of the draft county regulations, Encana believes some of the latest version of those proposed county rules are "operationally feasible," some duplicate existing federal or state regulations, and some actually conflict with state rules.

Colorado's state oil and gas regulations already are among the strictest in the nation, Wiedenbeck said, predicting those state rules will become even stricter once the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission completes its work on new regulations about well setbacks from buildings and about monitoring underground water near wells.

After Wiedenbeck spoke, Domenico thanked the people in the room who remained "courteous and respectful" even though many of those people had earlier made it clear that they disagree with anything said by representatives of the oil and gas industry. A few of the anti-fracking activists trailed Wiedenbeck to her parked car outside the courthouse after she left the meeting right after her presentation, but a pair of county security officers accompanied her, as well.

Later Tuesday night, the commissioners began taking public testimony on the separate issue of whether the county's current year-long moratorium on processing new oil and gas drilling applications -- a temporary time-out set to expire on Feb. 4 -- should be extended. Several of the speakers at the earlier hearing on the draft regulations argued it should be.

Paul Bassis of Louisville promised the commissioners that if they don't extend the moratorium, petitions to recall them will be circulated.

Longmont resident Jeff Thompson, a fracking foe, told commissioners later during the hearing that the proposed county regulations "are just a big fraud, just a big farce."

Thompson compared Boulder County officials' stated position -- that they'll adopt the strictest local drilling rules possible under Colorado law -- to what it would have been like if Nazi Adolf Eichmann had said: "I did everything I could within the law to protect the Jews."

DENVER- Colorado governor a friend of paroled inmate's dad

DENVER Attorney Jack Ebel testified before the Colorado Legislature two years ago that solitary confinement in a Colorado prison was destroying the psyche of his son, Evan. When Jack Ebel's longtime friend, Gov. John Hickenlooper, was interviewing a Missouri corrections official for the top prisons job in Colorado, he mentioned the [url=]Hermes Kelly Handbag 35CM Red Silver[/url] case as an example of why the prison system needed reform. And once Tom Clements came to Colorado, he eased the use of solitary confinement and tried to make it easier for people housed there to re-enter society. Now authorities are investigating whether Evan Spencer Ebel, who was paroled in January, is linked to the assassination of Clements, who was shot and killed Tuesday night when he answered the front door of his house in a rural neighborhood. The bullet casings from that shooting are the same type as those found at the site of a bloody gun battle Thursday between Evan Ebel and Texas law enforcement officers that ended with Ebel being shot and killed, according to court records. The car Ebel drove matched the description of the one spotted outside Clements' house on the night of the prison director's death. Authorities also found a Domino's pizza delivery box in the trunk and a jacket or shirt from the pizza chain. Denver police say Ebel is now a suspect in the Sunday slaying of pizza delivery man Nathan Leon. Hickenlooper confirmed his relationship with Jack Ebel to The Denver Post and KUSA-TV Friday evening and then in a written statement Friday night. State records show Ebel donated $1,050 to the governor's 2010 campaign. But there's no indication that Hickenlooper's relationship with the Ebels played a role in the shooting. Hickenlooper denied having any role in Evan Ebel's parole. "Although Jack loved his son, he never asked me to intervene on his behalf and I never asked for any special treatment for his son," Hickenlooper's written statement said. State prisons spokeswoman Alison Morgan said Evan Ebel was paroled Jan. 28 as part of a mandatory process after serving his full prison term. He had most recently been sentenced to four years for punching a prison guard in 2008, according to state records. Hickenlooper said he never mentioned Ebel's name to [url=]New Hermes Shoulder Bag Chocolate[/url] Clements or anyone else connected with the prisons system. He said he only heard about the role of his friend's son Thursday night. "I didn't know Evan was out," the [url=]Hermes Kelly Handbag 35CM Red Gold[/url] governor told The Denver Post and KUSA, adding that he called Jack Ebel after being told of the connection. "He was distraught, he was devastated. I've never heard him so upset, and he's had some hard things in his life." Lt. Jeff Kramer of the El Paso County sheriff's office said Friday evening that he was unaware of the relationship between Hickenlooper and Ebel's father. Jack Ebel did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment. A federal law enforcement official said Ebel was a member [url=]New Hermes Shoulder Bag Brown[/url] of a white supremacist prison gang, the 211s. The official wasn't authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Colorado officials wouldn't confirm Ebel's membership but placed state prisons on lockdown Friday afternoon. "There's been an inordinate amount of media attention on one threat group, and that has required additional security measures," Morgan said. The corrections department also was preparing for a Monday memorial service for Clements, she said. The 211 gang is one of the most vicious white supremacist groups operating in the nation's prisons, comparable to the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups. Founded in 1995 to protect white prisoners from attacks, it operates only in Colorado and has anywhere from between a couple hundred to 1,000 members, senior fellow Mark Potok said Friday. Legal records show Ebel was convicted of several crimes in Colorado dating back to 2003. Scott Robinson, a criminal defense attorney and media legal analyst, represented Ebel in 2003 and 2004. He said Ebel had been sentenced to a [url=]Hermes Kelly Bag 22CM Green Yellow Brown[/url] halfway house for a robbery charge in 2003 before he was accused in two additional robbery cases the following year that garnered prison sentences of three and eight years. "I thought he was a young man who was redeemable, otherwise I wouldn't have taken the case," Robinson said, saying he didn't recall the details of the case. Robinson said he knew Ebel before he got in trouble. He said Ebel had a younger sister who died in a car accident years ago. Vicky Bankey said Ebel was in his teens when she lived across from him in suburban Denver until his father moved a couple of years ago. She remembers seeing Ebel once jump off the roof of his house. "He was a handful. I'd see him do some pretty crazy things," she said. "He had a hair-trigger temper as a kid. But his dad was so nice," Bankey said. Hickenlooper agreed that Evan Ebel had "a bad streak" that his parents had tried to correct. "The events of the past few days have been devastating for all involved," he said in the written statement. "I am in shock and disbelief about how everything seems connected in this case. It makes no sense. Tom's death at the hands of someone hell-bent on causing evil was tragic in every way. It also now appears Tom's killer may have had another victim. Our hearts and prayers are with Nathan Leon's family as well." Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers P. Solomon Banda, Dan Elliott, Colleen Slevin, Alexandra Tilsley and Catherine Tsai in Denver; Thomas Peipert in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Angela K. Brown in Decatur, Texas.