ERIE- Erie resident Amanda Harper stands by the road in front of her house, the sun sinking towards the Rockies, wondering whether voters will help her pass a statewide set back rule on oil and gas next week Her dog circles around her nudging a dirt caked ball. She throws the ball and the dog bolts into the a farm field. At first glance, this farm is the place she said she dreamed of to raise her son and grow old with her husband.
Harper’s dream was disrupted nine years ago when oil and gas industry trucks started kicking up dust passing her home. She followed the trucks and found that they were supplying materials for a hydraulic fracturing operation, or fracking, about half a mile north of her house near Boulder Creek. She soon noticed noise from industrial drilling, an overwhelming smell of diesel fumes, and industrial lights which stole away her family’s view of the starry sky.
Erie sits between Boulder and Weld county. Weld county is significantly more conservative than neighboring Denver and Boulder and reflectively has looser environmental regulations making it a popular location for fracking. Harper has responded to these operations by fighting the oil and gas companies, then fleeing, and now with increased hopes of setback rules on the ballot, she is choosing to fight again.
Harper said she found the fracking operations to be so disruptive, she moved her family to Longmont for a year. She’d been worrying about the health of her family. She said she believes her family has been inhaling high levels of Benzene, which is classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.
Earlier this year, Harper and her family returned to their home, but they remain frustrated with the heavy truck traffic and effects of the industrial operations. Harper said she filed 21 complaints with Crestone Peak Resources, a company that runs fracking facilities nearby. She said she even sat in front of the trucks that drive by her house to block them from reaching their nearby site.
“We were just living our life. We had a little kid. We had parties. And all of a sudden we were fighting a war,” she said.
Harper is not alone is her fight against fracking. Erie town councilman Christiaan Van Woudenberg experienced a similar fate to Hill’s when he noticed a fracking operation near his house. Van Woudenberg lives in new densely-developed suburban neighborhood but that hasn’t stopped fracking operations from establishing wells as close as 150 ft from homes.
Initially Van Woudenberg took action against the oil and gas industry by protesting. Tactics included projecting anti-fracking images and messages onto the giant sound walls that companies erect around fracking sites.
Van Woudenberg said he, too, is hopeful Proposition 112 will pass. It would require oil and gas companies to ensure a minimum buffer distance of 2,500 feet protecting houses, schools and water sources. For residents, this could mean cleaner air and a hopeful reprieve from the noisy drilling operations.
Despite moving away from her home and feeling increasingly frustrated with her experience, Harper said she is feeling more optimistic for Colorado’s future with prop 12 on the ballot.
“There’s a chance,” she said, “I feel like there’s a chance for Coloradans to care for their world here.”