Tuesday, September 25, 2018 -
Print Edition

Learning from a thousand year flood

TWO months before my Colorado community was overwhelmed this week by epic rains, our state’s chief oil and gas regulator, Matt Lepore, berated citizens concerned about the ecological impact of hydraulic fracturing and unbridled drilling.

During his speech, Lepore insinuated that those advocating a first-do-no-harm posture toward fossil fuel development are mostly affluent and are therefore unconcerned with the economic impact of their environmental advocacy. Coming from an industry lawyer-turned-regulator, it was a deceptive attempt to pretend that environmental stewardship is merely a rich person’s luxury.

After this month’s flood, of course, “thousands of oil and gas wells and associated condensate tanks and ponds” are underwater in Colorado, according to the Boulder Daily Camera.

Already, there is at least one confirmed oil pipeline leak. At the same time, the Denver Post reports that “oil drums, tanks and other industrial debris mixed into the swollen (South Platte) river.”

In short, there’s a serious possibility of an environmental disaster that should concern both rich and poor.

IN retrospect, the deluge illustrates the problem with officials pretending that environmental stewardship and the precautionary principle are just aristocratic priorities. They are quite the opposite — they are priorities for everyone.

That, though, is only one of the big takeaways from this thousand-year flood. Another is the lesson that in the age of climate change and severe weather, the old “out of sight, out of mind” defense mechanism should no longer provide comfort to anyone. Consider my family’s own microcosmic experience.

The rest of this article is available in the IJN’s print edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at carol@ijn.com or subscribe to our new online e-Edition.




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