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'FrackingSENSE' Forums Aim To Foster Dialogue On Drilling

KUNC File Photo

A group of academics, environmentalists, developers, and public health officials is hosting a series of community education forums on oil and gas production beginning Monday evening.

The aim is to encourage meaningful dialogue around what has in recent months become a hot-button topic in Colorado, with voters in several communities narrowly approving drilling bans or moratoriums in 2013, and a coalition of environmental groups at one time considering a statewide ballot measure.

The three FrackingSENSE forums will take place in Greeley, located in Weld County -- an area that has seen oil and gas activity expand rapidly within the last several years.

"It seemed like a perfect opportunity to have a very professional, neutral conversation about not only what the actual drilling process is, but many of the issues surrounding it," said Brad Mueller, Director of Community Development for the city of Greeley. "Those are issues that are not unique to Greeley; they are issues that are certainly regional and statewide."

"Introducing and acknowledging those issues that are out there - whether they're air quality or water quality... or transportation impacts. All those types of things that we know from practice are concerns."

Patty Limerick, faculty director at Center of the American West, has been hosting similar forums in Boulder. She will facilitate all three Greeley forums, Mueller said.

The first session will provide background on the geology of Northern Colorado, as well as an overview of drilling procedures like hydraulic fracturing.

"Introducing and acknowledging those issues that are out there, whether they’re air quality or water quality, or blast impacts, or transportation impacts -- all those types of things that we know from practice are concerns, and potentially emerging issues," Mueller said.

The panels will include speakers from the Colorado School of Mines, the University of Colorado, and the Colorado School of Public Health, as well as industry professionals.

Monday’s forum takes place from 6:30 -- 9 p.m. at the University of Northern Colorado’s Long’s Peak Room in the University Center. An opportunity for an informal discussion will follow at the Kress Cinema & Lounge in downtown Greeley.

The second panel on April 28 will focus on risk assessment – especially in the area of air quality. It takes place 6:30 – 9 p.m. at Billie Martinez Elementary School, 341 14th Ave.

The final forum on May 12 will focus on air quality issues and regulation for the oil and gas industry. It takes place at Northridge High School, 7001 Grizzly Drive, from 6:30 – 9 p.m.

For more information on locations and speakers, view the flyer [.pdf] here.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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