Letters: 4/13/17

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Keep up the great work

Thank you for the piece on Luis, Sophia, and their family [Re: “Here and there,” March 30]. It’s important to link faces and names to the real cost of this anti-immigrant business. I look forward to the next installment. Thank you for doing good work.

CB Bassity/Boulder

I disagree with Dyer

I am writing in regards to your article [Re: DyerTimes; “You might as well cut off our hands,” Feb. 7]. While I agree that harsh actions should not have to be taken in instances of “peaceful protests,” I do not agree with Joel Dyer’s case in that the “harsh punishments” should be taken away even though people’s safety is at risk.

Dyer is against Senator Sonnenberg’s bill proposal to update an existing law on tampering with oil and gas equipment. The current law states, “Any person who in any manner knowingly destroys, breaks, removes, or otherwise tampers with or attempts to destroy, break, remove, or otherwise tamper with any equipment associated with oil or gas gathering operations commits a class 2 misdemeanor.” The new bill removes the last five words and changes the law to: “Any person who in any manner knowingly destroys, breaks, removes, or otherwise tampers with or attempts to destroy, break, remove, or otherwise tamper with any equipment associated with oil or gas gathering operations or places another in danger of death or serious bodily injury commits a class 6 felony.”

According to the Colorado Legislative Council Staff, persons convicted of a felony may be required to pay a fine, either in lieu of or in addition to a one year to 18-month prison sentence. Fines range from $1,000 to $100,000 for a class 6 felony, and from $5,000 to $1,000,000 for a class 2 felony. If convicted of a class 2 misdemeanor, a person may be sentenced three to 12 months and/or required to pay $250 to $1000.

Dyer begins his article by stating that environmental activists are upping their game against the oil and gas industry and the people in that area of work are starting to take notice. The oil and gas companies have tried many times to rid themselves of protesters, but have been unsuccessful. So instead, a new bill is being pushed by Sen. Sonnenberg. Dyer calls it the “if you can’t beat them, put them in prison” approach.

What first needs to be understood is the danger alone in being on a hydraulically fracturing, or fracking, site. My sister worked for the oil and gas company Baker Hughes, and before even stepping foot near an oil site, she had to do at least 40 hours of initial safety training. And even that wasn’t the end of it. She did countless hours to ensure that the safety of herself, and of others was not at stake. When in the field, you are working with pressures between 5,000 and 11,000 pounds per square inch, which could easily take off your head. Some sites also contain hydrogen sulfide gas, which paralyzes you, and then kills you. But these “peaceful protesters” do not know and understand this. They simply walk into a fracking site completely blinded by their own motives, and forget to account for where they are at and what they are tampering with. By “monkeywrenching a gathering system,” you are deliberately sabotaging equipment on site. And by doing so things can go terribly wrong and the consequences can be fatal.

These protesters are completely ignorant of the fact that it is dangerous to be tampering with equipment on an oil and gas site. In Weld County, Colorado, a trained worker was just doing his job next to a high pressure water line and it ended up rupturing when they tried thawing it in 10 degree weather. The pressure in that pipe was estimated between 2,500 and 3,500 pounds per square inch. The ice dislodged so fast from the pipe that it killed him and injured two others instantly. In a matter of seconds, something can blow up in your face… literally. Even when this man had proper safety training, something still went wrong and it cost him his life.

It is an issue when these protesters just walk onto a site, with no safety training. But it becomes a bigger issue when these protesters start to mess with equipment and refuse to leave, despite the consequences. Not only are they putting themselves in danger, but also the people working in the field. And that is fine if they are willing to risk their lives for a cause they believe in, but not when it starts to put the lives of others, especially people who are just doing their job, in danger. But I do question if these protesters know what they are risking their lives for. These protesters are willing to go so far as to get a class 2 misdemeanor, yet do they know all the facts? Sources show that  “a large portion of the public is unaware of or has little information about fracking.”

Dyer also states that the new bill is “clearly not about saving lives.” But that is exactly what the bill is pushing for. The protesters refuse to leave even when the consequence is a class 2 misdemeanor, and with them tampering with machinery and putting lives in danger, something has to be done to make the protesters take it down a notch. Dyer says, “Supposedly, we need it (the bill) because, one would assume, we’ve seen so many death-causing incidents attributable to such tampering. But that would be wrong because we have seen no such deadly acts of sabotage — none, zero, never.”

First off, “death-causing incidents” are nothing to joke about and should not be taken lightly. And secondly, just because an incident has not caused a death of a protester, does not mean that an incident that resulted in death has not happened. In 2012, the oil and gas industry had a fatality rate of about 25 per 100,000 workers, and between the years 2007 and 2011, there were 19 oil and gas field fatalities in Colorado. The point isn’t that a protester hasn’t been hurt, but it is very likely that something fatal could happen if they continue to intrude on the oil site.

I am neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the concept of fracking. I am not stating my opinion on whether I think it is right or not. The view on fracking has many variables that play an important role in the risk and benefit perceptions. For example: “unwanted proximity, trust in regulators and the oil and gas industry, and the perceived importance of the oil and gas industry.”  What I am saying is that this bill is being enforced to deter these “peaceful protesters” from putting themselves and others in danger. In this case, it may be necessary to up the consequences in order to keep people safe.

Heather Miyazawa/via internet