Colorado Oil and Gas Workers Turn Out in Huge Numbers at COGCC Field Hearing
Oil and gas employees from across the state showed up in full force Monday at the most recent Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) field hearing in Greeley, Colo. The overwhelming attendance of oil and gas employees drowned out the usual ban-fracking rhetoric and theatrics we’ve seen at many past COGCC hearings.
Below is a photo from an Energy Proud and Greeley Chamber of Commerce co-sponsored breakfast for oil and gas workers right before the COGCC hearing in Greeley.
As you know, we’ve covered several COGCC hearings to date and we’ve been lucky to witness some of the less aggressive and more amusing forms of protests from activists like singing and chanting. At this week’s COGCC hearing, protesters who did manage to show up were by and large much more low-key than usual, all except one activist dressed in a partial “Captain America” suit who concluded his remarks by screaming into the microphone. Suffice it to say, oil and gas workers made a more favorable impression.
A Message From Colorado Oil and Gas Workers
Colorado oil and gas workers were in attendance to address the Commission during the public comment session of the hearing. Though their stories were varied and several employees worked in different departments, from compliance to engineering, the collective message was the same: they are proud to work in oil and gas.
One worker testified that he’s been in the industry for 16 years and has worked on every facet of an oil and gas operations, from three years on a drilling rig to two years on a fracking site. He pushed back against activists’ notions that operations are inherently unsafe.
“I actually know what chemicals are in frack gel. When they are talking about all of these horrible substances – I’ve held them in my hands, I did it for a couple of years. I’ve been on production locations. I understand what a FLIR camera is used for. I understand what we can and can’t identify with those tools.”
He went on to explain how his other full-time job is being a dad, adding that he lives close by to operations in the Greeley area and he never would do so if it would put his family in danger.
“I also have an oil and gas facility in my backyard. I’ve been part of the industry from front to back, I know what all of the phases are, I know what the chemistry is, and my daughters are the most important things in my life. If I thought that it was harmful for there to be a wellhead and tank battery within 600 feet of my house, where my girls lay their heads on their pillows, I wouldn’t live there. I promise you that because their safety is number one for me.” (emphasis added)”
The point he was making to the commission and those in the room that oppose oil and gas development is that safety is standard practice for the oil and gas industry. And his confidence in the industry’s commitment to safety is so strong that he lives by his word and has no qualms with having an oil and gas facility in his backyard, 600 feet from his home.
Testimonies at the COGCC field hearing speak to how personal these issues are to the more than 200,000 employed by the oil and gas industry in the state. For a young single mom, working in the oil and gas industry in Greeley, Colo. has “truly changed” her life. This young woman delivered a strong message to the COGCC and to those in the audience opposing the industry that “any future discussion surrounding oil and gas in Colorado has to take into account stories” like hers because she says that her experience is not unique to others who have taken up employment in oil and gas.
“…a year and a half ago I was fortunate enough to find a job working in the oil and gas industry right here in Greeley, Colorado. My life and my son’s life have changed so drastically and only for the better. I don’t have to worry about having health insurance. My son’s in daycare and he’s thriving – he sings me his ABC’s every single night. And a month and half ago, I was finally able to rent my own apartment – that’s the first place that my son and I can actually call our own home. I was even able to start saving for retirement and my son’s college, and none of this would have come to fruition without the oil and gas industry right here in Colorado.”
A Colorado native and self-proclaimed environmentalist working in the oil and gas industry in Greeley also gave testimony on not only how the oil and gas industry has allowed her to support her family as a single mother, but also the type of safety culture she’s witnessed in her company and the industry.
“I’m on oil and gas locations every day, ensuring our operations are being conducted safely and responsibly in the communities in which we operate. Ensuring. This is my entire job. Thus showing the commitment my company has to these principles. Every day I see how my coworkers conduct themselves in the field, and I see how much they too care for doing things the right way. No shortcuts are taken. Work is done right. And as I stand here now I am very proud to be part of this industry, working alongside other humans who love the Colorado outdoors just as much as any other person who spoke or who will speak here today.”
She brings up a point that is often lost on activists – oil and gas employees do care about being stewards of the environment. To that end, testimony was given by an oil and gas employee and Greeley resident who has served in a variety of different roles within the industry — from oil field construction to operations — and currently works as the training and competency manager. He said his company not only equips their employees, but also their contractors, with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in their roles.
“Everyone in the room has a right to be concerned about things they don’t know about, but there’s facts that are out there – and continue to investigate those because this is a wonderful industry that is committed to doing the right thing, that is committed to sustainable practices, and I verify that on a daily basis.”
Not only did oil and gas employees speak to the environmental stewardship component of working for the industry, they also provided insight into the fact that many oil and gas workers are often Colorado natives who have a vested interest in maintaining the well-being of the community they live, work and play in.
A Colorado native who is an engineer with a Colorado-based operator and father of three spoke to his company’s mantra of “community matters.” Here’s what he had to say regarding the importance of the communities where the oil and gas industry operates.
“We use the phrase ‘community matters’ that means our employees regularly take the time out of our lives to volunteer for countless organizations across the state.”
At his company alone, employees volunteered over 3,000 hours last year with 91 percent employee participation rate. He went on to say that participating in volunteer activities in Colorado communities is just one of the many ways that his company invests in the communities in which they operate.
A Stark Contrast to Usual Anti-Fossil Fuel Talking Points
The public comments from oil and gas employees really took the wind out of usual ban-fracking sails that have dominated the meetings in the past. But as expected, the anti-fossil fuel groups in attendance hit on their usual talking points: demands that the COGCC drop the Martinez appeal and citations of studies from the Lisa McKenzie anti-fracking playbook – which as we’ve mentioned before, have been disavowed by the state’s top health regulators.
Many used the public comment period as an opportunity to promote the many-times-failed Colorado setback ballot measure, imploring the audience to sign petitions pertaining to these issues. Those requests were followed by crickets, given the fact that the majority of the room was filled with oil and gas employees.
Industry testimony at Monday’s COGCC meeting provided a stark contrast to the usual theatrical stunts of anti-fracking activists seeking to use the COGCC process to capture media attention in an effort to gain headlines to fuel their “Keep It In the Ground” agenda. While the public comment session is usually hijacked by anti-fossil fuel activists, it’s important to also hear directly from people who work in the field and are responsible for how operations are carried out on a daily basis. Fortunately, the COGCC travels to places like Greeley for field hearings so that these workers can have an the opportunity to speak and be seen before the commission and the national ban-fracking activists who seek to demonize the industry.