Mismanagement in oil and gas drilling exposed in Extraction bankruptcy

‘Living in Broomfield will never be the same’

A fossil fuel extraction site is visible near a home in Broomfield on June 24, 2020. (Andy Bosselman for Colorado Newsline)

By Lizzie Lario

The Extraction Broomfield project, which we have been told produces natural gas and oil primarily for export outside of the United States, has left a permanent scar on me, my family and my community. The company and its lobbyists demanded we allow this high-risk drilling process near my home then, weeks later, paid out nearly $7 million to its top executives immediately before declaring bankruptcy.

No municipality wants to take on the oil and gas industry, so it is left to everyday citizens, most of whom have full-time jobs and limited resources to put toward this fight. I share this because I do not want any other community exposed to this accepted practice and put through the nightmare that we felt at the hands of Extraction Oil and Gas.

My family has experienced health impacts, including bloody noses, headaches, migraines, throat and eye irritation, and stress and anxiety. Even our animals were impacted, with my cat’s asthma diagnosis last summer, less than a month into the drilling phase and after citizens demanded the company use a less odorous and carcinogenic drilling mud.

Equally disturbing, the reality is this is only what we know up to this point. Part of the stress and anxiety is not knowing how the toxic chemical cocktail we have been exposed to will impact our health long-term. These chemicals are known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, which could cause cancerous tumors, birth defects and developmental disorders.

Will this one day impact my children’s children? No one can definitively rule this out as a possibility. Yet no one was willing to say “no” and stop this industrial project that was forced upon our developed residential area — despite our literal begging and pleading and presenting evidence that this operation was not safe close to homes and, as a company, Extraction was not financially soluble.

In terms of my neighborhood, it is worn down and forever damaged, but many of us made the commitment to sacrifice hours upon hours of personal time and stick by one another. We’ve organized into a group and sat through years of city council meetings and state and federal hearings. There is genuine concern for how our families are being impacted, and we look out for one another.

As for Broomfield in general, Extraction and their misrepresented “state of the art” project has completely divided our community. Many people who live farther away from the pad and were not impacted have labeled us as extremists or activists and discounted our experiences.

For myself and others however, we know the veracity of our claims, and living in Broomfield will never be the same. The beauty and the peaceful feeling of the rolling hills of (taxpayer-funded) open space are literally destroyed and are now a constant reminder of the injustice that occurred at the place where we are supposed to feel the safest, our homes.

The industrial machinery that is left behind and continues to pollute brings about feelings of concern, sadness, stress, and anxiety that we will likely never know what was in the toxic air that so many of us breathed in for over a year. The toxic chemical cocktail that this company insisted was safe, yet brought about hundreds of health complaints, including headaches, migraines, nosebleeds, sinus, eye and throat irritation, breathing issues and other undetermined health issues down the road. Not to mention the sleepless nights for those who were kept up by the loud industrial noises coming just a few thousand feet from their homes.

All of this and our city felt it could not take real steps to protect our health, even during a novel respiratory pandemic, because of the threat of a $500 million lawsuit from Extraction.

Oil and gas production in Colorado has been a shell game, with Coloradans paying the price — in our personal health, economic health and our communities. We can coexist with the oil and gas industry in our state, but we cannot afford to prioritize executive bailouts and company profits over our small business owners and local residents, especially not now.

Lizzie Lario lives with her family in Broomfield.