For years, gas patch residents have tried to raise awareness among Durango's in-town population about the dangers of gas development here in La Plata County. However, for whatever reason, we've largely failed to make the urgency of this crisis relevant to Durango and our local leaders.
Perhaps now in light of BP's catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, Durango will finally take notice of what's happening right here. You don't have to look to the Gulf to see the consequences of irresponsibility. Just look out your window.
BP and the gas industry are polluting our air, poisoning our water and destroying valuable wildlife habitat.
Most important, the industry is an immediate danger to public health and safety. We've had homes literally blow up, subdivisions overrun with wells, drinking wells poisoned, a child crushed to death by a pump jack and a nurse at Mercy Regional Medical Center made ill from fracing fluids.
More troubling is the fact that local leaders have been fully aware of the threat to public health and safety since 2002. However, they still continue catering to industry interests.
The 2002 La Plata County Impact Report clearly says: "Increased public safety risks are anticipated to occur ... increased risk of methane seepage in soils and water wells, fires and accidents. Residential properties near (gas) facilities would be most sensitive to these risks."
For all too long, the leaders we've entrusted have let this industry run amok - both local leaders who cower to the industry's influence and our state's regulatory agency that has provided a rubber stamp for the industry.
It's time our local leaders stop passing the buck and take responsibility at the local level.
Gas can be developed in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. However, as we've seen in the Gulf, the Texas City Refinery and Alaska, all it takes is one irresponsible company such as BP to cause catastrophic damage.
While the catastrophe in Gulf is just the latest newsworthy transgression, this tragedy should cause us all to take pause and examine the gas industry in La Plata County.
Heath Anderson, Durango