Tomorrow's House vote on fracking near schools

Tomorrow the House of Representatives will be deliberating and voting on an energy bill that is opposed by NRDC. As my colleague Elly Pepper posted on her blog, the legislation would weaken clean air protections and sacrifice our public lands and our oceans to unabated energy production. This bill deserves to lose.

We hope Members of Congress will vote against the bill, but there is a bright spot in that the bill can at least be improved. An amendment being offered by Congressman Jared Polis of Colorado will do just that. While the bill would mandate there be a plan to increase federal agency leasing of oil and gas resources, Congressman Polis will be offering an amendment to prohibit fracking under an oil and gas lease covered by this plan within 1,000 feet of a primary or secondary school. There are 89 public schools in Colorado that are within a 1000 foot radius of federal subsurface estate.

Why is this amendment so important? Oil and gas production facilities, including fracking sites, can emit dozens of toxic air pollutants, including benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, and more. They pose health risks ranging from asthma to neurological conditions to cancer. Children have already been complaining of health symptoms near schools in Colorado, Texas, California, and more.

According to a great analysis done by Western Resource Advocates, in four Colorado counties in the Denver metro area (Adams, Boulder, Broomfield, Weld) there are 26 public schools within 1,000 feet of a drilling site. In Colorado, it is illegal to idle a vehicle for more than five minutes within 1,000 feet of a school — but an oil or gas company can conduct drilling and fracking, spewing potentially toxic chemicals into the air, as close as 350 feet. Colorado actually has a smaller buffer for oil and gas facilities from a school than it does for medical marijuana dispensaries or liquor stores.

This amendment will apply to schools where there are federal oil and gas resources nearby. We urge all Representatives to support the Polis amendment as an important move forward to protect children's health instead of oil and gas company profits.