Fracking critic leads Loveland officials on oil tour

LOVELAND — Loveland city officials spent Friday morning on a tour of oil and natural-gas sites led by a hydraulic fracturing critic.

City councilors, planning commission members and the city manager and attorney were led on the tour by Kim Orr, a member of the High Plains Environmental Center board. The Loveland environmental group works with developers and offers educational programs, according to its website.

The tour included stops in Erie, Firestone and Frederick.

Orr, a Centerra resident, wrote in a letter to the Loveland Reporter-Herald that her neighborhood “faces the greatest dangers from proposed wells.”

“My experience in oil and gas fields is that fracking, as currently regulated, is toxic and unsafe,” she said in the letter.

Officials saw wells located close to homes, schools and shopping centers, said Mayor Cecil Gutierrez, who was on the tour. Some wells lacked pollution-control devices.

The city will use the information it gathered to prevent problems from oil and gas drilling in Loveland, Gutierrez said.

“It’s always best to… gather as much information and see as many things as we possibly can before making big decisions,” he said. “That was another opportunity to do that.”

Loveland is developing oil and gas regulations amid a drilling moratorium set to expire in mid-February.

“The tour was arranged to provide the participants with up-close observation of fracking sites and equipment,” the city of Loveland said in a news release.

Fracking involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into a drilled hole to release oil and gas trapped in shale formations deep in the ground.

No one from the oil and gas industry participated in the tour.

However, city councilors and planning commission members went on a similar tour in Greeley earlier this year. City of Greeley officials played host to the visit, which included a stop at “an active site” and a “discussion with an oil company representative,” says a post on the city of Loveland’s Facebook page.

Officials have heard arguments from multiple people about fracking, including industry representatives, during the past few months.

The tour organizers, which included Orr, “wanted us to go on this particular tour to see what they thought were some failures by the oil companies so we could avoid those same kinds of failures in Loveland,” Gutierrez said.

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