Jan’s Story

My husband and I have lived in four states over the last 40 years, but one thing we’ve kept constant during all these years of roaming has been vacationing with our family here in the beautiful state of Colorado. From the time our kids were little, to now when they are grown, we’ve met in the Rocky Mountains each summer to hike and rest under clear, blue Colorado skies.

When we moved to Ft. Collins last summer we were thrilled. It’s been a dream to live here – but as we settled in we were shocked to experience the poor air quality along the front range. The ozone layer, haze, and warnings to asthmatics and people with respiratory issues (I am one) were not anything we expected to encounter. Seeing the mountains blanketed in haze from the Wyoming border to Denver, in winter and summer, broke our hearts.

We’ve lived in Texas, California, Kentucky, and now Colorado. We left Texas just as the fracking industry was taking off there and didn’t really learn much about it except that communities around which the industry settled were extremely concerned. When we arrived in Colorado and began to look for a home we noticed all the wells in the area and their proximity to neighborhoods, schools, and new housing developments. This led me to research the impact of the industry on communities, and what I found out was sobering.

One of the benefits of having moved and lived across the country is that it allows you to observe the way that communities handle challenges and learn from them. In our 16 years in California, we learned about how citizens and the government worked together to clean up air that was once the dirtiest and most harmful in the nation. There are protocols and regulations in California that are understood, embraced, and have improved the health and quality of life of millions. In Kentucky, we watched coal industry leaders voluntarily install scrubbers in existing coal plants because although they were experiencing an administration relaxing environmental standards, industry leaders understood that long term it was in their best interest and the interest of the people living around them to do the right thing and reduce harmful emissions. Sadly, we know that even with the best technology available, there is no such thing as clean coal.

I sense that we are at a similar point here along the front range of Colorado – maybe even a tipping point. The air has changed here over the years – dramatically.  It is impacting the lives and health of people who live and recreate here. There are new wells popping up that are too close to homes and recreation areas and are not systematically monitored to protect the health of families who live and play near them. There are continuing issues after complaints are voiced and repairs are made. With more people moving to the area (and I realize I am one of them), there are also more and more cars on the streets contributing to the haze with their emissions. My family is using mass transit, but not enough others are. But the hopeful thing to me is that there is time to act. And a body of knowledge and will across the country to draw from.

Business, government, and citizens can be good partners – we can work together to make changes that will improve life for us all. I know this because I’ve seen it happen. And I’m betting if other states across our nation can do it, Colorado and Coloradans can too.

Don’t Stop Here

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