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Drilling Impact On Wildlife, People Under Review

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

DENVER (AP) – While a state commission reviews maps to minimize the impact of the oil and gas industry on wildlife, residents in northern Colorado want to know more about the effect on humans.

Dozens of people packed a forum on Tuesday on the health effects of drilling in Greeley and listened intently as politicians and activists called for legislation targeting what some view as an industry more interested in money than public health.

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway said people are afraid.

“I’m all for having equitable discussion that equally represents the issues, but I don’t think it’s in the public interest to throw scare tactics at people who just want the facts,” he said.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is scheduled to meet on Wednesday as part of a state-mandated process aimed at updating maps on wildlife impact.

Drilling has grown exponentially in Weld County, which now has about 20,000 wells. The effectiveness of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in tapping oil a mile beneath the earth has fueled the growth.

In May, Gov. John Hickenlooper directed the oil and gas commission to review its system of penalties and fines to make sure public health, safety and the environment are protected. The commission has been ordered to report its findings by Dec. 10.

Critics say drilling contributes to pollution, waste and alleged links to health problems, The Greeley Tribune reported. The industry says drilling is safe.

“There are no health reports or studies on the Front Range at all,” said Rep. Joann Ginal D-Fort Collins. “The silence and lack of data is unsettling to people.”

Others took a calmer stance.

“I don’t feel it’s helpful to demonize the oil and gas industry, but I also think their agenda isn’t the same as the public health agenda you heard tonight,” said Sara Barwinski, who attended the hearing after moving to Greeley from Missouri about a year ago. “If it were, there would already be reports out there.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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