Bella Romero: My Story

I have written and spoken to many concerning the Bella Romero Academy middle school in Greeley, Colorado and Extraction Gas and Oil’s proposed well project… now under way. I have many who joined me with voice and action. The facts that support the danger of the project are clear and have been well stated, in lawsuits and in public statement. Continued evidence is being discovered concerning the health and safety issues of having a fracking operation not more than 650 feet from the playing fields and playground.

COGCC has been addressed numerous times, as well as other government bodies. The clarity of environmental and social justice issues is in place. The press, reaching as far as the New York Times and the Daily Show have spoken for the people. The legal case concerning the situation is in appeals court, but with no injunction to stop action until all of the evidence is considered. So, Extraction has felt totally free to move on into their project. Although there is a bit of a recess so to speak, the plan is to continue without regard to the questions involved. Bella is a poster child for what the Gas and Oil industry in Colorado and beyond is able to do. It could also be a poster child for what new legislators, truly honest legal systems and judges and the people can do to stop the assault on our children and communities.

 

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My story is simple. I have lived a half a block from the school since before it was built. My husband and I chose to be here because it was a pastoral, friendly and healthy country area with small horse acreages. The growth was slow, increasing some with the school, but the county feeling continued. A very nice place for children to learn and people to live peaceably. There was no fear of oil and gas invasion, until Extraction bought out the beautiful agricultural land with intention to change it into an industrial conglomerate. Fear, grief, sadness, helplessness, anger, and shock moved through me, and others. It was a total loss of habitat, community, safety, beauty and freedom to stand and choose how we wanted to live. Beyond that I saw the children, who pass by my home having to face the same story. Children without voice and parents without voice due to socio-economic status.

I reached out. I found a greater community. I discovered so many, many people who agreed and fought and spoke up against the atrocity. People gathered, children gathered. We spoke and acted and prayed to no end due to a gas and oil friendly Colorado.

However, the story is changing. The new legislature is listening, thousands of people, millions, are standing for health and safety, clean air, climate and justice. It is good. Bella Romero, however, could easily be forgotten, slipped by as old news. It is still here. The project could be stopped, and must be before June 2019 when they will resume full operation. The permits were already given, thus not subject to the new protective laws passed by the legislature this session. What do you do when permits and old laws are not right? Can they be readdressed? Can social and environmental injustice and prejudice be righted? Racism is blatant with 89% of the children being people of color, immigrants are being treated as second class citizens, blue collar and working people devalued. Long standing communities are being demolished without honest concern, and ninety-year-old folks livin 500 feet from the project put in a life threatening position.

I believe in possibility. I also believe it is not too late to bring Bella Romero a reprieve.

Shirley Smithson

 


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