Sure, kids get nosebleeds – once in a while.
But when Colorado mom Stacy Lambright’s daughter and son started getting them regularly, she knew something was up. She looked around her community and realized only one thing had changed since she and her husband had uprooted themselves from Indiana and planted themselves in Thornton, CO, just north of Denver: the amount of oil and gas operations happening. Could there be a connection?
Stacy is a sustainability expert who works as an energy efficiency product manager for Hunter Douglas. “I’m aware of what’s going on around me environmentally and socially,” said Stacy. In other words, she figured that all the gas rigs popping up on the landscape in Adams County where she lives probably spelled trouble. The more she investigated, the more stunned she became. A gas well is an industrial operation – and 500 new wells had been permitted in just a 4×6 mile area. These wells were placed on top of old ones. What amazed Stacy was that some of those wells were just 500 feet from people’s homes. Another was near a school playground.
Air pollution is created throughout the entire process of oil and gas development. Wherever natural gas and oil are drilled, methane, a powerful greenhouse gas can leak. Harmful pollutants such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) impact children’s health and cause asthma attacks, respiratory diseases, and even cancer. In addition to the pollution, these operations clank and grind loudly all day and night.
“Ultimately, I didn’t want oil and gas fracking anywhere near me,” said Stacy. “We live in Colorado, where we take pride in our community and natural beauty and in how “green” we are. To know you’ve bought a house where you’re risking your family’s health? It’s horrible. I don’t want to move because we set out roots here…our kids don’t want to move. But what am I doing by staying? Am I jeopardizing my family’s health? Is everyone going to get cancer?”
As Stacy grappled with these questions, she realized that the ultimate goal has to be to to protect her family, community and state .
But Stacy is also a realist. “We need to take small steps right now,” she says.
One of those steps was to join Moms Clean Air Force and start getting involved nationally. Stacy wanted her voice to be heard. With Moms Clean Air Force she trekked around Capitol Hill with kids in tow, visiting the staff of her Congressional delegation to to discuss the health effects of oil and gas pollution.
Another step was to start organizing locally. “We held a meeting at the rec center to explain the basics. A hundred and twenty five people showed up. You should see the look on their faces…they can’t understand how this can happen.” It is so important to become educated with real science facts.
With our current president and EPA prioritizing the protection of polluter profits over children’s health is a tragedy and injustice. “Trump’s going to ruin everything we have in place for air quality…set us back 100 years,” Stacy believes. She takes some solace in noting that the utility companies are responding to the public’s demand for cleaner energy. “Our consumers don’t want coal. They’re changing their portfolios because more people are saying they want solar and wind, not polluting fossil fuels. Hopefully, Trump will recognize that and stop pushing the dirty energy platform.”
In addition to her Capitol Hill visits and local organizing, Stacy sometimes considers another way she could make a difference: by running for office herself.
“People are pouring thousands of hours into working with our elected officials, trying to get them to understand. But no one is listening. Candidates and incumbents get so much money from the oil and gas industry, they turn a deaf ear. Meanwhile, the industry dumps so much money into local campaigns, they make sure oil and gas proponents get elected.”
Says Stacy, “I only have so many years with my kiddos left. I want to get them through high school.” And then…“I’ll run for office.”