GET A QUOTE linkedin RSS

Fracking at the Erie Elementary School photo shoot

topher, 2012-06-08

Yesterday I trained my aerial camera on a newest fracking operation in Erie, Colorado.  My goal was to create a photo that illustrates fracking near schools or neighborhoods.  Little did I know just how easy that was going to be. 

First, I pulled into a farmer’s driveway rock throwing distance from the fracking site.  The owner of the farm was sitting in his backhoe, removing part of a tree damaged in yesterday’s storms.  I approached him to see if he would let me take some photos from his field of the fracking site located right in front of two different elementary schools.  He was happy to oblige. 

“What do you think of all this?”  I asked, after getting his permission for the shoot.
“It’s noisy,” he replied, and then added stoically, “and we’re on well water, so it’s a little disconcerting.”   

He turned back to his work, doing his best to ignore the invader in his backyard.

fracking site by Red Hawk Elementary

Proponents of fracking have claimed that the chemicals injected thousands of feet below the surface are below what they call “impermeable” layers of rock. But a recent study using computer modeling shows that the fracking itself can make the layers more permeable, and facilitate the passage of the toxic fracking chemicals into the aquifer - and our drinking water - much faster than previously thought. 

Then there is the issue of gas leaks around fracking sites, which has made the air quality in parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah worse than Los Angeles in terms of the gasses released by fracking operations. 

Of course, the pro dirty energy contingent will point out that computer modeling doesn’t constitute proof, but when you’re gambling with the health of America’s future, do you want to wait until there is absolute proof before being careful?  Isn’t that a little like saying, “Until you can prove exactly how many cigarettes it takes to cause cancer, children should be able to smoke!”

fracking operation elementary school

Shooting these photos was a bit surreal.  It felt like I was photographing an occupation force in my country.  There was the America I love: the open spaces, the the homes, the small farms, and the schools and Boulder's Flatirons in the background.  And sitting there in the middle of it all is the invading army, a huge machine that sucks resources from the ground, exports the profits, and leaves behind poisons before moving on to the next conquest. 

The machine didn’t ask permission from the parents or the school kids who breathe the air, or the farmer who drinks the water.  The machine just invaded.  Sure, it is legal, but the laws were written by legislators working for the gas companies in the first place!

Photos of the fracking operation a few hundred feet from the Erie Elementary School and the Red Hawk Elementary School taken with help from Erie Rising and are free for all publication courtesy of Lighthouse Solar.

17 Responses to ‘Fracking at the Erie Elementary School photo shoot’

  • Karen
    (6/8/2012 @ 8:33am)

    We have become a "resource colony". Your analogy to the fracking/natural gas industry being like an invading army is spot-on, Topher. One of the talking points used by the proponents of fracking is that it will bring us closer to energy independence. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The majority of the gas is being shipped overseas where it fetches much higher prices for the multi-national corporations, which have no allegiance or affinity for any particular people on the globe. To those corporations, we are all just consumers.

    I work in the renewable energy field because I believe in the principle of sustainability. The Earth cannot sustain the masses of humanity sucking the lifeblood out of her, unless and until we all buy into the idea of net-zero living. Fracking doesn't even BEGIN to figure into that equation.

  • Ann Marie Andrews
    (6/8/2012 @ 9:12am)

    Wow Topher. It does seem unreal when it is happening in our back yard. Where to go from here?... Thanks for the pictures and sharing the information.

  • topher
    (6/8/2012 @ 9:35am)

    Ann Marie, As to your question of where we go from here - it's going to be a rough road. We have to do what we can on a personal level and also on a community level. Don't believe the hype of cheap energy - we're paying for it big time and will be for generations. For starters: install renewable energy systems, don't waste energy, ride the bus, vote, send your congressman a letter telling them to stop subsidizing fossil fuels, tell your town council you don't want fracking in your town.

  • Gea Franklin
    (6/8/2012 @ 9:58am)

    This is insanity! In Colorado we are one of the most optimal places in the world to use clean energy, like solar, and the natural gas exploiters cannot keep their dirty hands off the money. They have not a care in the world for the health of our water supply, air quality and of people, including our most precious resource, children! This is our future. This is our now. If we do not stand up and fight the good fight and speak out, who will? I am shocked by how many progressive people who care passionately about the environment are totally unaware about the serous detriments fracking causes. The insatiable greed and pursuit of dirty money over the welfare of our world is a devastating place to be. We need to evolve. Clean energy is a real and positive solution. Thank you Topher! Thank you LighthouseSolar. Now let's get our hands dirty and clean up!

  • Scott Franklin
    (6/8/2012 @ 10:46am)

    We are being invaded by a hostile enemy. The real crux of the situation is that the enemy is the oil and gas industry who are supported by the full strength of the state and federal government. Does that make those of us who are against this invasion and fighting to protect our land, air and water "insurgents"?

  • topher
    (6/8/2012 @ 10:39pm)

    I just got an email from an editor in the energy media who saw this post, and informed me that the drill rig and more visual elements of fracking will be removed once the well is drilled. Then we'll just have the less visual air and water contamination, which are much harder to photograph. Lovely. I don't think he was very happy with me for shooting the operation.

    There's nothing to see here, carry on.

  • Codyboy449
    (6/9/2012 @ 2:32pm)

    Very well written and to the point. Perhaps you can get this in the mass media as well. Unfortunately, when there are politics, business and revenues involved people become short-sighted. I wonder what the reaction would be from these invaders if someone wanted to put a well near their home and child's school. I suspect you would know who is at the head of the line protesting, " not in my backyard".

  • Janat Dundas
    (6/9/2012 @ 4:40pm)

    Please get involved with getting signatures for petitions that allow the people to have last word in what happens to our PUBLIC WATER that is already in the Colorado Constitution we just have to get it on the ballot to regain the Democracy we live under. Contact: Rebecca Browning who is in charge of volunteers getting 100,000 signatures before the end of July. Public means it belongs to the people - WE are the public. The water is OURS.

  • Diana Caile
    (6/19/2012 @ 2:12am)

    Hi Topher -

    I'm Garry Sanfaçon's campaign manager and have been involved with all the fracking hoopla. Great photos and article! You're so on the mark about the state legislature! We have to stand up to this at the local level! Longmont needs our support right now for their citizen's initiative to ban fracking. Word is the governor wants to kick Longmont/Boulder County in the teeth and make an example of us. We can't let that happen!

  • jeff
    (10/20/2012 @ 2:49pm)

    thats not fraccing .its just a drill.could be looking for oil or water.get your facts straight before you hit the panic button in your you use water? do you put ga sin your car or heat your home? jackass

  • topher
    (10/22/2012 @ 10:15pm)


    I did check my facts. That is a drill preparing the well for a fracking operation. Yes, I use water, which is just one of the reasons fracking needs to be more carefully regulated - it uses insane amounts of fresh water. Yes, I put gas in my car when I have to, but try to use my car as little as possible. I heat my home and would be happy to pay higher prices for natural gas to help fund clean energy integration. Why are you so angry about people questioning our current energy system?

  • bowhunter
    (10/23/2012 @ 8:04am)


    If you follow your argument that using gas to heat your home means you have to be in support of the gas industry, you could also say that if you drive your car on a publicly-funded highway you must support socialism. Questioning government and industry policy is the very thing that made this country in the first place - and now people like you don't want us to change for the better. When the automobile was invented you probably would have argued that cars were a left-wing scam and that true patriots rode horses to work.

  • In MY Yard
    (11/19/2012 @ 9:28am)

    Hey Jeff: you need to get your facts straight. I had and continue to have a birds eye view of this fracking, YES, fracking! Encana Oil & Gas begain drilling the week of Memorial Day 2012 and continued until mid August. I had to live with the noise, dirt, air pollution, lights and continue to live with this everyday. Yes, I live in the neighborhood you see in the photos and when I built my home, I went to the wonderful Town of Erie and asked what were the future plans for the land behind my potential new home. No one ever mentioned that there were mineral rights owned by Encana and that they would eventually drill. That was in 2004. There are eight (8) pads/wells now and trucks travel in and out to the pads 24hrs a day 7 days a week. Oh and the clincher now, I hear and feel continuous tremors 24/7 and so do my neighbors. And before you start slamming on how I need gas and oil to heat my home, I drive a hybrid which most of America should be looking to do in the future. If fracking needs to be done to make us self dependent on energy, it shouldn't be done within 250-300 ft of homes, schools and farmland. I blame, the Town of Erie (for their greed), and the COGCC for allowing this to happen so close to our homes. Jeff, wanna buy my house?

  • Oil drilling companies
    (11/28/2012 @ 6:01am)

    Comfortably, the post is really more informative on this precious blog.

  • topher
    (11/28/2012 @ 9:32am)

    "Oil drilling companies" your online strategy while working for Breitling resulted in being sued for defamation by fellow oil and gas companies for your online behavior, so I'm not sure what your intent is with your post here. If you're serious about being good stewards, as it says on your website, you'll team up with a solar company and commit to the integration of solar and gas for maximum positive results both financially and environmentally. But I'm afraid if you treat your own industry with defamation, you're probably not up for collaboration with clean energy. If you really are ready to walk the talk, give Lighthouse Solar a call.

  • topher
    (11/28/2012 @ 9:34am)

    Here's the link to the article about Breitling's lawsuit:

  • Priscilla hardy
    (5/5/2013 @ 3:43am)

    The same issue is happening in Australia. Total insanity!!

    Stop this fracking.

Leave a Comment