New Documentary Series Points Camera at Colorado Communities
Interviews with residents and business owners showcase a variety of concerns as oil and gas operations move into communities

DENVER – Colorado communities struggling to balance their quality of life and local economies with industrial drilling and fracking operations are the focus of a new mini-documentary series by the Center for Western Priorities (CWP).

The LookWest series provides firsthand accounts of a wide range of situations playing out in western communities: From agricultural areas that depend on clean water for their crops, to communities that have seen their health and quality of life suffer, to towns that are fighting to constrain the impacts they have seen their neighbors endure.

Rifle and Paonia are facing unique concerns brought about by increased drilling in their area. One is in the midst of drilling operations and feeling those impacts. The other sees the trucks are on the horizon and are concerned that industrial oil and gas won’t be “good neighbors” as they claim to be.

“It’s an unknown practice,” said Jeff Schwartz, a Paonia farmer. “The risk that we’ve learned, that I’ve learned, about around the country is that there is a high risk of water contamination, and that’s a high risk to my family making a living.” Schwartz continued, “Anything that threatens the safety of our food crops threatens everything we do.”

Located in the North Fork Valley, Paonia is an agricultural community, home to farms and wineries. But in late 2012, the Colorado Bureau of Land Management announced it was moving forward with a controversial plan for oil and gas leasing in the valley. The plan includes making over 20,000 acres of land available for drilling.

Watch the Rifle video.

Watch the Paonia video.

LookWest will continue to travel to communities in western states to hear from people affected by oil and gas drilling’s rapid expansion into communities. The videos will be posted periodically on the CWP website (

Written by on Tuesday, January 8th, 2013