Parents Didn’t Want Fracking Near Their School. So the Oil Company Chose a Poorer School, Instead.

Bella Romero Academy fourth- through eighth-grade campus. Greeley-Evans School District 6

In one of the most fracked counties in the country, a fight is underway between environmental justice advocates and the Colorado commission that oversees oil and gas development. Four environmental and civil rights groups are suing the commission for allowing a company to build 24 oil and gas wells by a public school in a low-income area—after the same company tossed its original plans to build near a charter school serving mostly white, middle-class families.

Back in 2013, the company Mineral Resources was granted a permit to drill a few hundred feet from Frontier Academy, a majority white charter school in Greeley, Colorado. But after parents and neighborhood residents strongly resisted, the project was delayed. The following year, the Denver-based energy company Extraction Oil and Gas acquired Mineral Resources and abandoned the plans to frack near Frontier Academy. The site, Extraction explained in an internal analysis, was “not preferable” for oil and gas development because of its proximity to the school and its playground.

Instead, Extraction began scouting other locations in Greeley, a small city about 50 miles northeast of Denver. In May 2016, Extraction Oil and Gas filed a new application. This time, Extraction selected a site even closer to another school: Bella Romero Academy. The student population at Bella Romero is more than 87 percent Latino or Hispanic, African American, or other people of color. More than 90 percent of students at Bella Romero qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. (At Frontier, 77 percent of students are white, and about 20 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.) 04-17-18

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