Editor’s Note: The following testimony was given to the Colorado Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Energy Committee on March 21, 2013, by Gordon Pedrow. SB 13-202 concerns additional inspection of oil and gas facilities. SB 13-202 advanced out of committee to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Mr. Chairman and Committee members.Thank you for this opportunity to be heard regarding this important matter. I am Gordon Pedrow, a twenty year resident of the city of Longmont. Until I retired on April 1, 2012, I served the community for 19 years as city manager. I am here to share with you why many Longmont families support SB 13-202. I am certain you are aware that the state government in Colorado is experiencing a massive hemorrhage of trust when it comes to adequately regulating oil and gas operations.
The citizens of Longmont have been struggling for many months to protect their health and quality of life from the negative impacts of heavy industrial activities associated with oil and gas operations. This battle began in 2011 when the TOP Operating Company began the process of permitting a new multi-well drilling site within the city’s corporate limits.
Using the COGCC’s online data base, citizens examined the inspection and enforcement record of the two existing wells within the Longmont city limits that were closest to residential areas. The results were appalling.
In 2011, Both Rider #1 and the Stamp wells had numerous unresolved violations, including benzene contaminated ground water 100’s of times above state standards. I am going to provide the committee some specific information about Rider #1 and its operator, TOP OPERATING COMPANY. I believe this information will clearly demonstrate why residents were appalled in 2011 and remain so today. It will clearly demonstrate why passage of SB 13-202 is a necessary first step in appropriately regulating this industry and restoring public trust.
RIDER WELL #1: 350 feet from homes in the Quail Crossing subdivision, 350 feet from Trail Ridge Middle School
- July 17, 2006, Engle Homes to COGCC (TOP’s contaminated well on Engle’s property)
- July 21, 2006, COGCC to TOP Operating: Provide site Investigation and Site Remediation Plan
- December 7, 2006 Notice of Alleged Violation (200100371) Numerous violations
- 4. (nothing done for a year) TOP and COGCC staff failed to accomplish anything. Both ignored the owner, Engle Homes and residents rights to have safe operation
- December, 2007 Engle Homes again found violations not corrected
- September 2008 COGCC fined TOP $10,000 for failure to remediate
- March 30, 2009 Still Benzene problem
2011Public scrutiny of both TOP and COGCC performance begins by angry Longmont residents. (You would think a state agency might try harder when citizens are engaged) However, the concerns of the citizens were still ignored by TOP and COGCC. Both the regulators and the regulated act as though they are above the citizens!!!!
- January 24, 2012 Notice of Alleged Violation (1771570) Rules 210d, 301, 308A, 308B,309,603j,604d,906a
- February 22, 2013, COGCC issued a Notice of Order finding Violation and Hearing set for March 25/26 COGCC staff is seeking an order finding violation of all the above rules and imposition of a fine not to exceed $85,000.
- 10. March 21, 2013. (today) TOP still in violation & Benzene levels still out of compliance.
SETTLEMENT: The most appalling COGCC document regarding this whole Rider Well #1 fiasco has now come to light. For over 6 years, TOP OPERATING COMPANY has flagrantly disregarded COGCC orders and the COGCC has ignored its mandate to protect public health and the environment. Now the regulators and regulated have gotten together for a sweetheart settlement deal as outlined in this Administrative Order by Consent now scheduled for March 25/26.
Despite flagrant, serial, multi-year violations of state rules and regulations, the COGCC staff has now agreed to three unbelievable provisions.
Read these sections from the consent order. 4,6,8
Unfortunately, this ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER BY CONSENT does not deal with the benzene in the ground water within 350 feet of Trail Ridge Middle School. That matter is still being mitigated !!
I encourage you to pass SB 13-202. Furthermore, before this legislative session adjourns, I encourage you to carefully review the entire regulatory operations of the COGCC. Because more inspectors inserted into a flawed agency culture will most likely be wasted resources.