Environment

Oil and gas ‘third party validation’ and message control

Kaye Fissinger #123

Kaye Fissinger, Longmont, CO.

In mid-May, I went into “enemy territory” to hear what the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) had to teach regulators from oil-and-gas-producing states and the ex-officio industry that it actually represents. The IOGCC is similar to the COGCC, but on steroids.

The IOGCC conference had two sessions on “crisis communication.” The first had presenters from the Ohio oil and gas regulatory body and the second was led by a regulator from our own COGCC. The 2013 flood was the example in his presentation. What an incredible whitewash of the event as it pertained to oil and gas and a textbook example of message control! The second presenter was none other than Karen Crummy, communications director for CRED and Protect Colorado.

CRED is the organization that keeps bringing you (ad nauseum) TV ads about how great and wonderful fracking and oil and gas are. Never mind that their visuals do not reflect environmental realities. Protect Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence is the issue committee against Yes for Health and Safety over Fracking. George Orwell would have been so pleased at Protect Colorado’s name. Remember the Church Lady? She would have said, “Well, isn’t that special?” to the first place position of the environment.

Yes for Health and Safety is gathering signatures to place the constitutional amendments No. 75 (local control) and No. 78 (mandatory 2,500-foot setbacks) on November’s ballot. The health and safety of all of us is precisely what these amendments are all about. It’s time to get the state’s priorities straight, and the only way this can happen is a change in the state constitution. The legislature has failed the people. Governor Hickenlooper is even worse.

Here are the kickers from the regulators’ bedfellow, the oil and gas industry — in how to handle the public in a crisis. And No. 75 and No. 78 are certainly a “crisis” from the oil and gas industry’s perspective.

  1. Get out there first.
  2. Get out there loud.
  3. Control the message.
  4. Get “third party validation” for the oil and gas industry talking points.
  5. Tell people that their health and safety comes first, even if they don’t mean it.

The fourth is a doozy! Think about the University of Boulder oil and gas economics studies by the Leeds School of Business. These studies used industry modeling and gave the decision for releasing the results to that very same industry. No chance that a message other than one in support of their talking points would ever see the light of day. The Boulder Weekly did a thorough investigative report called “Behind the Curtain” that connected all the dots between Leeds and the industry.

And the latest report from the COGCC on Initiative 78 was requested by Mayor Tom Holton of Fort Lupton, also a COGCC commissioner. Holton regularly plays footsie with the oil and gas industry. And that report is ripe with flaws and omissions. Just what the industry was looking for.

See how “third party validation” works?

A good authority, at an earlier IOGCC conference, heard publicly that CRED was created because of Longmont’s success in overwhelmingly passing the ban on fracking and its waste products.

As it turned out, Coloradans can’t trust the Colorado Supreme Court either. Older folks might remember an ad from decades ago that said “a little dab will do ya.” Now its “a little phone call will do ya” with a well-laid foundation by the oil and gas industry that dates back a century or more.

Because the Colorado courts have said that Coloradans’ constitutional rights as already enumerated are essentially irrelevant, we have no other choice than to make it monumentally clear that the state constitution says otherwise. No wiggle room and no establishing priority of rights by the Colorado Supreme Court when it comes to oil and gas and the people.

State law does not override the constitution and preemption is state statute, not an article in our constitutional. At least not yet. If you see people asking for your signature on No. 138, don’t sign. This initiative enshrines preemption into the state constitution. If you do sign, you will be giving up your rights to health and safety, potentially in perpetuity.

Kaye Fissinger is president of Our Longmont.

Fracking Forum Features Foolishness

If you’re looking for entertainment in Longmont, no one serves up better than the Longmont Republican Women. Their recent forum “The State of Fracking in Colorado – A panel discussion” was one of the best comedy performances I’ve seen so far in 2016.

Ken Buck

Ken Buck clearly enjoyed the open bar

Featuring none other than Ken Buck, Weld County’s well-lubricated supporter, the oil barons favorite semi-roughnecks Matt Lepore (Director, Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission) and Dan Haley (President, Colorado Oil & Gas Association).

Longmont Councilman Brian Bagley, Moderator

Longmont Councilman Brian Bagley, Moderator

Doing an admirable job as straight man was Longmont’s Ward 1 City Council member Brian Bagley. I have to say his material and delivery were on point, making it child’s play for the Three Spooges to work their magic on the audience.

Moderator Bagley asked the setup questions and the Spooges knocked em down – without interference from those pesky Dems who chose to sit out this comedy cavalcade.

Matt Lepore gave an outstanding theremin-like performance in which he lulled the 99% GOP audience, crooning that they had nothing to fear from fracking. Mesmerizing!

Matt Lepore, Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commision "See? It's magic and it works!"

Matt Lepore, Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission
“See? It’s magic and it works!”

Dan Haley, President, Colorado Oil & Gas Association doing his very best Stan Laurel impression

Dan Haley, President, Colorado Oil & Gas Association doing his very best Stan Laurel impression

Dan Haley was a bit lackluster compared to Lepore (no small feat that!) and routinely seemed to be thinking “I Dunno…” before looking over at Buck, clearly wishing he could be as thoroughly soused.

Bagley’s questions covered a lot of territory and included questions about citizen initiatives. The Spooges responses ranged from “pshaw” to “balderdash” and were well-received by the mostly white-haired well-heeled crowd. One especially high point was when asked about safety concerns, Ken Buck burbled on about how fracking was safer than oil tankers “…like the Exxon Valdez…” and “…pipelines…” to which the crowd responded with howls of glee. I have to say I’ve never seen a complete lack of integrity used to such good comedic effect.

The crowd included some of Longmont’s quasi-luminaries as well as some career politicians clearly hoping to garner some media exposure. Here’s the ones FRL spotted:

Paul Danish Soon-to-be contender for Boulder County Commish

Paul Danish
Soon-to-be contender for Boulder County Commish

Dale Bruns Bruns Concrete & Construction

Dale Bruns
Bruns Concrete & Construction

Sean Conway Weld County Commish at large

Sean Conway
Weld County Commish at large

Greg Brophy Melon farmer

Greg Brophy
Melon farmer

WHOOPS! Not quite incognito...

WHOOPS! Not quite incognito…

There was even a lobbyist!

John Clarke Clarkestrategies

John Clarke
Clarkestrategies

As I left the event, feeling almost light-headed from all the Ben-Gay fumes, I was politely accosted by none other than LRW’s ever-so-gracious President, Rebekah Vicknair! She oh-so-politely asked me if I would stop leaving “…things…” on their Facebook page. I apologized for exercising my First Amendment rights but reminded her gently that I still had such rights – assuming Mr. Trump didn’t win the election. I suggested that if she and her cohort would be willing to reveal the name of the person behind the slur on my dead wife, I’d give them a permanent pass. I also mentioned Longmont’s one-time GOP mouthpiece and she demurely feigned ignorance. Truly, a comedienne of soon-to-be-legendary stature! I salute you Ms. Vicknair for your unstinting commitment to comedy. It made me laugh out loud.

Throwing it All Away

From US Dept of the Interior

Secretary Jewell Announces Proposal to Reduce Methane Emissions, Wasted Gas on Public, Tribal Lands

Proposal Would Limit Venting, Flaring and Leaking from Oil & Gas Operations to Reduce Waste and Harmful Emissions, Provide Fair Return to Taxpayers

1/22/2016

Date: January 22, 2016
Contact: Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov
Matt Spangler (BLM) 202-912-7035

WASHINGTON – As part of the Interior Department’s reform agenda for a cleaner, more secure energy future, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today proposed to update 30 year-old regulations in order to reduce the wasteful release of natural gas into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations on public and American Indian lands. The proposed rule on venting, flaring and leaking will help curb waste of our nation’s natural gas supplies, reduce harmful methane emissions and provide a fair return on public resources for federal taxpayers, Tribes, and States.

“I think most people would agree that we should be using our nation’s natural gas to power our economy – not wasting it by venting and flaring it into the atmosphere,” said Secretary Jewell. “We need to modernize decades-old standards to reflect existing technologies so that we can cut down on harmful methane emissions and use this captured natural gas to generate power and provide a return to taxpayers, tribes and states for this public resource. We look forward to hearing from the public on this proposal.”

U.S. oil production is at its highest level in nearly 30 years and the nation is now the largest natural gas producer in the world, providing an abundant source of clean-burning fuel to power and heat American homes and businesses. At the same time, venting and leaks during oil and gas operations are major sources of harmful methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. U.S. methane emissions are projected to increase substantially without additional steps to lower them. The proposal announced today is consistent with the Obama Administration’s goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 – 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

Currently, vast amounts of natural gas from public and Indian lands are lost through venting, flaring and leaks from oil and gas operations. Between 2009 and 2014, enough natural gas was lost through venting, flaring and leaks to power more than five million homes for a year. States, Tribes and federal taxpayers also lose royalty revenues when natural gas is wasted – as much as $23 million annually in royalty revenue for the Federal Government and the States that share it, according to a 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

Developed by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM), the proposed rule would require oil and gas producers to adopt currently available technologies, processes and equipment that would limit the rate of flaring at oil wells on public and tribal lands, and would require operators to periodically inspect their operations for leaks, and to replace outdated equipment that vents large quantities of gas into the air. Operators would also be required to limit venting from storage tanks and use best practices to limit gas losses when removing liquids from wells. The new measures would also clarify when operators owe royalties on flared gas, and ensure that BLM’s regulations provide congressionally authorized flexibility to set royalty rates at or above 12.5 percent of the value of production.

“The commonsense and cost-effective measures we are proposing reflect the recommendations of several government studies as well as stakeholder views and tribal consultation over the last two years,” said Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider. “These updated regulations, which would be phased in over several years to allow operators to make the transition more cost efficiently, would not only get more of our nation’s natural gas into pipelines and delivered to market but also reduce pollution and cut greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change.”

The BLM’s current rules addressing venting and flaring were adopted over 30 years ago, long before new technologies unlocked vast new natural gas supplies in the United States. Recent technological advances allow operators to produce more oil and gas with less waste. About 40 percent of natural gas now vented or flared from onshore Federal leases could be economically captured with currently available technologies, according to the 2010 GAO report.

Several oversight reviews, including studies by the Interior Department’s Inspector General and the GAO, have raised concerns about the waste of gas from oil and gas operations on public lands and found BLM’s existing requirements insufficient. Several states, including Colorado, North Dakota, Wyoming, and most recently Pennsylvania, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have also taken steps to limit venting, flaring and/or leaks.

“It’s time to modernize our regulations to reflect today’s technologies and meet today’s priorities,” said BLM Director Kornze. “By asking operators to take simple, common-sense actions to reduce waste – like swapping out old equipment and checking for leaks – we expect to cut this waste almost in half. The gas saved would be enough to supply every household in the cities of Dallas and Denver combined – every year.”

The BLM has worked to ensure that the proposed regulations would not impose conflicting or redundant requirements. In developing this proposal, the BLM looked to the States’ requirements and worked closely with the EPA to align the agencies’ proposals as much as possible, consistent with specific statutory authorities and responsibilities. The BLM is committed to continue coordinating with the EPA, as well as with individual States, to streamline regulations.

In developing this proposal, the BLM engaged in substantial stakeholder outreach, including a series of public forums in 2014 and 2015 to consult with tribal and state governments and to solicit stakeholder views. The BLM held public meetings in Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Washington, D.C., as well as separate tribal outreach sessions. The agency also accepted informal comments generated as a result of the public and tribal outreach sessions.

The public will have 60 days to submit comments on the proposal once it is published in the Federal Register. The BLM also plans to hold a series of public meetings on the proposed rule in February and March.

A fact sheet on the proposed rule is available here. The proposed rule can be found here, along with the Regulatory Impact Analysis and Environmental Assessment.


Fact Sheet On Methane And Waste Reduction Rule

OVERVIEW: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing to update its regulations to reduce the waste of natural gas from flaring, venting, and leaks from oil and gas production operations on public and Indian lands. The proposed rules, which would be phased in over several years, will help curb waste of our nation’s natural gas supplies; reduce harmful air pollution, including greenhouse gases; and provide a fair return on public resources for federal taxpayers, Tribes, and States.

The BLM’s proposal would require oil and gas producers to take commonsense and cost- effective measures to reduce this waste of gas, modernizing the existing, more than 30-year-old oil and gas production rules and bringing them in line with technological advances in the industry.  In addition, the proposed rule would modify the existing royalty rate provisions to better align with the BLM’s authority and enhance flexibility, but the rule would not raise royalty rates.

FACT: The BLM’s onshore oil and gas management program is a major contributor to our nation’s oil and gas production.  Domestic production from over 100,000 federal onshore oil and gas wells accounts for five percent of the nation’s oil supply and eleven percent of its natural gas.  In Fiscal Year 2014, the production value of this oil and gas exceeded $27 billion and generated approximately $3 billion in royalties.

FACT: Large quantities of natural gas are wasted during oil and gas production.  Between 2009 and 2014, oil and gas producers on public and Indian lands vented, flared and leaked about 375 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas.  That’s enough gas to supply about 5.1 million households for a year.  These losses create a myriad of problems, including: releasing harmful emissions, including methane, into the atmosphere; safety issues, if not properly handled; and waste of a valuable domestic energy resource.

FACT: Taxpayers are losing out.  States, Tribes and federal taxpayers also lose royalty revenues when natural gas is wasted – as much as $23 million annually in royalty revenue for the Federal Government and the States that share it, according to a 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

FACT: The proposed rule would minimize waste of natural gas. The proposed rule could save and put to productive use 41 to 56 Bcf of gas a year – enough to supply up to about 760,000 households each year. Overall, the rule would reduce flaring by an estimated 41 – 60 percent and venting by roughly 44 – 46 percent (compared to 2013 rates).

FACT: Inaction is not an option. Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, accounts for nine percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and almost one-third of that is estimated to come from oil and gas operations. U.S. methane emissions are projected to rise substantially without additional steps to lower them.  Several states, including North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and most recently Pennsylvania, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have also taken steps to limit venting, flaring and/or leaks.

FACT: The proposed rule would reduce emissions that worsen climate change.  BLM estimates that this rule could avoid an estimated 164,000-169,000 tons of methane emissions per year, equivalent to 4.1-4.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. This is also roughly equivalent to eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions from 860,000 – 890,000 vehicles.

FACT: The proposed rule’s benefits are projected to outweigh its costs.  Using conservative assumptions, the BLM estimates that the rule’s net benefits could range from $115 to $188 million per year.  Benefits include revenues for operators from sale of recovered natural gas and environmental benefits of reducing methane emissions and other air pollutants.

FACT: Impacts to operators are expected to be minimal.  Many oil and gas operators are voluntarily taking steps proposed in the rule to reduce wasted gas and improve operations.  The BLM estimates that the annual cost to industry of implementing the rule will be $125-161 million.  Individual, small business operators may see profit margins reduced by roughly one- tenth of one percent, on average. About 40 percent of natural gas now vented or flared from onshore Federal leases could be economically captured with currently available technologies, according to the 2010 GAO report.

FACT: The proposed rule reflects stakeholder outreach through public meetings and tribal consultations.  The BLM conducted public and tribal meetings in 2014. In addition, the proposal will now be open to a 60-day public comment period, during which the BLM will hold another series of public meetings and consult further with Tribes.  The BLM will also continue to coordinate with individual states, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, to avoid inconsistency or redundancy in regulations.

PROPOSED RULE OVERVIEW

The Mineral Leasing Act requires the BLM to ensure that operators “use all reasonable
precautions to prevent waste of oil or gas.”  Important elements of the proposed rule include:

LIMITING ROUTINE GAS FLARING

  • Currently, there is no upper limit on how much an operator can flare.  The proposal would phase in, over several years, a flaring limit per development oil well, averaged across all of the producing wells on a lease.
    • Year one limit: 7,200 thousand cubic feet (Mcf)/month/well;
    • Year two limit: 3,600 thousand cubic feet (Mcf)/month/well; and
    • Year three limit (and thereafter): 1,800 thousand cubic feet (Mcf)/month/well.
  • Estimated to affect about 16% of existing wells, which account for about 87% of gas flared.
  • Applies only to flared associated gas from production wells, not flaring from exploration or wildcat wells or during emergencies.
  • Provides an exemption if meeting the limit would cause an operator to cease production and abandon significant recoverable oil reserves under a lease.
  • Operators could comply with the proposed flaring limits by: expanding gas-capture infrastructure (e.g. installing compressors to increase pipeline capacity, or connecting wells to existing infrastructure through gathering lines); adopting alternative on-site capture technologies (e.g. compressing the natural gas or stripping out natural gas liquids and trucking the product to a gas processing plant); or temporarily slowing production at a well to minimize losses until capture infrastructure is installed.
  • Also improves disclosure of flared volumes by requiring metering when flared volumes reach 50 Mcf/day.

PRE-DRILLING PLANNING FOR GAS CAPTURE

  • Currently, there is no mechanism to better align timing of well development and pipeline installation.
  • Before drilling a development oil well, operators would need to evaluate opportunities for gas capture and prepare a waste minimization plan, which must be submitted with an Application for Permit to Drill.
  • The plan must meet various requirements, and must be shared with midstream gas capture companies to facilitate timely pipeline development, but plan details would not be enforceable elements of the permit to drill.

DETECTING LEAKS

  • The proposed rule will require operators to use an instrument-based leak detection program to find and repair leaks.  Operators could use infrared cameras or other methods approved by the BLM; smaller operators (fewer than 500 wells) could alternatively use portable analyzers assisted by audio, visual and olfactory inspection.
  • Operators would begin by inspecting twice a year.  If they consistently find few leaks, they would be allowed to inspect annually, while if they consistently find more leaks, they would be required to inspect quarterly.
  • The proposal is similar to EPA’s recent proposed rule requiring leak detection and repair for new wells and facilities, as well as leak detection and repair requirements in Colorado and Wyoming.

REDUCING VENTING

  • Except in narrowly specified circumstances, operators would be prohibited from venting natural gas.  Exceptions include emergencies and venting from certain equipment subject to proposed limits.
  • Operators would have to replace all “high bleed” pneumatic controllers with “low bleed” controllers within one year in most instances, tracking requirements in Colorado and Wyoming.
  • Operators would generally have to replace certain pneumatic pumps with solar pumps, if adequate for the function, or route the pumps to a flare (if one is available on-site), similar to Wyoming and proposed EPA requirements for new and/or existing pumps.
  • Within six months of rule’s effective date, operators would have to capture or flare gas from storage tanks that vent more than six tons of volatile organic compounds (Volatile Organic Compounds)/year.  This is expected to affect fewer than 300 tanks and is similar to EPA requirements for new tanks and Colorado and Wyoming requirements for new and existing tanks.
  • Operators of new wells (drilled after rule’s effective date) would generally not be allowed to purge those wells into the atmosphere; and operators unloading liquids from existing wells would be required to use best management practices.
  • Operators would be required to capture, flare, use, or re-inject gas released during well completions.  This would affect only conventional well completions, assuming that EPA finalizes its proposed rule for all hydraulically fractured well completions and recompletions.

CLARIFYING AND REVISING ROYALTY RATES

  • The proposal revises existing royalty provisions for onshore oil and gas leases to specify a royalty rate at or above 12.5 percent for new competitive leases, consistent with the statutory authority in the Mineral Leasing Act.
  • This modifies the existing regulation, which sets the rate at 12.5 percent and leaves the BLM no discretion to raise the rate as conditions change.
  • The proposal responds to findings and recommendations in audits from the Government Accountability Office and Department of Interior Office of Inspector General.
  • The BLM does not currently propose to raise royalty rates for new competitive leases.
  • The proposed rule also clarifies that royalties would apply only to gas flared from wells already connected to gas capture infrastructure. This reduces burden on operators to submit applications for approval to flare royalty-free.

Exxon’s inconvenient truth

This Guest Opinion first appeared in the Times-Call (FRL)

Back in the day when Exxon was just a gigantic oil company, before its merger with Mobil, Exxon had its own inconvenient truth. Based on investigation by Inside Climate News (ICN) as well as research by the Los Angeles Times in conjunction with a project at Columbia University, in the late 1970s and early 1980s Exxon scientists conducted pioneering research on climate change.

The ICN article is the basis for the following. In July 1977, James Black, one of Exxon’s senior scientists, gave a sobering report. From a written version he recorded later, Black said: “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”

In 1978, Black gave an updated report to a larger audience of Exxon scientists and managers. According to a written summary of his talk, Black warned: “Present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.” Among other things, Black also predicted that rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert. In the written summary of his 1978 talk Black said: “Some countries would benefit but others would have their agricultural output reduced or destroyed.”

In 1982, Exxon developed a primer on climate change and carbon dioxide. Again, from ICN: Marked “not to be distributed externally,” it contained information that “has been given wide circulation to Exxon management.” In it, the company recognized, despite the many lingering unknowns, that heading off global warming “would require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion.” The ICN article continued: Unless that happened, “there are some potentially catastrophic events that must be considered,” the primer said, citing independent experts. “Once the effects are measurable, they might not be reversible.”

Exxon continued with its climate change research, an issue that posed an existential threat to its oil business, until the late 1980s. Exxon scientists even were permitted to publish at least three peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals on their ground breaking research.

Unfortunately, in the late 1980s Exxon shifted tactics to stressing the uncertainty of research into the greenhouse effect. This change apparently was due to financial considerations and was not based on any research challenging its previous findings. Since then, Exxon and climate-change deniers have been successful in preventing effective action on this issue. We have lost 20 to 25 years when steps could have been taken, and now the window for alleviating the worse effects is much smaller. Every year we delay taking effective action means that future actions will have to be much more draconian or the effects of climate change will be far worse.

It appears as if nothing very constructive will be achieved during the current talks in Paris. The fossil fuel industry still has sufficient clout to stop effective action. Distressingly, the U.S. is pushing voluntary national reductions. There would be no requirements since each nation does what it wants when it wants. On top of that, there would be no enforcement mechanism to hold a nation to its commitment.

Talk about perversion— the worse climate change impacts will initially be experienced by those nations that had little to do with causing climate change. The U.S., a key contributor to the increase in greenhouse gases, will generally initially suffer lesser impacts. Coming generations, including the young children and grandchildren of today, who have had no role in causing climate change, will face the greatest suffering. Those generations aren’t going to think kindly towards us and our lack of action.

Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics who lives in Longmont.

No Ceiling for Noise

photo by D Wray

Working for or against the community?

The recent editorial touting the positive economic benefits of the Vance Brand Airport (VBA) was aimed at rallying support for efforts to increase airport operations (Lewis/Slayter opinion 7/26/2015).  The authors claim that further benefits will result from “implementation of the Airport Master Plan,” a veiled reference to the airport expansion, and particularly the runway extension that city council unanimously approved in 2012.

While you ponder the economic benefits provided as justification, consider the undeniable consequences of airport expansion:  more aircraft, more flights, more touch-and-goes, more nighttime flights, more noise and more pollution.

In exchange for your tacit approval for airport expansion, the authors, on behalf of the city, promise to “continue working to address noise concerns.”  Their efforts will include 1.) encouraging commercial instead of residential development near the airport, 2.) encouraging compliance with the voluntary noise abatement procedures (VNAP) and 3.)  asking the FAA to enlarge or modify the skydiving “flight box.”

These promises are distractions, not solutions. What steps have been taken so far?  None.  In fact, noise from skydiving operations has increased since the recent lawsuit ruling in Mile-Hi’s favor.  How would future commercial development help the people who are already subjected to the constant droning of the jump planes?  Regarding the VNAP, there is no enforcement, no fines and no accountability for pilots who choose not to follow them.  Consider that Mile-Hi Skydiving owner, Frank Casares, testified under oath that Mile-Hi pilots consistently follow the noise abatement procedures.  Finally, expanding the flight box will only subject more people to the noise and allow more jump planes to operate concurrently.

So, what can be done to address noise concerns?  Aviation attorney John Putnam presented a lecture in Longmont recently on this topic.  The airport receives Airport Improvement Program (AIP) federal grants in exchange for assurances to keep the airport open to all aeronautical users on reasonable terms.  The grant assurances limit the operator’s ability to adopt regulations to reduce noise.

Mr. Putnam stated that “[Grant assurance 22a] does acknowledge that airports can make reasonable rules governing the access to that airport.  However, the key piece is that it has to be reasonable.”  He also noted that a Part 150 noise study is voluntary and not required as a prerequisite for imposing local noise or access restrictions.  Mr. Putnam further explained that, in practice, the FAA deems all restrictions to be unreasonable, so it is difficult to justify regulations aimed at reducing noise.

Can airports survive without the federal grants?  Yes, according to Mr. Putnam, and real-world examples include East Hampton, NY and Santa Monica, CA.   Since 1982, the city has accepted about $4.7million in AIP grants. That’s an average of $204,347 per year – a modest sum that could be collected through airport user fees.

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving's Twin Otter skydiving planes.

Mi-Hile Skydiving – 70% of Longmont’s noise pollution. Photo by M. Douglas Wray (free to use if attributed)

Who is really benefitting from the airport?  On summer weekends, Mile-Hi Skydiving accounts for nearly 70% of operations. Pilot training and touch-and-goes account for another sizeable chunk of traffic.  Clearly, the airport users are the ones benefitting from the airport and they should pay their fair share for its maintenance, instead of relying on federal taxpayer subsidies that prohibit local control.

You are being asked to surrender your rights to accommodate aviation interests – don’t allow the soothing promises to lull you into complacency.  Remind city officials that the people who live here – both city and county residents who spend their hard-earned dollars in Longmont – are the lifeblood of the community and a high quality of life is worth taking a stand.  Would you allow a Longmont business to poison the water or foul the air? No, you would demand regulations to protect the health and well being of its citizens.

The time has come for the city to adopt sensible and mandatory regulations to address community noise concerns.  Otherwise, the solution will be to disentangle the airport from the onerous demands of the FAA grant assurances in order to restore local control over airport operations.

From Dr. Evil, with love

Recently The Sentinel’s editorial page repeated a charge that’s been formulated by the right-wing echo chamber: that the movement to oppose fracking is brought to you by “Russkies.” The more we see these desperate attempts to malign advocates (in this case, a Hail Mary pass that’s reminiscent of red baiting during the McCarthy era), the more we know: we’re winning.

The “journalistic investigations” referred to in Rick Wagner’s column linking the environmental movement to Russia have not come from journalists at all: the people behind the attack are the folks at a front group led by PR man for the oil and gas industry, Rick Berman — a man 60 Minutes has dubbed “Dr. Evil.” His dishonest attacks have targeted public interest groups from Mothers Against Drunk Driving to unions — and are bought and paid for by industry. He’s the man corporate executives call when things go horribly, horribly wrong for them in the court of public opinion.

And, for the oil and gas industry, that’s precisely what has happened. Despite paying more than $85 million to PR and advertising firms since 2012, and spending just shy of $12 million to influence the 2014 elections in Colorado, polls are not looking good for fracking. A recent Pew Poll, for instance, showed that 51 percent of the general public is opposed to increased fracking. The number leaps when you look at the scientists (66 percent) and biologists and medical scientists (73 percent) opposed to increased fracking. These numbers have the industry on high alert.

Coloradans are not fooled by these oil and gas industry scare tactics. Despite being outspent 30-to-1 by the oil and gas industry, five communities along the Front Range have voted to protect their health, safety and property from this dangerous, industrial practice. Gov. John Hickenlooper and the industry are desperately afraid of this bipartisan opposition to fracking and they have teamed up to undermine these public votes in the courts.

It’s also ironic that this line of attack is coming from Berman since he was secretly taped at a recent industry event in Colorado. The New York Times quoted Berman as saying, “You can either win ugly or lose pretty.” He also told the executives present, “Think of this as an endless war” (apparently touting his own services) “and you have to budget for it.” With the proliferation of front groups across Colorado promoting fracking — including the innocuously named Vital for Colorado, CRED, and Energy in Depth — it appears the industry is heeding his advice.

According to the Times, Berman told the executives that he could hide their role in funding his campaigns. “We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don’t know who supports us.”

So “Dr. Evil” knows a little something about obscuring facts. And as happens with a specious argument not based on facts, somewhere along the way, it was claimed that Food & Water Watch has been given money by the Sea Change Foundation, the foundation that Berman’s organization linked to Russian interests — a charge repeated in Wagner’s column. Food & Water Watch has never been funded by Sea Change.

Please don’t look to the oil and gas industry and their right-wing echo chamber to stay up on the facts, because on the facts, they lose on every count. Fracking is bad for the environment, communities and public health, and should be banned.

Sam Schabacker is the Western Region director for Food & Water Watch and is based in Denver. He is a native of Boulder.

Water for energy

While two former governors and our incumbent exult in the value of increased energy production, our supply of water is affected drastically. It has become necessary to remind our excited political leaders that you can’t drink oil. James Bond proved that at the conclusion of “Quantum of solace.” Double 07 allowed the villain a can of oil as his only liquid refreshment to get him through the desert. The results were deadly. Other deadly factors in the struggle of water for energy are:

Increased temperature. A recent report from the University of Colorado indicates our supply of water will be drastically affected by a projected two-degree increase in average temperature in the next 30 years, see http://cwcb.state.co.us/environment/climate-change/Documents/COClimateReportOnePager.pdf .

Irrigated agriculture. A dramatic decrease in the Texas, high plains, Oglala Aquifer—so named depending on where you stand—will force farmers to convert to dry land farming which is adversely affected by drought. See http://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/huge-aquifer-runs-through-8-states-quickly-being-tapped-out-f8C11009320. Also reported by the AP, Lubbock, TX Aug. 12, 2014. The aquifer runs from the Dakotas to Texas, and supplies the Mid-west breadbasket. It may last another 50 years, but some counties will run dry in 15 years unless recharging is increased.

Drought. Recharging is affected by draught and it is not keeping up with pumping out. All of California, most of the southwest and a good quarter of Colorado is in severe drought condition.

Fracking. “Fracking removes millions of gallons of precious freshwater from the water cycle.

Each well uses between two and five million gallons of locally-sourced freshwater which will be permanently contaminated by ground contaminants and toxic chemicals contained in the fracking fluid. About half of this water returns to the surface, where it is stored in steel containers until it can be injected deep underground in oil and gas waste wells.

“No one is entirely sure what happens to the other half of the water used in the process. Our best guess is that the water remains underground, though there are indications that at least some of this toxic cocktail makes its way back into the water supply.” http://www.cleanwateraction.org/page/fracking-dangers.

“Fracking companies begin slow shift to recycling wastewater.” See James Osborne, The Dallas Morning News, August 14, 2014

The “closed hydrologic cycle”. Yet the fact that Colorado is classified as semi-arid, a euphemism for “near desert,” is lost in the political battle over fracking. Many years ago I worked on a project for the Water Resource Division of the U.S. Geological Survey, and learned this simple fact: The amount of water on earth is constant.

“Water on the Earth is part of a closed system called the hydrologic cycle. Water evaporates, forms clouds, falls as rain or snow, collects in oceans, lakes and rivers and freezes as ice. No new water is created and it does not leave the system.” Except by fracking.

(USGS – http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/watercycle.html)

Excess fossil fuels? In a guest opinion, Congressman Gardner described how our exploding wealth of fossil fuels should be used to enhance foreign policy. Specifically, our government should force Putin to back off Europe because we would be able to resupply our allies with the natural gas they currently get from Russia. Rep. Gardner’s interest in water resources safety is zero.

Jobs? How many of those wonderful jobs generated by fracking are more than temporary? Anyone driving through the state can answer this question. Just about any road goes past oil and gas equipment erected to suck out the product. But I’ve driven up and down I-25 since I moved here in 1976 and not seen a single worker at a drilling rig.

The recent political compromise between elected officials and the fossil fuels industry solves nothing. Agreement on distance of fracking wells from humans misses the point. Our goal was to become energy self-sufficient and our most important natural resource is water.

Relevant history. As we all stood in lines for gasoline, President Jimmy Carter identified an energy crisis and increased funding for renewable energy. Then, the defense department’s share of federal energy consumption was over 98%. President Reagan ignored the problem by cutting renewable energy research 75% and increasing defense spending to drive up budget deficits. It was an amazing feat of legerdemain.

Who represents the people? Our governor joined the oil and gas lobby. Two former governors returned from political asylum to join the fray. As a card carrying member, Rep. Gardner lives in fantasy land. The Republican candidate for governor drops back 35 years to the bankrupt years of Reagan ignorance. He punts proclaiming it’s too early to invest in renewable energy. The conservative Republican alliance with the fossil fuels industry ignores conservation, its own founding principle.

The other day a friend asked if our emphasis on fracking would de-emphasize research on renewable energy. I’ll let you connect the dots. This latest panacea for energy consumption has a potential life expectancy in decades. It’s a neck and neck race as to which resource will run out first: fossil fuels or the aquifer wasted to free them.

Bill Ellis lives in Longmont. Reply to bill-ellis@comcast.net

1778 Lincoln St., Longmont, CO 80501

303-772-7687

Don’t take the bait

By Joel Dyer at The Boulder Weekly

Longmont Council member Bonnie Finley - with a surprising motion that should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention.

Longmont Council member Bonnie Finley – with a surprising motion that should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention.

It was a nearly packed house Tuesday, Aug. 26, in the Longmont City Council chambers as citizens who believe that local communities should have the final say over fracking in their neighborhoods turned up in good numbers.

The Council was voting on whether the city should continue its support of the fracking ban that Longmont voters placed into their city charter via the ballot box in 2012.

You may recall that Tuesday’s vote was necessitated by Boulder County District Court Judge D.D. Mallard’s ruling in July that found Longmont didn’t have the authority to ban hydraulic fracturing within its city limits because the state was in charge of regulating the practice and a precedent had been set in 1992 when Greeley tried to ban drilling within its city limits only to lose that right in court after being sued.

Public comment went as expected with one speaker after another imploring council to appeal Mallard’s decision. Many reminded the seven-member council that 60 percent of Longmont voters supported the fracking ban and that those citizens expect council to fight for their ban as long and as far as possible. In some instances that reminder sounded like a plea and in others a threat.

And then something a bit unusual happened. After virtually no discussion, pro-oil and gas industry Councilwoman Bonnie Finley, the same Bonnie Finley who has fought for years now to allow the industry to drill and frack Longmont at will, opened her mouth and said she wanted to make a motion that was going to surprise people.

“There’s a need for clarity on the issue,” she said. “That’s why I am supporting this [appeal], and that’s why I believe we should go all the way.”

And then she said one more thing.

“And I also believe we should invite other communities with similar interests to join our case.”

The crowd went wild. The other members of council, both those who were recently voted in by the antifracking crowd and those who are more industry-friendly, quickly echoed Finley’s sentiments. They all agreed with great enthusiasm that all the other communities along with Boulder County that have fracking bans or moratoriums should hitch their antifracking wagons to Longmont’s appeal.

Translation: Look at this really great giant horse Finley is offering to us as a gift. Let’s take it inside the fort, celebrate our victory and get a good night’s sleep.

For those unfamiliar with Longmont City Council, for more than a decade Finley has been employed by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry a.k.a. the Colorado Chamber of Commerce. Her job at the state level is government affairs and membership retention. So who are some of the members that she is working to retain? How about trade groups like the Colorado Petroleum Association, Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and the American Chemical Industry, all groups whose profits are increased by way of drilling and fracking. COGA is even one of the organizations who is suing Longmont over its ban.

The fact that Finley has not recused herself from votes on issues like fracking — an issue wherein her employer has a stated position and is actively trying to sway public opinion and lobbying to create a more oil-andgas -friendly regulatory environment at the state and local level — is an appalling abuse of Longmont’s democratic process. It’s like giving the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry a proxy vote at the center of one of the most important issues in Colorado history. It is also an incredible oversight by her council peers that they have not demanded that she recuse herself in light of this clear and substantial conflict of interest.

So why the sudden change of heart by Finley at Tuesday’s council meeting? First, I think that everyone on council knew that the city was going to appeal, so one dissenting vote wouldn’t have mattered.

Second Finley’s or her boss’s or COGA’s, however you want to interpret who controls this council seat, suggestion that all the communities with bans and moratoriums join Longmont’s appeal is pretty shrewd. After all, even the anti-frackers applauded the suggestion. But it may well be a Trojan horse of sorts.

The oil and gas industry is certain that it will eventually prevail in defeating the Longmont ban. They may yet be wrong, but truth be told, they think they will win sooner than later as the courts seem to be rushing through the fracking cases these days.

After the great Jared Polis debacle left the industry with a two-year drilling window before the next attempt can be made by citizens to create a constitutional amendment that can protect communities from the dangers of drilling and fracking, getting the rigs going in Boulder County potentially has a 24-month timeline.

So getting Lafayette, Boulder, Broomfield and Boulder County all into one court case wherein their concerns and legal arguments could all be dismissed at the same time would really help the industry exploit this small window of opportunity to drill up Boulder County . If each of the towns and the county fight their lawsuits and presumed-to eventually-be-filed lawsuits individually, it will no doubt drag things out much longer, regardless of the final outcomes, quite likely well past the Polis/industry created twoyear drilling window.

So thanks for your motion Bonnie Finley and thanks for your vote to appeal. But as for your invitation to get all the governmental entities to join Longmont’s appeal, I think that the elected officials getting your invitation will see it for what it is, an attempt to get the rigs drilling more quickly in Boulder County. Thanks but no thanks.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

Longmont’s home rule charter is under assault

Where's council?

Where’s council?

Longmont’s Home Rule City Charter is the foundational document for the city government of Longmont. The charter can be amended only when a majority of Longmont voters approve a change. Section 3.7 of the charter states, “Each councilman shall take an oath or affirmation before entering upon the duties of his office, that he will support the Constitution of the United States and the state of Colorado, and the charter and ordinances of the city of Longmont, and faithfully perform the duties of his office”.

We are rapidly approaching a time when current members of the city council will be tested regarding their sworn oath to support the city charter. On July 24, a Boulder County District Judge issued an adverse ruling against the citizens initiated charter change banning the use of hydraulic fracturing within the city limits. The judge stayed her ruling pending an appeal to a higher court. Council members who vote to defend our home rule charter by appealing this lower court decision will fulfill their oath. Those who oppose appealing the decision will be voting to capitulate to the oil and gas industry, hardly an act that supports the city charter.

The city charter provision under assault is the one initiated by citizens in 2012 when they became convinced the city council was not adequately protecting the residents’ health, safety and quality of life, all of which were threatened by the toxic industrial operations of the oil and gas industry. Ballot question 300 was approved by 60 percent of the voters. At the time, several members of the city council actively campaigned against passage of the amendment.

Longmont citizens should be aware that their city charter is under assault by the oil and gas industry, by Gov. Hickenlooper and by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). The assault began immediately after Longmont residents approved ballot question 300. Gov. Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission immediately joined the oil and gas industry in a lawsuit to overturn the citizens’ vote. The same duo of players initiated a lawsuit against the city council for adopting an ordinance in June 2012 imposing additional safety regulations on the industry.

These powerful and well funded players are  determined to smash any ordinance or charter provision that attempts to reasonably regulate the oil and gas industry within Longmont’s corporate limits.
It is up to Longmont residents to clearly communicate to their elected council members that the city charter belongs to the people, not to the council. Residents need to remind their elected representatives that they, not the council, initiated and supported this charter amendment while overcoming nearly $500,000 in oil and gas industry propaganda opposing the initiative.

I encourage any city council member who has not had an up close exposure to the devastating impacts of toxic oil and gas operations on residential neighborhoods to travel to Greeley, Erie, Firestone or Frederick. For those who believe Gov. Hickenlooper’s propaganda about Colorado’s “toughest regulations in the nation” protects everyone, check out the neighborhood in Greeley where the COGCC recently approved permits for 67 wells within 350 feet of Frontier Elementary School.

Fortunately, the Mineral Corporation reconsidered drilling on the permitted site after neighborhood residents expressed outrage. However, Hickenlooper’s COGCC did nothing to protect the neighborhood or school children.

Longmont’s Home Rule Charter can be amended only when residents vote to amend it. Until that happens, each member of the Longmont City Council is expected to faithfully perform the duties of their office. Longmont residents expect council members to uphold their oath to support the charter and they will be held accountable at the ballot box if they fail. Any elected official hoping to use “it is too expensive to keep appealing” as an excuse to abandon the defense of the city charter needs to check with the city attorney regarding how much of the work has already been done for appealing this issue all of the way to the Supreme Court. Of course, if the district court’s decision is overturned, it will be expensive to prepare for trial to defend the fracking ban. However, if council members do not believe in fighting to defend the voter- approved city charter, why did they run for city council and swear to support it?

Gordon Pedrow is a former Longmont city manager.

Pro-fracking group books TV ads before November election

Ad financiers: Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Noble Energy

TV ad, Pro-Fracking expenditure, CO IndpendentSandra Fish
Oil and gas interests are planning ahead, even though a ballot initiative isn’t likely to be finalized until summer.

A pro-fracking issue group has reserved 323 TV ad spots at a cost of more than $299,000 for the nine weeks leading up to the November election – and that’s at just one Denver station.

Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence is an issue committee formed in January “to oppose anti-fracking ballot measures and to support pro-fracking ballot measures,” said Jon Haubert, spokesman for Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, a pro-fracking nonprofit backed by the oil-and-gas industry.

At least two ballot initiatives are being proposed that would allow communities to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.  No pro-fracking initiatives have been formally organized, but Haubert didn’t rule out the possibility.

In an order placed on Feb. 11, a California company, Sadler Strategic Media, scheduled the ads to run in September, October and early November on KMGH Channel 7.The ad buy includes spots on news programs as well as popular ABC prime-time shows such as “Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Nashville.”

The company has also sought information about ad rates from KUSA Channel 9, according to a document filed with the Federal Communication Commission.  Typically, campaigns buy time on most network affiliates in major markets such as Denver.

Stations in the top 50 television markets are required to report information about political ad buys to the FCC.  That means Denver stations must file, but stations in Colorado Springs and Grand Junction don’t have to. They keep paper files available for inspection at their stations.

It could be early August before signatures are due to qualify initiatives — either pro- or anti-fracking — for the November ballot.

Haubert said the industry is “preparing in case they need to run advertising.”

“It seems that elections are year-round these days.”

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Noble Energy created the nonprofit Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development after several communities approved fracking bans in the November 2013 elections.

On Sunday, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission approved new rules targeting methane and other chemicals released in oil and gas exploration. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper recommended the rule changes with support from Anadarko, Noble and some other companies.

Still, fracking remains highly controversial and industry is prepping to convince Colorado voters to protect its ability to drill throughout the state.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association is suing some communities over their fracking prohibitions, and Hickenlooper has said property rights guarantees in the state Constitution should override such bans.  The state has signed on as a plaintiff in some of the lawsuits.

Coloradans can expect a deluge of political ads this fall because of a U.S. Senate race and one of the hottest congressional races in the country in the state’s 6th District, where GOP incumbent Mike Coffman is facing Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff.  In 2010, outside groups spent some $30 million on Colorado’s U.S. Senate race, much of it on TV advertising.

Katy Atkinson, a Republican political consultant, said reserving ad time now makes sense, even if it’s unclear whether industry will be on the offense or defense of a ballot issue.

“It is always smart in a ballot issue to buy early when you can,” she said.

Atkinson recalled a ballot issue she worked on that couldn’t place an order until they had money to go on TV. By that time, she said, “there was nothing available. We had to buy the Golf Channel.”

Advocates of an initiative to allow local governments to limit oil and gas development told The Colorado Independent that they plan a grassroots campaign heavy on social media and door-to-door work.

Some ballot campaigns have succeeded by spending little on TV ads. In 2012, the successful campaign to approve medical marijuana spent about $170,000 on 154 ads in the Denver market.  Last year, backers of a tax increase for schools spent more than $11 million total, including millions on TV ads. Voters overwhelmingly rejected that initiative.Pro-fracking group books at least $299K in TV ads before November election

 

Coloradans eye rulings around country in favor of local fracking bans

sign_no_oilfield_traffic

John Tomasic – first published on The Colorado Independent December 23, 2013

BOULDER — Supporters of local bans on the oil-and-gas drilling process known as fracking celebrated a key legal victory in Pennsylvania last week, where the state supreme court ruled unconstitutional a law that sought to override local zoning initiatives in the state.

Colorado, like Pennsylvania — and states like California, New York and Ohio — is the site of a tug of war between state and local communities over drilling regulations. In the last two years, five Colorado towns on the heavily drilled northern Front Range have passed bans on fracking, drawing lawsuits from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association lobby group that have been either officially or tacitly supported by the state. The Association’s suit against the city of Longmont is scheduled to be heard this summer.

The news from Pennsylvania spread quickly over social networks in Colorado.

If the Colorado Oil and Gas Association cannot be persuaded to drop the lawsuits that seek to undo the results of fair elections, then we hope and expect Colorado courts to similarly recognize the rights of voters and respect the principle of local control,” said Our Broomfield, an anti-fracking group that passed a ban in that city in November.

“In Colorado, cities and towns should have the right to use zoning laws to protect the public from the toxic industrial process of drilling and fracking,” said Clean Water Action spokesman Gary Wockner. “We are optimistic that Colorado will follow Pennsylvania in allowing local control for local governments.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extraction where millions of gallons of water are mixed with chemicals and sand and blasted through drill holes deep into the earth to break up rock formations and loosen gas. Although the oil and gas industry has conducted fracking operations for 60 years, new horizontal methods have greatly increased the effectiveness of the process and have spurred a major drilling boom gas fields around the country.

Thousands of wells now dot the Wattenberg field in north-eastern Colorado. Bloomberg News reports oil-and-gas production has hit half-century record highs in Colorado. Trucks move equipment and frack fluid across great agricultural stretches north of Denver day and night but also increasingly through the region’s cities, towns and subdivisions, setting up drill pads in backyards and next to schools and apartment complexes. Site drilling goes on for months at a time, nonstop, filling neighborhoods with lights and noise twenty four hours a day. Residents have grown increasingly concerned over possible threats posed to health, safety and the environment and they have watched the value of their homes drop.

In Colorado, bans on fracking have so far passed in Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Lafayette in addition to the first ban passed in Longmont. The Colorado initiatives join a movement across the U.S., where more than 380 local bans have passed according to Food and Water Watch. Governor John Hickenlooper has opposed the bans. He says he’s sympathetic to residents but that it is the state’s responsibility to regulate the oil and gas industry, which he believes would be hobbled if drillers had to navigate a patchwork of varied local rules and regulations.

The ruling in Pennsylvania comes as the Ohio Supreme Court weighs a similar case. Two courts in New York have decided in favor of local regulations on drilling and the New York Supreme Court may soon take up the question.

Eyes of the Nation on Colorado Towns’ Fracking Fight

Published on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 by Common Dreams

‘Industry across the nation is looking to see what Colorado voters are going to do.’

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Coloradoans picket frack-friendly Governor John Hickenlooper in Longmont, Colorado. (Photo: FreeRangeLongmont.com/ cc/ Flickr)

Coloradoans picket frack-friendly Governor John Hickenlooper in Longmont, Colorado. (Photo: FreeRangeLongmont.com/ cc/ Flickr)

In what many are calling the new “ground zero” in the national fight against fracking, the toxic gas and oil extracting process is on the ballot in four Colorado towns where citizens are taking on the heavyweights of the fossil fuel industry.

Following the example of Longmont, which last year became the first Colorado city to ban fracking, next Wednesday, voters in Boulder, Broomfield, Lafayette and Fort Collins will have the opportunity to choose whether or not they support the controversial extraction method of shale oil and gas in their communities.

The Denver Business Journal provides this rundown of the four ballot measures:

  • Broomfield: Question 300 would impose a five-year prohibition on all fracking.
  • Fort Collins: Its measure would create a five-year moratorium on fracking and storage of waste products related to the oil and gas industry in town.
  • City of Boulder: 2H proposes a five-year moratorium on oil and gas exploration.
  • Lafayette: Question No. 300 would ban new oil and gas wells in town. [As well as] prohibit “depositing, storing or transporting within city limits any water, brine, chemical or by-products used in or that result from extraction of oil and gas.”

Though local ballot initiatives, these are no small-town battles. According to reports, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) has poured over $600,000 into campaigns against the moratoriums.

“The oil and gas industry is trying to intimidate voters by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy this election,” Laura Fronckiewicz, campaign manager for the pro-moratorium group Our Broomfield, told Denver Westword.

Among those industry insiders who are concerned that the success of these local initiatives could spell trouble for the future of fracking in the west, Tim Wigley, president of oil and gas trade group Western Energy Alliance, said, “I’ve really beat the drum with our members […] across the West about how dangerous a precedent these could be if they become law.”

“The whole country is looking at Colorado as ground zero.” The state, he added, “has been traditionally a big-time [energy] producer, and the industry across the nation is looking to see what Colorado voters are going to do.”

Three of the four initiatives propose a temporary ban on the process which, according to Fronckiewicz, will allow researchers more time to determine fracking’s “true effects” on residents’ health and the environment.

Colorado’s history as an energy-producing state where landowners’ mineral rights are often owned by commercial entities compound the challenges faced by these grassroots initiatives.

The City of Longmont—where last November nearly 60 percent of voters approved an amendment that prohibited fracking and the disposal of fracking waste products within city limits—is currently facing suits by both the COGA and the state.

Those suits, however, have not succeeded in deterring others from taking up their own fight against Big Oil and Gas.

“People on Colorado’s Front Range enjoy their quality of life and this industry represents an immediate threat to public health and that quality of life,” Cliff Willmeng of the activist group East Boulder County United told the Denver Post. “People see that the question of the environment is not an abstraction—it’s something we’re living through now.”

Citizens For Quiet Skies – Lawsuit Is Imminent

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving's Twin Otter skydiving planes.

Mi-Hile Skydiving’s Twin Otter skydiving plane.

Boulder County, CO – Citizens For Quiet Skies announced today that a lawsuit is imminent regarding their efforts to address the community noise impact from Mile-Hi Skydiving jump planes.  For more than two years Quiet Skies has made efforts to work toward a cooperative solution with the skydiving operator and the city of Longmont.  These efforts have failed.  As a result, Quiet Skies has retained the law offices of Randall Weiner, a Boulder environmental law firm, to seek a remedy via the courts.

Thousands of north Boulder County residents who live under the Mile-Hi Skydiving “flight box” are affected by the noise.  The flight box extends from the Longmont airport northwest to Lyons and south to Gunbarrel, including Niwot, Hygiene.  On weekends, Mile-Hi Skydiving operates multiple aircraft concurrently, for more than 12 hours per day.  In particular, the white and purple DeHavilland Twin Otter creates the most objectionable noise, which is described as a low-frequency reverberating drone.

The city of Longmont, as the airport proprietor has the authority to regulate operations to address community noise concerns.  However, the city has continually refused to adopt reasonable regulations that would offer some measure of relief to the community.

Further details will be provided at a brief public announcement:
WHAT:   Announcement of lawsuit
WHEN:  Tuesday, October 29th at 6:30 pm
WHERE: Longmont Public Library, 409 4th Ave. Meeting room A, Longmont, main level

To find out more about Citizens For Quiet Skies:

Web:  CitizensForQuietSkies.org
Facebook:  Citizens For Quiet Skies
Primary organizer:  Kimberly Gibbs
303-530-6918
kimberly_gibbs@yahoo.com

COGA turns to Boulder Weekly with latest spin

The industry feebly attempts to remove egg on its collective face from flood coverage.

Editor’s Note:  The following appeared in the Boulder Weekly in response to a letter to the editor by Doug Flanders of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association  Flanders is the Director of Policy and External Affairs for COGA.  In layman’s lingo, he’s the go-to guy when COGA needs someone to trash those in Colorado who seek to protect their communities from the known dangers of fracking for oil and gas to health and the environment .


Flared gasOh, Mr. Flanders! I can’t figure out whether you’re wringing your hands in distress and bewilderment or in delight at being able, yet again, to take pot shots at the environment.  Yes, I wrote environment. I did not mean “environmentalists.”

I know a thing or two about the oil and gas industry. Once upon a time I had an insider’s look at it. So before you drip away in self-praise at your community-assistance motives, let me point out that your industry has a 40-plus-year history of spending millions upon millions upon millions of dollars to repair a badly bruised and battered public image. (Remember the 1970s?)

While those who are benefiting from the “assistance” that your mega-billion-dollar companies have contributed towards relief, auditors will find those write-offs buried in your accounting under a derivative of public relations.

You know that your alleged compassion and generosity goes well beyond helping your fellow man and his environment. If there were such genuine caring, your industry wouldn’t be creating the environmental chaos that you inflict each and every day.

Methane released into the air that is damaging to human health as ozone and to the climate even more than carbon dioxide. Chemicals thrust into the ground and brought back up that are causing serious illness to children and adults alike. Total disregard of communities’ rights to self-determination. Perhaps we should do an amputation of your industry’s collective middle finger. Would that it were just that easy.

Your partner-in-crime Tisha Schuller looked to be agonizing when interviewed during television reporting on oil spills, tanks tipped and overturned, berms that allegedly contain contamination washed into farmland and waterways in the aftermath of the flooding. While Ms. Schuller was telling the viewing audience “Don’t worry, be happy,” the cut-aways were showing such images. Now really, Mr. Flanders, do you expect us to believe her — and you?

So as a reaction to your public relations disaster from the flood, you pulled out your Rapid Response Team to come up with an approach to remedy the bruises from falling on your faces. Those dastardly ordinary citizens — moms, dads, grandpas, grandmas, doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends — all those people who dare to point out the obvious and according to you and your mouthpieces are using a disaster to drive home a reality that you don’t want in public consciousness. Your industry causes damage — to people’s health and safety, to the environment, to the climate, to the air we breathe and water we drink and use to grow our food. And you will continue to cause that damage until you are stopped. We plan to do just that. And we will do it with truth, justice and the truly American way — not with lie on top of lie on top of lie, not by calling in chits with elected officials, not with lawsuits where the only intent is to deprive people and communities of their rights and well-being. You are on the wrong side of history, Mr. Flanders of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the wrong side.

 

Elect candidates who stand against fracking

Cast your ballot for those who will best protect Longmont's right to local control.

Vote, checked with red pencilAs we approach municipal elections Nov. 5, I believe it is critical that voters understand where each candidate stands regarding two lawsuits the city is currently defending. Although each lawsuit pertains to the community’s ability to regulate oil and gas operations within its corporate boundaries, each resulted from a separate approach to address foundational principles of local government in Colorado.

Home rule, citizen initiative and local control are key concepts found in the Colorado Constitution, the Longmont city charter and in years of practical application. The reason these basic principles of government are so critical is simple. When properly applied, they put key decisions about local communities in the hands of the people most heavily impacted, local residents. Under our charter, the citizens elect the City Council, which has the obligation to adopt appropriate policies to protect our health, environment and quality of life. This includes appropriate regulations for all land uses.

If and when residents do not believe the elected city council members are appropriately protecting the community, citizens have the right to initiate appropriate actions. This is what happened in 2012 regarding oil and gas operations. The ability to adopt appropriate land use regulations is a basic right of home rule cities in Colorado and a fundamental expectation of citizens. As you will see below, the primary opponents of local oil and gas land use regulations in Longmont are Gov. John Hickenlooper and the multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry. That is why city council elections this year are absolutely critical.

The first lawsuit is an attempt to thwart the city council’s right to reasonably regulate land uses in Longmont. It was filed by Gov. Hickenlooper via his industry-dominated Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). The oil and gas industry quickly joined the governor’s legal action so that it could throw its deep pockets of cash into the fight to have the state, not the city council, regulate oil and gas operations within Longmont.

The governor felt compelled to take legal action against our community because a majority of the Longmont City Council dared to enact land use regulations that prohibit oil/gas operations, including hydraulic fracturing, within residential neighborhoods and requires these operations to be at least 750 feet from schools, hospitals and day care centers. Since the governor finds these rather timid Longmont regulations to be too restrictive of the heavy oil and gas industry, it verifies how little protection he believes our citizens deserve.

As of today, the city is vigorously defending its home rule rights to reasonably regulate the heavy industrial activities associated with oil and gas operations. However, a future city council could stop defending this lawsuit and capitulate to the governor and the industry. At least one candidate, mayoral challenger Bryan Baum, has publicly stated that he is in favor of settling this lawsuit. If you believe in local control, you need to know where the other candidates stand.

The second lawsuit stems from 2012, when a group of Longmont residents became convinced that a majority of the elected city council was not adequately protecting the community from the impacts of oil and gas operations. The citizens initiated a city charter amendment that prohibits fracking operations within the city boundaries. Approximately 60 percent of the voters agreed with the amendment last November and it is now a part of the city charter. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) promptly filed legal action challenging Longmont’s city charter. The governor quickly joined forces with the industry.

I hope you see the pattern of state government and industry joining forces to attack local control. The opponents of local control hope that the combination of the power of state government and the deep pockets of a politically connected industry will intimidate small communities and citizens. They think bullying local government serves their interests. It will not work in Longmont if we elect the right city council members.

Both of these lawsuits address important local control issues; therefore, they must both be vigorously defended. The one addresses the powers of a home rule city as provided for in the Colorado constitution. The other defends the right of citizens to initiate charter amendments or legislation when their elected representatives fail to act appropriately. These rights and powers of our local community are in the hands of the next city council. I encourage each voter to understand the candidates’ position and cast your ballot for the ones who will best protect our community.

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow