Energy

Fracking: Coming to a neighborhood near you?

This map is a fundamental resource for understanding the issue of oil and gas wells in the City of Longmont.

The Red Zones are locations where the Colorado Oil and Gas conservation Commission (COGCC) allows oil wells to be located on the surface.

There are Red Zones in Rough and Ready park, Jim Hamm Nature Area, Union Reservoir, Sandstone Ranch, Quail Campus, the Airport, Dickens Park, Rogers Grove Park, Golden Ponds, Blue Skies Park, Sunset Golf Course, Fox Hill Golf Course, Clark Centennial park, Ute Creek Golf Course, Mountain View Cemetery, MacIntosh lake, Twin Peaks Golf Course, Dog Park #2 and the Fairgrounds. Red Zones are located near Steven Day Park, Affolter Park, Willow Farm Park and about 1/2 of Longmont’s Schools.


If you don’t believe that there will be oil and gas wells drilled at these locations, then ask the COGCC if they are willing to specifically designate a single one of them as ‘off-limits’ to drillers. Indeed, the COGCC threatens legal action against any attempt to protect these Red Zones, and they permit oil operators to harm the public by using open toxic waste pits within them.

All of Longmont’s neighborhoods are at risk!

ROAR event take-aways

Last Sunday’s educational event at Trail Ridge Middle School was wildly successful by any measure. Nearly 300 people filled the cafeteria meeting room to hear experts and local residents explain what hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is and how it might affect Longmont unless something is done to slow down the momentum. Scott Rochat reported some of the take-aways of the afternoon (“ROAR urges tighter drilling regs,” Feb. 27), but did not summarize what were perhaps the most important facts introduced.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Recent studies on air quality in Erie and water pollution in Wyoming (not to mention the raised benzene levels near the Trail Ridge school itself) counter the industry’s claims to being safe.

The oil and gas corporations exert immense pressure at the state level to pre-empt local home rule regarding our rights to health, safety and protection at the local level.

There is no way to protect our rights even with strict regulations because inspection and enforcement are inadequate.

Costs for everything from road damage to emergency response must be borne by local communities.

We residents are not always told the truth about accidents and the long-range consequences of fracking. Or about such things as the effect of fracking on homes built over abandoned mines or wells that might not have been disclosed when the home was purchased.

Longmont’s 120-day moratorium expires April 17, but an extension of at least six months was recommended by Sunday’s speakers in order to tighten proposed regulations for Longmont and to consider other options that would ban fracking altogether within city limits.

For more information about fracking, visit LongmontROAR.org.

Open letter to Governor Hickenlooper

Governor Hickenlooper,

You don't look good in kneepads John.

I voted for you and donated funds toward your campaign. You’ve shown leadership in many areas. However, when the recent advertisement underwritten by COGA came out with your photo and “boilerplate” industry propaganda on it, I was infuriated.

The toughest Disclosure Rule in the nation does nothing to protect your citizens. It trivializes the incredible harm that the industry has wrought on your constituents. Furthermore, this isn’t just about jobs. It’s about the health, safety and wellbeing of people. You can’t put a price tag on people’s health! What is most important? You are a parent. How would you feel if they drilled a well in your backyard with a 350 foot setback? Would you be concerned for your child’s health? What about the VOCs and methane leaking from the condensate tanks or being burned off in the stack? What about the leaking produced water that has occurred more times than has ever been reported to the COGCC?

I’d like to suggest that you take a look at the work by Dr. Theo Colborne of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange . She is a respected scientist and has hard facts that would appeal to you. Her video, “What you need to know about Natural Gas Production,”  is based on scientific evidence that addresses the incredible harm to people, to wildlife and on vegetation as well as how our water is poisoned. If all our water is destroyed, it can never be used again (as in “removed from the hydrologic cycle”). My question is, what do we drink when all our water is destroyed? We’re going to get very thirsty if you allow this to continue. Frankly, your support of the oil and gas industry is blasphemous.

I’m also objecting to your wanting the State of Colorado to have supreme control over communities and counties. This is taking away our inalienable rights guaranteed in the State Constitution – especially for Home Rule cities and counties.

I’m very disappointed in the stance you’ve taken and feel betrayed by you. You are not representing my interests – you are representing those that want to rape, pillage and plunder our state.

I would ask for a personal reply but I’m sure it would probably be written by your staff members and then be the usual noncommittal drivel that I receive from other public servants.

Teresa Foster

Council gives thumbs up to “local control” — or not

A funny thing happened at “the Forum,” that is, City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Toward the end of the meeting, assistant city manager Sandi Seader reported on the 100-plus bills in this year’s state Legislature that she is tracking on behalf of Longmont. She wanted direction from council.

Seader is tracking one bill that proposes to make installing residential fire suppressant sprinkler systems compulsory throughout the state.

An ever-lugubrious member of the council’s majority spoke passionately about the importance of “local control.” She’d just hate to see anyone building a home in Longmont being forced to install a ceiling sprinkler system just because the state says so. Unanimous agreement. Local control, yes!

Later, HB 1277 was described (kinda). Sandy paused, then meekly agreed with a usually quiet councilwoman who had quickly opined, “This doesn’t change anything.” Two other councilmen agreed.

The bill’s title is: “Concerning Strengthening Local Governments’ Regulation of Oil and Gas Operations, and, in Connection Therewith, Strengthening Local Government’s Zoning and Land Use Authority Over Oil and Gas Operations.”

In the real world, this bill changes the very basis of the state’s pre-emption of all meaningful local control of oil and gas drilling and extraction.

It simply and succinctly says that “local government regulation of the impacts of land use and development (including oil and gas operations) furthers the state’s interest in orderly land use and environmental protection.”

Without HB1 1277, Colorado state law and case law sustains that the extraction of oil and gas is so vitally important to the state, that only the state can regulate it. The viewpoint of the tyrannical Colorado Oil & Gas Commission is that home rule and local control must be pre-empted.

Without HB 1277,

Can the city zone hazardous multiple gas well pads to the city’s heavy industrial zone? Nope.

Require setback distances from wells to actually protect the people in homes, hospitals, churches, schools, parks, playgrounds, surface waters and home property values? Nope.

Refuse to allow large gas wells on city open space and wildlife sanctuaries?  Nope.

Prohibit open pits of toxic waste water?  Nope.

Set noise levels?  Nope.

Monitor and regulate toxic emissions?  Nope.

Inspect the well and well site?  Nope.

Have city fees and/or fines to recoup city expenses of monitoring and inspecting the well?  Nope.

All of the above local land use and zoning prerogatives are currently pre-empted for oil and gas wells.

HB 1277 clearly states that “an operator” (oil and gas corporation) “is also subject to zoning and land use authority and regulation by local governments, as provided by law.”

The summary of HB 1277 states that it “clarifies that oil and gas operations are subject to local governments’ authority, as well as the authority of the oil and gas commission. The bill establishes that oil and gas operations are subject to the same local control as is established for other mineral extractions.” That is, a lot of Local Control.

HB 1277 concludes: “Safety clause. The general assembly hereby finds, determines and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety.”

HB 1277 is on one side of one piece of paper.

An ever-bellicose council member thundered: “This bill does NOTHING! We gave Representative Jones (the bill’s sponsor) a whole long list of things we wanted. This is only one sheet of paper.” Holding and shaking the piece of paper above his head he roared, “It’s not worth the paper it’s written on!” and tossed it aside.

Council voted to not support HB 1277. Instead, it was relegated to the bin of the hundred or so bills on Ms. Seader’s city watch list.

Strong local control over home fire sprinkling systems? Hell, yes! Longmont’s government lobbies for it!

Stronger local control over oil and gas drilling and wells? Hell, no!  Longmont’s council will not endorse.

It really would be funny, if it weren’t so pathetic.

Let’s all, as individuals, contact the House Local Government Committee members to support HB 1277.   It is scheduled for hearing Monday afternoon.

Contact information is available at LongmontROAR.org.

Hickenlooper thumbs nose at Coloradans fracking concerns

The Daily Camera ran an interesting article with staff comments from a report on the large infrastructure costs associated with fracking.

On the opposite page was an ad of Governor Hickenlooper touting the economic and environmental protections from the new disclosure rule. Interestingly, the fine print at the bottom is “This message is brought to you as a public service by Colorado Oil and Gas Association.” So that is who has Governor Hickenlooper’s ear. I have known that he is not listening to me, and probably not to most of the readers of this letter.

The public is learning about the environmental, health, and property damages wrought upon our neighbors in Weld County and other parts of Boulder County. We are not ignorant about this issue any more. The disclosure rule itself is a bit like the state preparing to kill an innocent prisoner, and saying “No worries, we’re going to disclose what’s in the lethal injection!” In fact all of the regulations touted by Governor Hickenlooper and Colorado Environmental Coalition are obviously ineffective. Not only do we have physical evidence of the damage they claim to avoid, but there are also only 17 Inspectors for the approximately 47,000 active and 82,073 abandoned wells in Colorado.

There are numerous reports found on COGCC’s website that report groundwater contamination, surface water contamination, and to even include, aquifer contamination. I am absolutely surprised by what appears to be an erroneous statement,when factual state information reports the opposite.

LongmontROAR event plays to packed house

A huge shout-out to all who attended and to all who assisted in making “The Truth about Fracking” an enormous success!
The event was held at Trail Ridge Middle School in Longmont on Sunday, February 26, 2011 with an official count of 275 souls in attendance. The overflow crowd found people sitting on nearby stairs and looking on from the floor above the presentation area.

This venue was chosen because only a few hundred feet from the school is the Rider Well. The operator, TOP Operating, has failed repeatedly to mitigate a multi-year history of benzene leaks and contamination. Astonishingly, before the operator placed a fence around the well, children would play on the tanks in this highly contaminated area that has registered benzene levels as high as 100 times the designated safe level of exposure.

Leading off the event was a powerful presentation by research biologist Shane Davis of the Sierra Club, Poudre Canyon Group. The factual material was drawn directly from the website of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The power point presentation covered a wide area, including an explanation of how horizontal drilling and fracking is accomplished, the chemicals used in the fracking fluid, the scope of drilling in Colorado, to name only a few areas.

Despite what the oil and gas industry and the COGCC frequently state, Colorado has a questionable, if not poor, record on inspection and mitigation. As Davis presented from COGCC data, there are approximately 47,000 active wells in Colorado and approximately 80,000 abandoned wells. Only 17 inspectors are staffed to cover inspections that are meant to occur yearly. That amounts to nearly 8,000 wells per inspector, a physical impossibility. COGCC depends on the operators to follow the rules. We know from experience that without supervision, regulations mean little. We also know that the “honor system” does not work in our current national climate, if it ever did.

Weston Wilson, retired Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) environmental engineer, spoke following Davis. Wilson was the EPA whistleblower on the dangers of fracking. He testified before Congress and was featured in the Academy Award winning documentary Gasland.

Wilson spoke to the current conventional belief about natural gas as a clean energy source that will serve as a bridge fuel to a future of renewable energy. But natural gas is only “clean” when the analysis is limited to the burning of the gas. When taken in totality, from drilling to consumption, natural gas is actually as dirty as coal. This is the result of the methane that leaks into the atmosphere when the gas is released to the surface. Methane is several times more damaging to the upper ozone layer than carbon dioxide and also is a major contributor to ground level ozone that puts all of us, especially children, the elderly, and those with compromised respiratory systems, at risk. A recently released study shows that there is higher pollution in Erie, Colorado, from methane caused by drilling than there is in Houston, Texas, and Pasadena, California. Both of those cities have a long and documented history of unhealthy ozone levels.

Phil Doe, former head of the policy office for the administration of water law in the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s water operations, concluded the professional presentations. Doe spoke about the excessive amounts of water required for fracking in a state that is legally over-committed in water allocation contracts. Typical consolidated drilling pads cover 10 acres with eight wells each. Five million gallons of water are required for each fracked well. The water used in this heavily industrialized activity is lost forever to the hydrologic cycle. It will never be used as drinking water, to bathe, to irrigate agricultural areas or for any other life-supporting purpose. The human uses of water just mentioned return about 50% to the hydrologic cycle.

The produced water, as it is known, is occasionally treated and reused for fracking, but is much more frequently deposited underground in what are known as “waste injection wells.” These wells are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency with enforcement designated to the states, and are known as Class 2 wells. Yet there are 600 wells in Colorado that are not designated as Class 2, which begs the question of adequate regulation and oversight.

Those whose lives have already been disrupted by oil and gas drilling and fracking provided the human perspective to the invasion that is coming to Longmont and Boulder County by the “mother lode” of oil and drilling quests.

Chris Porzuczek lives near Union Reservoir. His home is 350’ from a proposed consolidated drill site that is 50’ from his property line. Porzuczek has an 18-month-old son and fears for his health and safety with drilling and its threats so close. Rod Brueske lives just east of Weld County Road 1 on the Boulder County side. For Brueske, the damage is neither theoretical nor anticipated. It is in the here and now. He and his family have had to endure not only the threats to health but the 24-hour non-stop of lights and noise that have often forced them to rent hotel rooms.

Members of the audience were provided with index cards in order for them to write down their questions. The cards were collected throughout the presentation. Following the speakers, Shane Davis conducted the Q & A. There were more questions that there was time to address all of them. Even so, the event extended beyond its advertised hour and a half and only concluded around 4:15 PM. Those who didn’t get their questions answered will have them addressed on this site.

LongmontROAR again wishes to thank all of those who took time out from their Sunday afternoon to inform themselves about the issues surrounding oil and gas drilling and fracking.

We ask again that you, as well as your friends and neighbors, contact your Longmont city council members and request that they extend the existing moratorium for an additional six months, rather than the planned extension of only two months.

We must get things right. Once the bores begin penetrating the ground there will be little that can be done. This is a case where there will be no do-overs. Time is needed to make change happen, the right change, the best change.

The future of our homes and families and the character of our city depend on your action and your voice.

Ban fracking – because it can happen here

Like most people, I had no idea what hydraulic fracturing (fracking) was until one day over two years ago. At the time, I was living in New York City where land isn’t even available for elbow room, let alone to frack. But, one clear day in January, I got a call from my mother who had just received a letter in the mail.

She called to tell me she had received a lease agreement from an oil and gas company. My parents had moved to Northeast Ohio a couple years prior and purchased a pretty house in a small farming community. They chose this property because it abutted protected wetlands. And now, this oil and gas company wanted to frack wells on their property.

Like other states in the rust belt, Ohio had been hit hard by the recession, and communities were suffering. The developer of my parents’ subdivision was no exception. The neighborhood was not built out and new homes weren’t in demand, so it came as no surprise that when an oil and gas company approached the developer with an offer to drill natural gas wells in the subdivision with the promise of hefty compensation, he readily accepted.

In order to get around the protected wetlands, the proposed drilling would happen on adjacent property and the drilling would go horizontally under multiple houses. Because the oil and gas company needed more acreage than the developer had, several residents were contacted with the purpose of leasing their land in order to drill.

Feeling uneasy about the situation, my mom did her research and discovered the environmental hazards associated with hydraulic fractured wells, as well as the possibility of decreased property values. Her suspicions were confirmed when she discovered that in 2008, a house in a neighboring town was blown off its foundation from a faulty gas well that leaked oil and gas into the aquifer. Last spring in another neighboring town a poorly maintained well exploded, spewing crude oil, brine, and natural gas into a nearby stream — next to a busy commercial district.

Although my parents didn’t sign the lease, you don’t have to venture too far from their house today to find that hydraulic fracturing had already invaded their area: Within a mile radius of my parents’ home, there are more than eight producing wells, and over 2,324 producing wells in their county alone — most of which had been drilled since 2007. Many of these were drilled unbeknownst to the community, and the large wells litter the landscape — even in public open spaces.

I moved out to Boulder in September because, like most of the people here, I love the outdoors. The scenery and environmental spirit here are unparalleled. The open spaces in which Boulder residents have access are breathtaking.

But, the danger of fracking in these public lands is imminent. There are over 45,000 fracked wells in Colorado, with more than one spill each day. In 2008, a wastewater pit in Western Colorado leaked 1.6 million gallons of fluid, which migrated into the Colorado River–the source of drinking water for 30 million Westerners downstream.

We need to speak out clearly and say we don’t want drilling in Boulder County. Although the Boulder County Commissioners passed a 6-month moratorium on accepting and processing new applications for oil and gas drilling operations in our open spaces, this is just a first step. During these six months, I encourage the county commissioners to use our taxpayer dollars to investigate all legal options to ban fracking in Boulder County.

As my parents discovered, there is no way to make fracking perfectly safe. Once our land and water have been fracked, the damage can’t be undone. Is that a risk we are willing to take on the landscape that so many of us enjoy? The land that was purchased with taxpayer dollars to be enjoyed by all as open space? To truly protect the health of our families, our community, and our environment, Boulder County should follow the lead of dozens of other localities across the United States that have passed measures to ban fracking.

Melissa A. Schiltz lives in Boulder.

Oil & Gas “clowns” — hubris not humorous

It was a three-ring circus at the Longmont Planning and Zoning meeting on Wednesday, February 15. Industry clowns, COGCC Attorney, Jake Matter and COGA’s Schuller were juggling their corporate supremacy balls as they told us: 1) we are preempted as a City to do anything to regulate gas drilling — plus we “must” accept the COGCC rules; 2) we have “misperceptions” about how the oil and gas industry operates, and, by the way, “we need to be corrected.” Billion-dollar corporation, Anadarko, sent an emissary from Texas to assure us that they have our best interests in mind. However, this person was paid to fly out and feed propaganda to our Planning and Zoning Commission. Top Operating defended cleaning up the leaking Rider Well next to Trail Ridge Middle School. The Times-Call reported that Well had benzene levels 100 times the State level. With benzene levels that high, it doesn’t appear to be cleaned up.

COGCC says we can’t ban open pits. Do you understand the implications of living next to an open pit? It is described in Theo Colborn’s video, “What you need to know about Natural Gas Drilling.” The industry blows wastewater infused with toxic chemicals into the air to be evaporated — but you better watch out if you are downwind! Children are especially vulnerable when exposed to these toxins.

The P & Z decision to accept flawed regulations that won’t protect the health and well being of the citizens while voting to recommend a moratorium extension seems contradictory. What I heard at this meeting was a repeat performance of arrogant industry insiders who wish to put us under their big thumbs.

Our rights as citizens are being trampled by corporate supremacists and by our corporate municipality. We should be exploring ways to ban fracking and stop this three-ring circus once and for all.

Will Longmont rush to judgment?

Time and again it has been noted that the ramifications and unintended consequences of new and advanced technology precede regulatory legislation whether at the federal, state or local level.  Such is the case with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Industry proponents repeatedly mislead the public when asserting that fracking has been around since the 1940s. Broadly speaking, this is true.  But the technology in use since the turn of the 21st century bears no true resemblance to previous technologies.  The chemicals and methods in ever greater use today were developed to access previously costly and inaccessible mineral deposits.  With these procedures come severe risks to the population and its life-essential resources – water and air.  Beyond these life-sustaining matters are a number of other issues related to safety, quality of life, and the environment.

Because of the foregoing, it is imperative that the City of Longmont re-examine its rush to judgment and extend the current moratorium for the full length of the previously adjudicated reasonable limit of ten months.  It should go without saying that the oil and gas in the ground is not going away and will only become more valuable with the passage of time.

While it is important to acknowledge that city staff has accomplished an extraordinary amount of work in the effort to develop regulations governing oil and gas production within the city, the task is near herculean.  To believe that all that needs and should be covered in addressing the issues in a mere 120 days does a disservice to staff and to all within the Longmont community.

Paramount is the issue of RISK.

It is unfortunate that the default assessment of risk has been focused on the consequences of legal challenges to either the length of a moratorium or to the regulations needed and proposed.  The communications to other communities throughout the state by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and the Attorney General’s office, acting in its capacity as legal representative for the COGCC, have skewed the focus away from the community’s health, safety and welfare.

The health, safety and welfare of Coloradans are protected rights.  Article II, Section 3 of the Colorado Constitution states that “All persons have certain natural, essential and inalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.”

The legal framework that has been provided to the city’s boards, Planning and Zoning Commission and to the City Council by the Attorney General’s office is biased in favor of the overarching mission of the COGCC to facilitate oil and gas drilling within the state.  All other issues are secondary and sacrificial to this mission. The case law before the council and the public is antiquated and was perceived through the prism of drilling conditions ten to twenty years behind current drilling methods and slick-water fracking processes.

Lady Justice

Justice, both the scales and the sword.

Yet even in previous court rulings (as is the case with the Voss ruling), the ability of jurisdictions to establish zoning rules and regulations has been affirmed, albeit conditionally.  The more recent decision in SG Interests v Gunnison Countyasserts that there is no automatic presumption of preemption in every instance or issue that the industry might assert.  Many actions that the industry might ascribe to be subject to preemption actually require evidentiary hearings.

The conclusion of Longmont’s City Attorney is instructive in that it states that a right is not preempted until and unless a court of final jurisdiction says that it is.  He also notes that the conclusions drawn in communications from the Attorney General’s office essentially exaggerate the actual court decisions.  One could speculate as to the reasons for these exaggerations.

An assessment of the risks and protections of the community’s population are the genuine and primary risks to be addressed by the city council when determining the rules and regulations ordained by the City of Longmont.

What the people of Longmont, its council and its city staff establish at this time will serve as the foundation for all that will follow over the next several decades.  The people of Longmont, since its inception, have devoted enormous vision, resources and commitment to our city.  These historical gifts should not be forfeited either out of fear of litigation or out of narrow interpretations of rights that focus solely on rights as they apply to minerals.

Union Reservoir

Oil exploration and production companies have plans to drill within the city’s boundaries and on properties outside those boundaries that are owned by the People of Longmont.  We have invested over $75 million to acquire Union Reservoir and surrounding properties as well as an additional nearly $9 million in other Weld County properties that are or will be impacted by oil and gas drilling.

TOP Operating has asserted use-by-right to drill as many as 182 wells in and around Union Reservoir alone.  Those demands have motivated, some may say intimidated, city officials, board members, and staff to accept consolidated drilling that reduces the actual number of drill sites. However, consolidated drilling operations are the most heavily industrialized operations undertaken by the industry.  They can require the equivalency of two tanker’s worth of toxic fracking fluids.  They can require as many as five million gallons of water for each frack, and wells can be fracked multiple times. They require repeated truck traffic throughout the potentially 40-year life of each well.  They put the water and soil at risk of dangerous spills with a concomitant damage to air quality.  That description is far from exhaustive.

It has already been demonstrated that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has been remiss in its monitoring and remediating of leaks of highly toxic chemicals that, in some cases, remain a threat to people, the environment and wildlife.  Past drilling activity employed methods and construction that are unacceptable by standards that should be best management practices in this second decade of the 21st century.  The proximity of these wells to new wells poses an added risk for accident in proposed operations.  The full extent of historical activity remains undetermined.

What is largely missing in all of the components that the city has thus far undertaken is community education covering the detailed lists of risk to the population, to property (both personal and public) and to the environment.  Staff and council have made an admirable effort to educate the community as to the status of the process and what has been proposed and considered to date.  Yet the process has skipped over the real issues that affect the people of Longmont, issues that need community understanding and input well before regulations are promulgated.

A community consensus surrounding these risks should be the driving force not only in devising regulation, but in determining the commitment and strategies that the city will undertake to prevent these risks on behalf of its citizens.

In addition to this primary task, we urge the City Council to also engage in the following during an extended moratorium.

  • Commit by ordinance all revenues that the city receives from existing oil and gas leases to a reserve fund for mitigating damages to not only public resources but to civilian health, safety and well-being.
  • Establish strategies and designations that prevent exploitation of oil and gas minerals in our most critical areas – around schools; in parks and on open space; near water bodies; in recreational areas throughout the city whether or not they are owned by the City of Longmont; in cemeteries; and in residential neighborhoods where all other industrial activity is already prohibited.
  • Codify the city’s intention to bar the sale of city-owned oil and gas mineral rights.
  • Establish an office within the Department of Public Works and Natural Resources that extends well beyond a Local Government Designee to the Oil and Gas Commission to promote and secure the city’s demands; to monitor and inspect, at our own expense, over and above those procedures in effect through the COGCC; and to establish emergency procedures covering hazardous situations that are inherent in drilling operations.
  • Provide for an environmental assessment of the sensitive areas that are currently targeted for drilling.
  • Investigate the policies and procedures used by various departments and agencies of the federal and state governments to protect the environment, included but not limited to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife, and the various water agencies under or apart from the afore-mentioned entities.
  • Pursue state legislation already introduced or that should be introduced during the current legislative session.
  • Determine the status of studies already being undertaken by the EPA and solicit preliminary findings that might and should be incorporated into Longmont’s assessment of risk to its population.
  • Investigate the leveraging of financial and other resources within Boulder County in the invent that the industry should challenge the City of Longmont’s right to protect its citizens.

As is apparent, there is far more work to be done before the city is in a position to know that it has accomplished everything that it can accomplish on behalf of the people of Longmont. Even with an additional six-month moratorium there is a huge amount of work that needs to be done to adequately protect our city.

Natural gas & Longmont: Risk motivation

The following is a statement excerpts of which were read before the Longmont Planning Commission February 15, 2012.

At one time I earned my living acquiring land rights and permits for two oil majors consecutively – CONOCO and Union Oil of California (UnoCal). I know a little about the natural resource industry, and a bit about the risks it faces and generates. More about that in a moment.

All the regulations in the world won’t prevent use of a defective piece of well casing, or what can result from a poor cement job. BP’s Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico is one illustration of the latter.

A major condition or factor that could materially reduce potential damage from a modern directionally- drilled oil and gas well is less-dense well spacing. Unfortunately, spacing is controlled by the state.

I’ve read two authorities (one is Fitch, the debt rating concern) stating that the natural gas market is essentially selling the stuff today at the marginal cost of production. Now, there’s risk. Many holes are probably being planned under a “drill it or drop it” scenario. Loss of a lease may be more important than revenue.

I  have a list of some of the kinds of chemicals used in hydrofracturing, presented in the fall of 2008 at the annual Ground Water Protection Council forum in Cincinnati, Ohio. Here are just three:

Ethylene Glycol. This is good in your car’s radiator; not so good in your drinking water.

Glutaraldehyde. This is a “cold sterilant” used in the health care industry as well. Read “biocide;” you wouldn’t want your dog to go near this.

Hydrochloric acid. At any strength this is nasty material. You would find just a drop quite objectionable, and especially on your skin. If that isn’t taxis enough for you, in its stead Muriatic Acid is often used. This is fine for cleaning your swimming pool, but definitely not if anyone is in it.

I’ve learned that the typical fracked hole uses the equivalent of two rail tank cars of these chemicals. This is not the drilling fluids, but rather only the fracking additives. The next time you see the Burlington Northern go by, have a look at the tank cars so that you can comprehend the magnitude of this use.

We can only hope that that the first local drilling effort results in a dry hole. This would provide little to no encouragement to the mineral operators. Once these chemical migrate vertically through seams or joints in sediments (don’t believe they cannot), or up old, abandoned, even undocumented wells that did not have to be cased or cemented, then it is too late.

Interesting to me is that some sources in the industry say “fracking” can withdraw hydrocarbon gases and liquids from a radius as great as ten miles. I don’t remember granting a lease for my property, so if this is done from the east side of town then some oil firm is in mineral trespass. Many cities require a covenant of non-development (of minerals) in return for annexation or plat approvals. I recommend everyone thoroughly examine his title insurance policy.

The City as a surface owner has a bully pulpit from which to hold feet to fires. But more important would be a substantial performance and damage bond. While I worked for those mineral operators I secured legislative clearance to place mineral operations within the River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho, and gained regulatory permission to conduct operations within the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland. The latter went within 150 feet of the Patapsco Reservoir, a city drinking water source. Obtaining these permits is responsible for only some of my grey hair.

To me the key for this city is to make failure very expensive for this undertaking. This explains why neither the Idaho wilderness nor the Baltimore reservoir has been threatened by drilling to date. Without a solid and enduring market, then, perhaps these promoters will go away.

We can only hope.

Stamp 2 Well Near Union Reservoir Contaminated

3 out of 7 wells on Longmont Open Space are contaminated.

TOP Operating’s Stamp 2 gas well is located on the western edge of Union Reservoir. It is 506 feet from the water. It is approximately a mile from TOP’s contaminated Rider 1 well, near Trail Ridge Middle School.

The Stamp 2 gas well is contaminated by toxic petrochemicals above State regulatory standards.

Last year, in January 2011, the City of Longmont received a “Limited Site Investigation,” completed by Terracon Consultants on the Bogott Property, where the Stamp 2 is located. The Bogott property is now owned by the City of Longmont. It is part of Longmont’s Open Space at Union Reservoir.

Regulatory limits are placed on petrochemicals because of their strong toxicity.

The Stamp 2 site environmental investigation reported Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons at 1970 mg/kg in the soil, which is almost 4 times the Colorado Oil & Gas Commission regulatory standard for soil of 500 mg/kg.

Soil contamination at the Stamp 2 by benzene is .029 mg/kg, almost 6 times above the regulatory limit, 0.005 mg/kg.

Ethylbenzene levels are 10 times the statutory level; Xylenes are 340 times the “safe” limit; gasoline range hydrocarbons are 38 times allowable levels.

These readings were from samples taken near the wellhead.

Near the Stamp 2 tank battery, ethylbenzene levels were 20 times the statutory limit; xylenes almost 3 times; and gasoline range hydrocarbons almost 20 times statutory limit.

The Investigation found that the soil has “dark gray petroleum staining and odor” 3.5 feet deep, beside the wellhead,

From 4 to 8 feet deep, the soil is “dark gray-gray, weathering decreasing with depth, petroleum gray stain and odor, slightly moist.”

There are no ground water monitoring wells at Stamp 2. Terracon pushed a 1-inch temporary PVC pipe 8 feet into the ground on December 17, 2010. No ground water was found, at that time of year. Nearby residents report that ground water is encountered at depths of 9-10 feet, 1600 feet from the water’s edge.

Ground water at Stamp 2, so close to Union Reservoir, and now on City Open Space, needs to be monitored and tested more carefully. Engineered groundwater monitoring wells, are the best method for monitoring ground water at oil and gas wells. The COGCC and the City must require that TOP install, monitor and report to the COGCC and the City, accurate reports on the ground water between Stamp 2 and Union Reservoir.

During January 2012, activity was observed at Rider 1 and Stamp 2. Bulldozers, trucks, and pumps were seen at the sites.

At Stamp 2 in late January 2012, a truck with high pressure hoses was observed. The tank battery was being washed down. The wash water, detergents, petroleum wastes and contaminates were not contained, and now leach toward Union Reservoir, as the only protection around the tank battery is an unlined clay berm.

Terracon recommends that the City contact TOP Operating “to pursue remedial activities of the petroleum impacted soil and groundwater above regulatory standards.” The Oil & Gas Commission should also be notified.

There are other TOP operated wells on the Boggot and Sherwood properties, now owned as open space by Longmont. Of the 7 wells where Terracon took soil and groundwater samples, three wells have contamination levels over COGCC limits.

Community requires strict regulation of oil and gas drilling

A Community Open House and a Joint Meeting between the Board of Environment Affairs, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Water Board were held at the Civic Center on Monday, February 6. The two events were a big success for Longmont residents.

While the battle is far from over and the opposition to communities who seek to protect their health, safety, well-being and property values is ferocious, the battle has been joined. The public has spoken resoundingly and the board members heard and in most cases shared the positions of the community on a number of issues involved in drilling oil and gas within Longmont’s city limits.

The “Oil and Gas Regulations Update” document released in advance of these events was weighted with communications from the Colorado Attorney General’s office and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) that sought to intimidate and threaten communities who had attempted to wander beyond parameters endorsed by the oil and gas industry.

Although the two Longmont public events were meant to be highly structured, both events did not bow to clearly predetermined outcomes and conclusions.

The Community Open House featured several boards placed on easels in the Council Chambers lobby asking questions that allowed community members to prioritize their concerns. The public was given orange dots to place by their highest concerns. Strong uniformity was apparent by the time the “voting” was completed.

Questions and sticker votes can be viewed here.

One option that was not offered was a total ban on drilling within Longmont. There is an overriding, although unacceptable, provision in state legislation and case law that no community has that choice. The State of Colorado has decided that industry exploitation of mineral rights takes precedence over all human needs if a choice between these interests has to be made.

If drilling is to occur, the public wanted setbacks well beyond what has been provided in regulations by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The public demanded closed-loop systems (no open pits for “produced water”) and the use of “green fluids” for fracking. Air and water monitoring, inspections, wide community notifications of all drilling applications, spills and accidents were also uniformly demanded.

Longmont ROAR established separate easels for dot placement on its highest priorities: an extension of the moratorium, 1000 foot setbacks and the use of closed loop systems. The public endorsed these priorities.

At 7:00 PM the Joint Committee met. It heard a lengthy presentation from Brien Schumacher, the city’s point person on the regulations and the “Local Government Designee” to the COGCC. That presentation followed closely the material presented in the Update. After the staff presentation, members of the boards sought answers to additional questions and clarifications of the material presented.

During Public Invited to be Heard approximately 15 to 20 people addressed the boards, reiterating their concerns and rejecting the limitations that the COGCC, and the courts, have established.

The board members understood and substantially accepted the community’s position. Fourteen of the twenty-one board members were present and were electronically polled with questions and issues similar to those during the Community Open House. Board member responses closely tracked community concerns and demands.

Most encouraging was the willingness of board members to “push the envelope” and risk legal action in pursuit of community protection.

During the final portion of the joint meeting, board members stepped up to an issue that staff had not offered – the extension of the oil and gas application moratorium. One member asked the pointed question, “How far can we extend the moratorium without risking a legal challenge?” City Attorney Eugene Mei cited a court case that upheld a 10-month moratorium.

With that information, a motion was made by the board to recommend to the Longmont City Council that the moratorium be extended a minimum of two additional months. All but two of the members present supported that motion.

As we move forward with the next phase of this process, it is essential that the community continue to assert its requirements to the City Council. Information, education, persistence and determination are the necessary ingredients to assure that the residents of Longmont are not only heard but that their demands are accepted.

Spring Valley Estates: Abandoned well pits

I wonder how the residents in Spring Valley Estates (in northeast Longmont) feel about having three historic gas wells and three abandoned waste pits located beneath their homes? It is likely that these historic wells and pits could rupture, fail and/or blowout if fracking were to occur within a few miles (planned for the Union Reservoir area), releasing poisonous gases such as methane, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes in and around people’s homes. This very same situation occurred in Florence, CO, in late 2010. Explosive levels of methane were found surrounding dwellings in that vicinity.

This is a serious issue that could bring great harm to our residents. We need to ask our public servants (Mayor and Council) to honor the oath they took as elected officials to protect the health, safety and well being of Longmont residents. Tell them that extending the moratorium on oil and gas drilling is in the best interest of the City and its citizens. For more information and to see maps of where the gas wells and pits are located, please visit LongmontROAR.

Let your voice be heard

The City of Longmont is in the process of developing revised and additional regulations covering oil and gas drilling within city limits. Applications for permits are expected following a 120-day moratorium that is scheduled to end on April 17, 2011.

Oil and gas drilling at Fairview and SH 119

Draft regulations were intended to be published on January 31, 2011. It was clear from the outset that a 120-day moratorium was inadequate for the amount of work that is required to craft regulations that would protect the health, safety, and well-being of citizens and residents. City staff is now making changes to its schedule in order to meet the arbitrary moratorium expiration on April 17, 2011.

At the January 24, 2011, city council meeting, City Manager Gordon Pedrow announced that instead of releasing draft regulations on January 31, “options” would be made available to council members, board members and the public.

January 31 came and went without “options.” On February 2, the city released a document that was not the promised “options” (whatever those might have been), but a 60+ page document titled “City of Longmont Oil and Gas Regulations Update.”

Mr. Pedrow indicates that the options, now known as “questions,” will be delayed until a Public Open House on February 6, 2011, to be held in the lobby of the City Council Chambers between 4:30 and 6:30 PM. No one will have an opportunity to see these “questions” until that time. There will be no opportunity to reflect on their meaning or potential implications for the future of Longmont.

The city has created a highly controlled environment for the release of questions. It will establish parameters and attempt to squeeze the public into a narrow band of choices that reflect the choices that the city’s attorneys and staff believe are acceptable.

It is important that members of the community maintain their own integrity on this issue and insist that the city respond to their demands and requirements.

Following the Public Open House, at 7:00 PM in Council Chambers, a joint meeting of the Board of Environmental Affairs, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and the Water Board (The Super Committee) will be held.

Information will be presented by city staff to the Super Committee and questions will be taken from the Super Committee. At that point, the public will have an opportunity to be heard in the same manner as at council meetings, a 3-minute Public Invited to be Heard.

Following the Public Invited to be Heard segment members of the Super Committee will be electronically polled with “multiple choice” style preferences to pre-determined questions. These questions may or may not be the same as those given to the public.

Mr. Pedrow has indicated that the responses from the public and the Super Committee will be compiled and presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission on February 15. That meeting is held in the Council Chambers at 7:00 PM and also has a Public Invited to be Heard Segment.

On February 21, the results of all three events will be presented in a Study Session to the City Council in the form of Draft Regulations. At that point the council may address an extension of the moratorium, provide additional input as to what should be included in the Regulations Ordinance, or accept the draft regulations as presented.

Barring any extension of the moratorium, the First Reading of new regulations will occur on March 13 and the Second Reading and Public Hearing will be held on March 27, 2011. If the ordinance passes, it will become law in the City of Longmont effective 10 days later and applications for permits will be accepted beginning April 18, 2011.

We occupy. We hope you will, too.

Nothing in nature takes more than its share.” “I Am,” Tom Shadyac, director.

Every weekday morning most Americans walk into the jaws of a beast that is consuming our world. They do it willingly or unwillingly, wittingly or unwittingly, helpless not to contribute to an economic engine that drives without a brake. Like cancer it has an endless appetite for growth and like cancer it masquerades as healthy behavior.

To those around it, it seems normal, as normal as earning a living. Its grasping energy fixes our attention on money as a scarce and essential commodity and ensures our participation through the mechanism of debt. We occupy Wall Street and elsewhere to illuminate a diseased condition. This beast of endless consumption is not who we are even though its life is fed by our lives and its appetite by our own.

This relentless cycle is in fact a Ponzi scheme that will destroy our world in an endgame of extinction.

We occupy to assert our inalienable right as human persons to enjoy a future for ourselves and our children and their children to an untold generation. We occupy to free ourselves from the infection the beast has spawned within us. We occupy to free future generations from indenture to the beast. We occupy in the faith that the human spirit will not rest until freedom and a peace based on justice govern human affairs, will not rest until our world is encircled by a vibrant nature.

Spring is coming; we hope at some point you will join us.