Tag Archive for drilling

Lessons to Be Learned

I think one of the factors in passing Initiative 300 to ban fracking is that many in Longmont are tired of having out-of-town big businesses spending large sums of money to influence Longmont issues. This would not have been so bad had the oil and gas interests made any attempt to provide pros and cons and state their positions and the reasons for their position. Instead, just like the telecom industry on the fiber optics issues, glossy fliers inundated our mailboxes with very little truth.

Certainly there are many things to consider in a complex issue. The oil and gas industry, in the fliers they mailed, and by their compliance, the seven former mayors, failed to take seriously the considerations of the community. No mention of lost property values and quality of life. These cannot be denied. One council person said it affects only a few people, something like a tax paid by the few and the unwilling. I don’t think that is how we should support our neighbors.

It remains a question as to whether the former mayors just signed on without a chance to vet the fliers or whether they agreed with everything that was contained in each flier. I do not have a problem with former mayors or city managers joining in the debate as long as misinformation is not part of the discussion.

The argument that the fracking process has not caused any contamination or harm to people is totally misleading. Contamination has occurred right here in Longmont. It is a distinction without a difference. Whether the contamination occurred because of deep underground activity or at the surface does not change the pertinent facts. Any industrial process is prone to mishaps. Having the mishap occur next to homes of schools is not acceptable.

Benzene exposure may not be any greater than that encountered at a service station, but we all should have the right not to be exposed by the actions of others. What is a real concern is the undisclosed other chemicals. While some companies are willing to disclose, most are not or only under very limited circumstances. My guess is that no one knows the toxicity of many of these chemicals and certainly not the toxicity of the mixtures. This is already an issue with Longmont water and other water departments when they try to plan for response to a release that affects our water. You cannot plan to treat chemicals whose identity you do not know.

I am glad Longmont stood up on principle. It is a principle the 81 other communities that have objected to fracking in their communities should also stand up for. Personally, I believe fracking can be a viable process when done correctly and in appropriate locations. Accidents will happen, but strong precautions are needed and easily afforded by this extremely profitable industry. We must insist that Oil and Gas Conservation Commission act in a responsible manner that makes decisions in the interest of all Colorado residents.

It was particularly grievous that threats of increasingly large dollar amounts were presented for loss of mineral rights and used at the last minute as a scare tactic. Nowhere was the loss of surface value and property values discussed. Nowhere was it mentioned that some families would be unable to move because they could not get enough money for their homes to buy an equivalent house somewhere else. It was also not lost on many of us that none of the former mayors, the governor, members of the Oil and Gas Commission, or drilling companies management volunteered to live near a fracking site.

Maybe there is a lesson somewhere in this. If you want to gain public support, be straightforward and discuss pros and cons. Do not tell mistruths or half-truths. Then you may have a better chance of gaining the outcome you desire. This should also apply to commercials for and against candidates. Are we teaching our young that telling lies to get a desired outcome is acceptable?

There are maybe other lessons to be learned from this year’s elections. In a large number of elections, money did not win the election, but it did smear the democratic process. Unfortunately this money was used to smear candidates and mislead voters and non-voters alike. I saw in this paper a few days ago that it is illegal in Colorado to provide false information to influence the outcome of initiatives, and I assume, selection of candidates.

Bob Norris has lived in Longmont since 2000. He has spent 30 years as an environmental consultant and a long time ago did research on hydraulic fracking leading to two U.S. patents.

Vote YES on on 300

There have been many claims that the dangers of fracking have been overstated. Much of this debate has been confusing to the average citizen. A new study published in Scientific American helps explain how the confusion came about and why it continues. The study’s authors analyzed 194,000 inspection records of “Class 2” wells, also called “injection” wells, which are used to dispose of fracking waste. They also provide a brief history of the regulations guiding these inspections.

A lack of adequate oversight for Class 2 wells was written into successive legislative acts. This was a tale of two political parties, who played their parts counter to type. The original Safe Drinking Water Act was passed in 1974, during the Nixon/Ford era of Republican presidents. In 1980, Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, a liberal, sponsored legislation that allowed the oil and gas industry to bypass provisions of the Safe Water Act by choosing to be regulated by state oil and gas boards that were more lax. The EPA then attempted to bar underground dumping (injection wells) unless companies proved beforehand that their actions would not be a health threat. In response, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, a Democrat, led the fight against the EPA’s hazardous waste regulation. Congress redefined any waste that resulted from oil and gas drilling as “non-hazardous.” Voila. Injection wells became safe. From then on, benzene from the fertilizer industry was a hazardous threat to health and water supplies, but the same chemical in the oil and gas drilling process was not hazardous! This is why so many reports on injection wells say that nothing hazardous was injected into the well.

Had enough of legislative double talk? Vote yes on Ballot Question 300 to ban fracking in Longmont. Our health and our future depend on it.

Mothers Project heads to D.C.

Local moms to attend fracking rally in D.C. and deliver letter to Colorado senators signed by constituents statewide

As the oil and gas industry moves full speed ahead with the fracking boom, residents across the state are organizing to protect their health, environment, property values, way of life, communities, and future generations from the impacts of oil and natural gas extraction, including fracking. Two Colorado mothers, Jodee Brekke and Diana Caile, are traveling to Washington D.C. this week to join a nationwide coalition of citizens, communities and organizations in a mass rally on July 28 and to hand deliver a letter to Senators Udall and Bennet signed by constituents statewide. The name of the rally and the message in the letter are the same: stop the frack attack.

“Since our elected officials and government agencies aren’t protecting our basic human and constitutional rights to clean air and water and from numerous other threats imposed on us by the oil and gas industry, then we need to call them to task,” said Ms. Brekke. Ms. Caile said, “the state is suing communities that want to keep the heavy industrial, toxic process of fracking away from neighborhoods and children’s schools. It doesn’t belong there. Period. Our government should be protecting the people of Colorado, not corporate profits at our expense.”

The Mothers Project - United for Sustainability

The Mothers Project, Inc. is launching in Colorado and is hosting the letter to the senators, written by local mothers, on their website. Founded in March, 2012, by Angela Monti Fox, mother of Josh Fox, creator of the documentary Gasland, The Mothers Project is a coalition of mothers advocating for immediate, full-scale investments in renewable energy and opposing extreme fossil fuel extraction, including fracking and its attendant impacts. Currently active in New York and Pennsylvania, where there is widespread opposition to fracking, The Mothers Project provides support to grassroots groups fighting to protect their health, environment and communities.

In addition to individual signatures, seventeen grassroots groups or nonprofit organizations fighting to protect communities through Colorado have signed on to the letter. To view the letter and add your name, go to TheMothersProject.org and click on the slide that says Calling On Mothers at the top. Send inquiries to press@TheMothersProject.org.

Participants in the D.C. rally include Bill McKibben of 350.org; Allison Chin, Sierra Club President; Josh Fox, Director of Gasland; Dr. Catherine Thomasson, Physicians for Social Responsibilities, plus several citizens from affected communities.

Get out of the fracking foxhole

Where's council?

Where’s council?

Just as there are no atheists in a foxhole, so neither Republican nor Democrat is likely to be found. When under fire, there is but one common thought: survival. That and perhaps “Love thy neighbor.” Hold that thought.

Longmont is under siege and, without being overly dramatic, it is obvious to most concerned residents that in fact our city is in a foxhole and under fire from the state and oil and gas industry regulations. At the moment and under current regulations, a fracking well could be sited on a Longmont golf course, a cemetery, a park or within easy breathing distance of a school — and the city cannot at this point do one damned thing about it. Is there room here for partisan politics? I think not, but it is widely assumed to be so.

I care that the Republican, Democratic and independent voters out around Union Reservoir are already seeing their property values slowly circling the drain because the city cannot at this point do one damned thing to protect them. I care that a block or two south of First Avenue there may be open tanks filled with poisonous fluids. I care that no industry will want to be anywhere near these foul pits, thus limiting our city’s ability to attract new enterprise — and I’m enraged that the city cannot at this point do one damned thing about it.

I care that the laws that are now being forced down our throats were promulgated back in the ’80s when no one outside of the oil and gas industry had ever heard of fracking, and that this multibillion-dollar industry wrote its own rules, which were passed by a state Legislature where many (if not all) were bought and paid for by the rule writers. Is there anyone in state or civic government today who believes these extraordinary laws, which pre-empt county, city and local ordinances, would pass today? Would any sane politician under the golden dome even suggest such laws? And what can the city do about it? See above.

Let me be clear. I do not want to ban fracking or oil and gas drilling in Colorado or anywhere else. But think: If laws that would allow an industry to set up shop 150 or 350 feet away from a home or a school or a church were not born in a cesspool of corruption, perhaps we need a new definition of corruption. Ponder that, fellow golfers — a short wedge shot from your backyard lies a drill pad, all brought to you in the 1980s by folks in Denver now likely buried deep in some corporation’s mineral estate.

Back to the foxhole and the siege. Council has proven thus far to be woefully inadequate in defense of this city. It is palpably obvious that certain council members have abandoned their lofty ideals, which originally gave us a 7-0 vote in favor of new regulations and now, in a bizarre dance of twisted logic, they attempt to justify their new rationale to kill the strengthened regs and negotiate under the old and weak. Here, on an issue likely larger than any ever brought before council in modern times, some have caved in and embraced the enemy.

Absent the protection of council, a new movement has grown and is seeking an ordinance that would ban oil, gas and fracking operations from all city property. Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont is gathering signatures on a petition to ban these operations from within city limits. If successful, the issue would be placed on the November ballot for all Longmont residents to vote. I certainly don’t speak for this group, but firmly applaud their cause — not because I’m a Democrat or a Republican, but because I’m a Longmont resident who wants desperately to protect our values, our safety and the health of our treasured children.

You will see Our Longmont volunteers all over the city — at the library, shopping plazas, restaurants and walking down Main. Please take a moment to sign up in defense of Longmont. We are under siege and there is no room for politics of any hue. We either put aside our political differences or we will all suffer the consequences.

Let’s join hands to bring this petition to a vote in November. There is just over a month to gather 5,800 signatures and one final opportunity to get out of that foxhole.

FSSW Stand Up For BO&G

The laugh's on US

The laugh's on US

It’s hard to see how the City Council acted to ensure the safety and health of Longmont’s residents from fracking threats as described in last Saturday’s editorial, “Drilling rules show city puts residents first.” Big Oil & Gas finally showed its cards and in no time Councilors Finley, Sammoury, Santos and Witt (FSSW) folded, abandoning the new regulations which at their request had been painstakingly produced by city staff. Now why on earth, I wondered, would they do that?

A few months ago, the vote to craft new regulations was 7-0. All hands were gung-ho to beef up the old 2000 regulations in order to protect the well-being, health and safety of Longmont and its beloved residents. Go, team, go!

But slowly, things became weird.

Councilor Katie Witt, in a convoluted mush of logic turned upside down, having earlier announced she was balancing her duty to protect Longmont against her political future (shouldn’t these be one and the same?), proceeded to vote against the new regulations. So much for protecting Longmont; so much (one hopes) for her political future.

Declaring great optimism, hope and faith that TOP Drilling along with BO&G would negotiate, moderate, mediate and in general do a host of nice things they heretofore had never before done anywhere or for anyone, Ms. Witt demonstrated a novel approach to negotiations: cede everything first, then expect one’s opponents to hand back over whatever is requested.

Councilwoman Finley : limit public's time to thirty minutes

Councilwoman Finley : Frack my constituents!

Councilor Bonnie Finley’s approach was more rational, at least on the surface. She objected to the new regulations because they might bring a lawsuit, despite being told by the legal suits that the regulations were defensible, until finally faulting the preamble as a cover for her “no” vote. Councilor Bagley advised her on at least two occasions that the preamble had no effect in law, offering at one point to shorten it to a brief paragraph, but to no avail. Ms. Finley had her talking points and stuck to them, absurd as they were.

Alex Sammoury, on the team

Councilors Santos and Sammoury, to this point having supported the regulations, had remained quiet as the debate raged around the chamber, until Councilor Sammoury gently opined that an extension to the existing moratorium would give them a chance to try again for cooperation from the quaintly named Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission. Despite being reminded that earlier efforts to negotiate had been rebuffed and then rewarded with threats of lawsuits from the state attorney general’s office, the motion passed. These, by the way, are the nice folks who Ms. Witt is confident will bend and bestow great favors if only asked politely.

Gabe Santos, big money's inside man

So where are we? It’s ugly. The revised regulations are tabled. A vote at the next council meeting approving the new 45-day moratorium will be held under “emergency rules,” which requires at least six “aye” votes to pass. If it does, we have more than 45 days to negotiate with TOP and the COGCC (but still under the old regulations). If two councilors — say, Finley and Witt— vote “no,” the moratorium passes but won’t go into effect until three days after the current moratorium ends.

That would leave a gap for TOP to apply for permits to drill under the old regulations — and you can bet they will not be negotiating.

In the end, the stench of BO&G permeates the chamber; in the next election, we may or may not remember this disgraceful chapter in council’s history, but by then, most or all of the players will have moved on — far and away from the drilling rigs, methane gas and gutted property values. There will be no shortage of alibis and excuses, none of which will matter a damn.

Mayor Coombs and Councilors Bagley and Levison held their heads above the stench and may yet prevail in seeing the new regulations passed into law. FSSW (remember them?) have done everything possible to ensure that the safety and health of Longmont and its residents are left in the hands of BO&G. Shame on them.

Balance needed

U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: 412-DA-3630

Oil Seepage in Pond (Foreground), Olin-Mathieson Plant in Background 1972

Most of us take a pretty one sided view of many issues.  A balanced view should be better.

Where is the balance with respect to hydraulic fracking.?  On the one hand we as a nation (and world) are a consumer of fossil fuels and will continue to be until alternate energy sources combined with greater efficiency meets our needs.  On the other hand there are risks associated with this process.  The risks are largely encountered by one group of people while very significant profits are realized by a much smaller group.

Drilling and production of oil and gas has increased dramatically over the last few years.  Currently we both import oil and export refined products.  There are advantages to not importing oil, especially from countries with limited stability.

What are the facts?  The oil and gas representatives that support hydraulic fracking appear to have either avoided some information or intentionally been misleading.

Claims that there has not been a single case of ground water contamination from hydraulic fracking are misleading.  There are several examples where groundwater has been contaminated from the necessary activities that are always associated with the process.  Where groundwater has been contaminated, the distinction is not important.

It is often stated that fracking chemicals are only 0.5 percent of the injected fluid.  This appears to be deliberately misleading.  The risk is a product of the inherent toxicity and concentration of the compound, and exposure (for example amount of water consumed over what period of time).   A concentration of 0.5 percent is 5,000 parts per million (ppm) or 5,000,000 parts per billions (ppb).  The maximum concentration limit (MCL) for benzene in groundwater set by the US EPA is 5 ppb.  We do not know the toxicity of many of the fracking chemicals, or even what they are and it may be that toxicity has not been determined for many of them.  Furthermore, the risk of a mixture may be even greater.

An article in the Times-Call claimed there was no problem because benzene and propane were well below the levels for a 10 hour exposure.  While propane has low toxicity it is ludicrous to talk about a 10 hour exposure rather than a longer term exposure.

Benzene, is a carcinogen as might be other compounds in the fracking fluid.  There is no threshold limit for carcinogens.

The proponents of hydraulic fracking have not in my experience acknowledged the disruption of the lives of families living close to the drilling sites – or the impact on schools for that matter.  Decreased home values are another problem.

It is difficult for most of us to believe what we are being told when so many obviously misleading statements have been made.

The argument has been made that the fracking industry would be challenged to operate under a different set of rules in each community and thus the need for state control.  Of course many housing contractors do operate in a number of communities with differences in construction code.  But if you do allow for some benefit for uniformity, that does not negate the need for communities to protect their own citizens, real-estate values, and schools when state organizations do not.

The state group controlling fracking (Colorado Oil and Gas Commission) has historically been largely controlled by oil and gas interests.  As a result, it is hard to see how that group will not focus on profits over other considerations.  It does not appear to me and many others that  the need for energy sources and profits has been fairly balanced with the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the communities being impacted.

We are now producing more refined fuels than we need and are exporting record amounts helping the balance of trade.  Concern has been raised that the US is likely to have insufficient storage capacity for natural gas by the end of the year.  Then why the need for drilling close to homes and schools?  Why not limit fracking to less hazardous locations including those with minimal potential for groundwater impact?

Why indeed!  Oil companies realized profits in the tens of millions of dollars. The “realized” pay for the CEO of Exxon/Mobile for 2011 was 24.6 million dollars or three times that in 2009 and four times that in 2006.  By how much has your pay increased over this time? By what factor is his pay greater than yours?   CEO pay should be higher than that for most people, but by how much?  Where is the balance?

Bob Norris
Longmont

Bob has lived in Longmont since 2000 and has been active in community issues including having served on the Longmont Board of Environmental Affairs.

Come, Exploit, Leave

I’ve resided in Longmont since 1986; in the same house north of Lake McIntosh. My kids have gone to school at Hygiene and Westview; with one now at Niwot.

I’m also an avid skier, to put it mildly; my wife would tell you it is more like addicted. So, I’m am keenly aware of the situation in the central Colorado mountains (Summit county especially) in the winters.

One excellent source for information about the snow pack in Colorado is the “snotel” site maintained by the Department of Agriculture folks in Lakewood – Snowpack Summary graph. It is one ski industry standard sources of data about the status of the snowpack in the state. It is updated every federal business day.

I had the April 17th graph. It showed the average, that of last year (which was a record big snowfall,) and that of this year – which is a record small snowfall. The percentage of normal, as of that date, was 40%.

Since then, that has fallen to something in the 25% to 27% range. That situation has already triggered Denver Water to issue restrictions. Boulder might soon. I know a City of Ft Collins planner who is very concerned about the impact in Larimer county.

In considering the regulation of fracking, which consumes significant amounts of water, the availability of water is a major concern!

From year to year, now days, it seems that the variability in snow pack, and so water, has become large; frighteningly so Some years may be OK, a few great, and some, like the snow season we just didn’t really have.

It is really kind of like a flood plain risk. In the case of water, what are the odds of two or three tiny years in a row? At what point is there not enough water for the residents, and everybody the City of Longmont water servers?

Who knows, Longmont itself may well have to end up going on water restrictions before the summer out. This could, sadly, get fairly ugly quickly.

The other point I made to Council was that Longmont is home to major high tech companies; it has been since IBM moved in down The Diagonal in the 1965. If the situation with the water is adversely impacted by fracking, that is not good. If the fracking causes air pollution that ruins the quality of life, that is not good(!) Part of what makes Longmont very desirable to high tech is the quality of life here; it is both a brand, and a lived reality.

Longmont could end up trading a set of long term, high paying jobs for a set of temporary, not that high paying jobs.  (and make no mistake, the oil industry is a “come, exploit, leave” kind of deal!)

That’s would be a simply stupid choice!

An open letter to the Longmont City Council

Where's council?

Where's council? Might as well not be there.

Mayor Coombs and fellow Councillors:

Council, you (with the notable exception of Sarah Levinson) have lost my trust. I doubt that I’m alone in suggesting that you have betrayed your fellow citizens with your pusillanimous decision to follow a staff recommendation offering compromise and “Fast Track” permits to the oil and gas boys instead of approving an extended 6 month moratorium.

Week after week your Tuesday chamber was filled with your constituents pleading for time. How many from without the industry appeared before you in support of OCGCC regulations? None that I saw or heard.

Did those who appeared before you represent a majority of your constituents? Yes. Did you respond to their passions? No. You told them to go to hell, just as the COGCC told you a week ago when rejecting your proffers of appeasement.

Ex-City Manager Pedrow, once out of office, suggested you take a stand and fight. Instead you have chosen what you thought to be a compromise and have been solidly kicked in the butt.

Big Oil & Gas has threatened you with virtual bankruptcy if you choose to fight what at best was a modest proposal for modification of existing OCGCC standards. Offering such insulting defenses as “the state’s robust regulatory framework”- (a damned lie if ever there was one) their intention is obvious: Kill any and every effort of modification lest it spread to other communities.

You’ve been told to be good boys and girls or else; so exactly what do you now propose? More conciliation? More tinkering around the edges?

Will you forgive and offer a permit to that paragon of corporate citizenry TOP drilling which has been and still is “remediating” the benzene problem at Trail Ridge school whilst ignoring the robust discipline of the COGCC since 2009? Does their application for more drilling permits not concern you? Exactly what in hell does it take to persuade you that you are on the wrong track?

I have a suggestion. How about taking a step back and re-visiting the proposal to extend the moratorium for another 6 months? Much is happening at every level of government and within that time frame anything decided today may well appear foolish tomorrow.

It takes gonads to admit error and great political courage to stand for your constituents against the pressure of campaign dollars from entities such as Big Oil & Gas. The accusation that some of you have been so influenced has been made; please show us that those accusations are incorrect.

Why not begin a robust campaign to enlist all Front Range communities from Trinidad to Fort Collins in a concentrated effort to change state law? It may take one year or ten but this issue will never be decided at the municipal level, so face reality and work to undo what was undoubtedly a corrupt process.

Ask yourselves how it came to be that an entity such as the COGCC was given the right to tell a municipality that their regulations could be pre-empted and then answer the question without thinking of campaign dollars. The deal stank then and continues to stink- and you know it.

Thus far, Council, you appear weak, fragile and timid. For God’s sake step up to the plate and start batting! You were elected to lead, so start leading.

Fracking within our community is likely the biggest and most dominant issue you as council will ever face; that is until you are up for re-election. What you do in the coming weeks will be long remembered. To paraphrase JFK: “Think not what you can do for your political future but what you can do for Longmont”.

Is fracking really safe?

On April 30, Katherin Engelhard touted the safety of fracking. From her self-proclaimed “extensive research” she quoted, “In 65 years of hydraulic fracturing of 1.2 million wells, there’s no proven case of its contaminating drinking water.”

However, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission reports that between Aug. 28, 2003, and Jan. 5, 2012, there were 427 incidences of groundwater contamination caused by oil and gas wells in Weld County alone. Groundwater contamination of this magnitude definitely poses a threat to drinking water.

A serious, more immediate safety threat Ms. Engelhard fails to mention is the air pollution documented by many new studies being released, such as the 2012 NOAA study demonstrating that, from 200 fracking wells, Erie’s air has more methane, propane and ethane than Houston, Texas. Another recent study (March 2012) by the Colorado School of Public Health at CU concludes that people living within a half-mile of fracking operations are 250 percent more likely to have chronic health impacts and 60 percent more likely to develop cancer mainly from exposure to airborne benzene, a known carcinogen associated with the more modern, “unconventional” fracking.

Fracking is astoundingly exempt from regulation by the EPA, Clean Water Act or Clean Air Act. Ms. Engelhard refers to the fracking her father did “in West Texas 40 years ago,” but this is definitely not your father’s fracking. Modern “unconventional” fracking (less than 10 years old) is considerably different and involves far more health, safety and environmental impacts due to the additional chemicals, newer technology and vastly greater allowable number of wells per pad. A quote Ms. Engelhard uses from the EPA claiming safety around this industrial activity was from 2004, when there was very little information on the impacts of the new “unconventional” fracking.

Sanfaçon Community Forum

Garry Sanfacon 2011

Garry Sanfacon, District 1 Boulder County Commissioner candidate

Boulder, CO– Garry Sanfaçon, candidate for Boulder County Commissioner, District 1, is hosting a community forum to help inform the public about the risks to Boulder County, including the City of Boulder, from natural gas extraction, including hydraulic facturing, commonly called fracking. The forum will take place on Wednesday, April 18, 2012, 6:30 -8:30 p.m., at the Nomad Theater, located at 1410 Quince Avenue, in Boulder.

The forum will consist of a presentation by leading experts on the impacts of fracking on the environment, public health, and overall community well-being, including data specific to the City of Boulder and Boulder County. They will also present data about the failure of state regulations to prevent adverse environmental and human health impacts. The experts will answer questions from the audience following their presentation. Local youth with the environmental education and youth empowerment group, Earth Guardians, will perform their latest song about fracking and, as always, remind us that their future is in our hands.

Boulder County, including the City of Boulder, is already experiencing significant adverse impacts from natural gas extraction and fracking. With over 1800 wells that can potentially be fracked in unincorporated Boulder County (that number does not include wells in incorporated municipalities within the County), this is only the tip of the iceberg. This heavy industrial, toxic activity is occurring in neighborhoods, next to schools and on County open space.

The experts presenting will be Shane Davis, Wes Wilson and Phil Doe. Shane Davis is a research biologist and leading investigator into adverse environmental and human health impacts related to fracking in Colorado. Wes Wilson was an environmental engineer with the EPA for 30 years. He was featured in the movie Gasland as a whistleblower on the EPA’s failure to regulate fracking. Phil Doe spent his career working on water issues with the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation. He is currently the Environmental Issues Director for the grassroots advocacy group Be the Change, and an activist for protecting our most precious resource, water.

Fouled Forever by Fracking

This is a typical well

Fracking leaves scars, above and below the surface.

I have very strong misgivings about the XL pipeline proposal.  Governor Brownback tells us that it will bring “good times” to Kansas but I have good reasons to doubt it.

When I was a child, some seventy years ago, we moved to a farm about ten miles north of the little town where I now reside.  In an area adjoining our barn lot, there was a small pond of blue water.  The clay for several yards around it was also blue and I questioned about it.  I learned that it was a “sluice pond” from a gas well that had been attempted there many years before.  Gas and oil occupy the same underground areas and one cannot drill for one without finding at least small quantities of the other. In that case, the water and oil had been drained off into this little pond in that unsuccessful search for gas.  That same small piece of ground will still be blue and totally barren of vegetation, but that was a small operation.  Periodically, some drillers will go back to old wells and try low-pressure “fracking” in order to salvage a bit more gas from that well.  It was done a mile from our little lake house where we had a well of potable water.  After the fracking, the well was hopelessly fouled…. forever!

In traveling the length of Kansas in order to visit your lovely state, I was struck by how green western Kansas has become with the assistance of the gigantic irrigation systems which allow the growth of many crops that are not thought to be indigenous to the climate.  This cropland that spreads throughout the whole of western Kansas and Nebraska is the reason for the sobriquet of “Breadbasket to the World.”  The fresh water which nourishes those fields as well as all the large cities west of Wichita is a large underground deposit, called the Oglalla Aquifer, dating back to the melting glaciers from the last Ice Age.  We are aware that it will not last forever and so conservation practices have been instituted for its maximum protection.

Can one even imagine the disaster, not only to Kansas and Nebraska but to the world as a whole, should this precious water deposit become fouled by a massive leak of crude oil into its midst?  A huge share of the wheat-producing land in the world would be instantly removed from availability, world famine would be increased exponentially and the entire region returned to empty desert.  There is nobody who can guarantee that such a leak would never happen and there is not enough money in the world to compensate humanity for its loss.

Than, again, why should we tolerate it?  This is Canada’s oil, bound for re-sale all over the world.  There are refineries closer than Houston and no reason why Canada should not build their own refineries closer to the source of the product, and there must be routes for its disposal that do not endanger such a precious resource of an equally-precious deposit.  I applaud the President for his courageous demand to wait for further investigation of the environmental impact before giving further consideration to tis potentially-disastrous project.

Erie Rising

There’s a new blog in Erie – here’s their latest post:

Welcome to the website dedicated to Erie, Colorado families and our concerns regarding the natural gas drilling and fracking in our community.  

On this site, we will post articles, news links, comments, concerns, and responses with the intent of enabling and empowering Erie residents with knowledge and understanding of the serious issues and development in our community.

As a community we are simply asking 3 questions:

How does Hydraulic Fracturing (aka “fracking”) affect our health?
How does Hydraulic Fracturing  affect our children and environment?
How will Hydraulic Fracturing affect our property value?

We are not experts on the issue; we are fellow concerned parents and residents who are in the process of becoming knowledgeable about natural gas development in our area.  We do not hold all of the answers, but we will post the information we receive and share it with you so that you too are enabled to make your own conclusions about the issues at hand.

If you have an article you would like to share, please email it to us erierising@gmail.com and we will post it for you! We will do our best to post information from all sides as we know this is a very volatile issue.

Please join us to protect our community and our children!

Longmont City Council 12-20-2011

Huge turnout of citizens opposed to fracking – all asking Council to impose a six-month ban on new applications and licenses to drill until careful study is done and regulations reviewed to ensure the public’s interest is protected.

Several oil-industry folks showed up and are noted.

Council voted for a 120 day moratorium by a 7 – 0 vote.

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TO :  CITY OF LONGMONT  c/o Brien Schumacher

FROM:  CITIZENS OF UNION RESERVOIR

RE: CONCERNS OF OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT AROUND UNION RESERVOIR

DATE: DECEMBER 12, 2011

Attached:

Full COGCC report of Complaint #1433445 and  Remediation # 3743 regarding contamination at Rider Well #1 next to Trail Ridge Middle School(31 pages-2 sided)

CTL Thompson Report May 22, 2006(17 pages 2 sided)

Cordilleran Report August 14, 2008 (33 pages-2 sided)

Cordilleran Report December 12, 2008 (36 pages-2 sided)

Olsson Associates Report July 10, 2009 (19 pages-1 sided)

Maps of COGCC Field Inspector, Environment, Engineering, Location Assessment, Permitting Coverage(5 page)

OSHA Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing(11 Pages)

INTRODUCTION

The Oil and Gas Conservation Act does not totally preempt a home-rule city’s exercise of land-use authority over Oil and Gas Development and Operations within the territorial limits of the city. We believe there is a human element, as well as a cumulative effect, of the Oil & Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing industry that affects citizens and is not currently addressed by the State of Colorado and COGCC.  At this point, it is widely accepted that most damage and contamination occurs near the surface.  Due to it’s lack of accountability, there is no other industry allowed to severely risk property values, public health, environment, and local jobs, to the extent the Oil and Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing process does, and therefore this needs to be addressed.

PROPERTY VALUES

We believe the property values of residents and City of Longmont will decline where there is a concentration of industrial activity from Oil & Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing, consistent with those seen across the state and country.  We believe the area around Union Reservoir will be a ‘heavily fracked’ area over the next decade if this industrial activity is allowed in City of Longmont jurisdiction.  Screening and aesthetic change must be considered  to protect property values, with regard to consolidation of wells near schools,  residential zoning, and inside recreation areas.  Who incurs the costs?  Will the City experience a direct loss of revenue from fees for recreation and events at Union Reservoir, in relation to Oil & Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing? What is the projected total of wells to be considered around Union Reservoir over the next decade or two. “In recent years, landowners in heavily ‘fracked’ parts of the county, like Garfield County Colorado, have seen property values plummet. Retirees, like Dee Hoffmeister and Lisa Bracken, have experienced this first hand. Both of their families have found themselves powerless to pursue any recourse at recovering the damage done to their personal assets.” NYT 11/19/11.

TRANSPORTATION

We believe the current proposed accessibility for the Eckel, Steinke, or Bogott property will need improvements and therefore are subject to  investigation and compensation. There will need to be upgrades to existing transportation on WCR 1 infrastructure to accommodate heavy truck traffic. We need a comprehensive study of these impacts on the roads over time, given that if the industry is allowed in City limits, there will be more wells drilled and fracked than the current proposal, in this area.  Also, we do not believe the State of Colorado or COGCC address hazardous commercial vehicle access and proximity to residential housing, schools, and recreation areas. What happens if one of these trucks accidentally hits an occupied residence in transit, given the proximity to dwellings on the current proposal? Are these people evacuated prior to transport?  Do we know what hazardous chemicals will be transported in City limits?

INSURANCE and INDEMNITY

Potential damage costs associated with a hazardous spills needs to be assessed. We believe there should be a requirement for insurance above and beyond what is currently required by the State of Colorado or the COGCC, especially if the applicant has a past history of several violations. The City of Longmont must demand a Indemnity Bond to guarantee sufficient indemnification for all loss that could be sustained as a result of reduced value or damage to property and environment.  We believe that the applicant should be required to carry a cash Reclamation Bond, that would guarantee the eventual clean-up of any and all damage caused by Oil and Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing, returning the site to its natural, pre-development condition, particularly if the applicant has a history of contaminations and violations. Will there be Development Bonds regarding public infrastructure improvements necessitated by the Drilling, Hydraulic Fracturing, Hauling, and related Construction activities?

DISCLOSURE

Current Federal, State, and COGCC regulations do not allow for full disclosure of chemicals and concentrations used in the Oil & Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing process. We believe this puts all life at risk if an accident were to occur and treatment were necessary for contamination.  Are contaminations, such as COGCC Complaint #1433445/Remediation #3743, reported to the city, school, or adjacent properties?  We believe that all records pertaining to all wells shall always be kept available for public record, due to the longevity of the wells.

EMERGENCY RESPONSE

There will need to be education and training with regard to local authorities knowledge of contamination procedures concerning toxic chemicals used.  Who is responsible for these costs? Particular attention should be given, due to the proximity to schools, dwellings, and location on City of Longmont public recreation areas with proposed trails. All locations on the current proposal will combine for higher concentration of pedestrian traffic adjacent to the industrial activity, as compared to rural, private property. Reverse 911 for chemical spills?

Do we know what hazardous chemicals will be allowed in City limits?

SETBACKS

Current setback mandates by The State of Colorado and COGCC are not sufficient to protect surface property owners or occupants from Oil and Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing.  Current regulation, allowing concentration of industrial activity, with regard to consolidated well pads, and the proximity to dwellings, schools, water source, and recreation areas, puts human life at risk.  See attached submittal from the United States Department of Labor, OSHA guidelines, regarding potential hazards involved with Oil and Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing.  If there were an accident during any part of the process, are the setbacks sufficient to protect children playing 50’ away on adjacent properties? Clearly, this is an industrial activity, concentrated, with regard to consolidation of wells.  There needs to be much larger setbacks from adjacent properties and dwellings when proposed next to residential areas, schools, water source, and recreation areas. The City of Longmont needs to study, ‘What is the safe distance?’, regarding this industry and it’s concentration effects with regard to well consolidation.

AIR, SOIL, WATER, MONITORING

We believe this industry to have many potential health side effects related to air, soil, and water contamination.  We do not believe that current Federal , State of Colorado, or COGCC  regulations adequately cover the air, soil,  and water pollution, with regard to Oil and Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing.  We are concerned that we, as citizens adjacent to this concentrated industrial activity,  will bear the costs of the oversight shortcomings with our health.  We also believe current contamination level acceptability for several hazardous chemicals(See Table 910-1 of COGCC rules),  with regard to air, soil, and water pollution, by Federal, State of Colorado, and COGCC are insufficient, as it relates to the Oil and Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing industry.   Especially in close proximity to schools, residences, and public recreation areas.  Clear and accurate information on accessibility to  air, soil, and water tests must be provided to adjacent property owners and schools, with sufficient time, to accumulate a baseline inventory of air, soil, and water composition, prior to any commencement of drilling, if they choose to have independent testing done.   We need a soil, air, and water baseline inventory to assess long term changes in the soil , water, and air around proposed well sites by the applicant or City of Longmont.  We would like multiple samples of air taken at all places of interest and in the breathing zone of the exposed population.  Emission monitoring for VOC’s, road dust, and ozone flare are necessary throughout the process of Oil and Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing process.  There is limited toxicological data and an unavailability of accepted inhalation toxicity values for 65 out of 86 detected contaminants in the air.  Must we get sick to prove toxicity?  We believe this project should be funded with profits, projected or realized, relating to Oil and Gas exploration.   The City of Longmont should mandate closed loop systems.  The City of Longmont should require the usage of nontoxic, green chemicals for the Stimulation process.  An increase of engineered monitoring wells for those applicants that have a history of contamination and poor remediation are necessary.  Storm water runoff rules, given the proximities to watersheds, are necessary.  We believe it is clear, there is not enough emphasis by the Federal Government, the State of Colorado and COGCC regarding these issues. Evidence of this is can be seen by  attached COGCC Complaint #1433445 and Remediation #3743. We believe it is incumbent upon the City of Longmont or other profiteer of Oil and Gas exploration on City of Longmont property, to fund a local, independent scientific study, regarding information we can gain about side effects from this industry , given the large sums of profits.

LIGHT AND NOISE MONITORING

We do not believe the current State of Colorado, COGCC, or local laws adequately cover  light or noise pollution created during Oil and Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing near residential areas, schools, or recreation areas.

OVERSIGHT

It is clear, based on the amount of wells in this region, current and projected, and number of COGCC inspectors, engineers, permitters, and environmental managers, per region, that there is not enough oversight.  It is clear, upon review of attached Complaint #1433445/Remediation # 3743, that there is a lack of follow up and implementation of remediation by the COGCC when contamination occurs.   Current COGCC inspections only occur, on average, once every 3 years. This is unacceptable, particularly in residential, school, and public access recreation areas, where there is a higher concentration of human population, or next to a water source.  Even when the contamination is above legal limits and remediation is demanded, records reveal a clear lack of attention and enforcement by COGCC. Evidence seen by Remediation #3743  puts school children, water table, and property values at risk. Will the city be obligated to incur the expense of hiring additional staff to regularly inspect the oil well activities and sites?  Who will be inspecting? How often? How can we demand faster remediation if there is an accident?  If the offending activity is not witnessed while it’s occurring, then no penalties can be imposed.

TRACING

We believe there should be a benign element introduced to the chemicals used during the Oil & Gas Drilling and Hydraulic fracturing process to identify the proprietor, if there were a contamination to occur. This element is particularly important to consider when the applicant has a history of violation.

BAD ACTOR

We do not believe that there should be any approval of  a proposal where the applicant has shown negligence in remediation. 906.a and 906.d of COGCC rules.  We do not believe that there should be any approval of  a proposal where the applicant has had previous contamination within the City of Longmont. The applicant should be reputable in all areas of public activity, including credit ratings, harassment violations, workman’s compensation cases, construction health and safety compliance, regulatory requirements, and any legal issues. This is an industrial activity that puts Citizens lives in danger when shortcuts occur.

ZONING

We believe current zoning to be inconsistent with the proposed consolidated pad on Parcel 120536400011 and surroundings.  There needs to be a higher standard with respect to location  of consolidated drill pads and their effect on overall surroundings.   We believe there will be a drop in property values for those existing homes adjacent to where PUD-R zoning would need to be changed to accommodate Oil and Gas Drilling and Hydraulic fracturing at this site.

QUALITY OF LIFE

We believe any acceptance of Oil and Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing around Union Reservoir is a compromise of the citizens quality of life.  One of the benchmark standards for quality of life, nationally, regionally, and locally, is the accessibility to open space and recreation areas.  Approval of any industrial activity in these designated areas, restricts that access, therefore, compromises quality of life.  Current State of Colorado and COGCC regulations do not account for this, but we believe local authority should.

CHILD HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS

Given the proposed proximity to residence, schools, and public trails, with regard to consolidation of industrial activity, the many physical differences between children and adults demand special emphasis. A child’s lower body weight and higher intake rate results in a greater dose of hazardous substance per unit of body weight. They could be at greater risk than adults from certain kinds of exposure to hazardous substances. Children play outdoors and sometimes engage in hand-to-mouth behaviors that increase their exposure potential. Children are shorter than are adults; this means they breathe dust, soil, and vapors close to the ground. If toxic exposure levels are high enough during critical growth stages, the developing body systems of children can sustain permanent damage. Finally, children are dependent on adults for access to housing, for access to medical care, and for risk identification. Thus, adults need as much information as possible to make informed decisions regarding their children’s health.

MACROECOLOGY

All living things fail without water.  Under current Federal, State of Colorado, and COGCC laws and guidelines, the hydraulic fracturing industry fails to address long term consequences of enormous amounts of water contamination.  We are contaminating one finite resource we cannot substitute, in water, for another resource, in gas, we can substitute.  This industry should not be allowed to continue without research into how to successfully decontaminate water, with regard to chemicals used in the Oil & Gas Hydraulic Fracturing process, or demand usage of green chemicals.  The City of Longmont should mandate green completions.

CONCLUSION

This letter does not preclude our neighborhood from submitting further issues, given the fast rate at which the City of Longmont is choosing to proceed with its analysis and judgment of the Oil & Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing process allowed in city limits. We believe current Federal, State of Colorado, local and COGCC rules and laws do not protect its Citizens, with regard to Oil and Gas drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing.  We believe the City of Longmont should immediately suspend the acceptance of applications for permits for oil and gas development for 6 months, so that the aforementioned issues can be fully vetted and that municipal codes can be adopted to resolve the issues. We believe the City of Longmont should suspend all Oil & Gas Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing development within our community for 6 months.  We believe the City of Longmont should immediately create and pass a Municipal Ordinance that establishes the inalienable right of the City of Longmont citizens and electorate to control, ban, and outlaw Oil and Gas well activities within our Municipality.  Cost of doing business should not severely risk property values, public health, environment, and local jobs.  We urge the City of Longmont to protect our Civil Rights.

Attached:

Full COGCC report of Complaint #1433445 and  Remediation # 3743 regarding contamination at Rider Well #1 next to Trail Ridge Middle School(31 pages-2 sided)

CTL Thompson Report May 22, 2006(17 pages 2 sided)

Cordilleran Report August 14, 2008 (33 pages-2 sided)

Cordilleran Report December 12, 2008 (36 pages-2 sided)

Olsson Associates Report July 10, 2009 (19 pages-1 sided)

Maps of COGCC Field Inspector, Environment, Engineering, Location Assessment, Permitting Coverage(5 page)

OSHA Oil and Gas Well Drilling and Servicing(11 Pages)

Submitted 12/12/11

Citizens of Union Reservoir

Pat Eckel

Joe Kelliher

Dave Miller

Linda Miller

Chris Porzuczek

Sheila Porzuczek

Diane Seaman

Tom Seaman

Dick VanProosdy

Joyce VanProosdy

Charles Walck

Carol Walck

Fracking in Longmont Open Space?

Dear Mayor Baum and City Council,

Oil and Money -do mix

I found out several days ago that plans are being prepared by city staff and others to allow for horizontal drilling for natural gas and oil on Longmont city-owned properties, including on Longmont Open Space. Then I find in the City Council Study Session packet for October 18, 2011, that the City is having a conversation with Weld County about how they deal with their gas and oil well drilling agreements. What’s up?

First, before any kind of drilling is approved, I urge our Mayor and City Council members to educate themselves about the dangers of fracking by watching the movie, “Gasland” to get a better understanding of hydraulic fracturing, also know as FRACKING.

Caustic fluids (things such as biocides and breaking agents – very toxic chemical concoctions that are trade secrets) are injected under pressure deep into the strata in order to release natural gas and/or oil that might not be obtainable through regular drilling methods. One of the problems, however, is the forcing of natural gas into places where it doesn’t belong, like in people’s water wells. Just to the east of Longmont, people are able to light the water coming out of their faucets because it is full of methane.

At a recent meeting that discussed the dangers of fracking, a woman from Firestone, where drilling platforms and condensate tanks surround the neighborhood and local schools, told us that people are getting sick. Cancer rates in her neighborhood have risen dramatically and other serious health issues have appeared. Of course, that is in Weld County, where they’ve dug hundreds if not thousands of these kinds of wells. However, Weld County Commissioners appear not to be concerned with the health and wellbeing of their population.

When I heard that Longmont is considering allowing drilling on our Open Space land that is owned by the people of Longmont and close to homes, I was flabbergasted.

Drilling for oil THIS CLOSE to Union Reservoir?! Insane!

By the way, did you know that Fracking requires the use of millions of gallons of water? An initial “Frack” requires one to four million gallons of water. That amount is enough domestic water for 30 to 100 homes for a year. However, since each well requires up to 32 frackings – well, you do the math. In our state, it’s common knowledge that water supplies are already inadequate.

Of course, there is the issue of cleaning up of the injected water. The extracted water sits in ponds to evaporate. What type of chemical soup is in the water? Deadly toxins!

And what about emissions? Fracking is producing seriously harmful air quality problems. In Wyoming, for example, there is a rural town that has the highest ozone levels in the country. Ozone gives lungs a sunburn – did you know that?

Sure, it makes sense to find out how Weld County manages their oil and gas wells. However, given the problems that Weld County is experiencing, you should be running in the opposite direction as fast as you can. It’s a nightmare waiting to happen. But wait, is it all about the money?

Please, don’t allow FRACKING anywhere near our city.