Tag Archive for fracking fluids

Ballot 300 opposition: slick word choice for slickwater

It’s poison, in the water and in their words.

This election I am casting a “yes” vote on Question 300. I just want to take a moment to share some wisdom I’ve learned over the past year about this issue: Read carefully the information you receive on any issue and pay particular attention to word choice.

For example, the opposition to 300 points out that EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson has stated, “I am not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water, although there are investigations ongoing.” Besides that fact that this is an outdated statement and much has happened since she said this, it is also a specifically worded statement, “the fracking process itself.” When the industry refers to the “fracking process” they refer to that very moment that water, combined with toxic chemicals and sand, is injected into the well and creates the fissures underground to release the oil or gas from the shale.

Here’s what they are not referring to: Any number of days or weeks before to years after the well has been “fracked” where well-bore integrity may have failed. Any spills or accidents of the frack fluid or chemicals used in it during transport or at any time before or after the frack. The backflow of fluid from the well after it is fracked. The transfer to tanker trucks for disposal. Any accidents or spills that tanker trucks might have on the way to a disposal facility. Any spills, accidents or integrity issues at the disposal well, or the disposal pit at the well. Any leaks or spills during the lifetime of the well.

Also not included is the process by which clean, drinkable, treated municipal water is combined with toxic chemicals to create fracking fluid. Yes, “Fracking pollutes the water our families drink.” Millions of gallons of the water meant for you, for me, for our children to drink is injected with chemicals and made undrinkable. It is forever removed as a source for human consumption and it is disposed of underground because it is toxic waste.

Also brought up by the opposition is how many water wells in Colorado have been polluted by “fracking” fluid from hydraulic fracturing drilling. Well, how many people in Longmont city limits are concerned about their well water being contaminated by fracking? I know I’m not. I don’t get my water from wells. Have the people who wrote this ad even visited Longmont? I get my water from a municipal water source. I am concerned about surface and groundwater contamination, though, especially in areas where children and animals play. You need only visit the COGCC’s website to see hundreds of such contaminations; one was by Trail Ridge Middle School.

Here’s what they also aren’t talking about: Air quality in close proximity to a well. Fracking a well releases not only natural gas and oil, but also VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and other toxins into the air. Some of it is captured, but some of it isn’t and over the lifetime of the well, especially a multi-well pad site, it would certainly add up. These chemicals are known to have neurological and respiratory effects and many are known to cause cancer. How’d you like to have that in your backyard for 20 years? What about 50? Many scientific studies are raising serious red flags, and even the COGCC and the CDPHE have said they just don’t know what the health effects of living in close proximity to a well are. How’s that for instilling confidence in the citizens this is forced upon?

And regardless of air and water, this is still always going to be a highly industrial activity that is damaging to property values, quality of life and has safety issues that are a concern for every resident when it occurs in close proximity to where people live and children go to school.

Read carefully. I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to choose wrongly because of semantics. Vote “yes” on 300 and “Keep Longmont a Great Place to Live.”

Colorado Needs to Protect Residents Exposed to Fracking Operations

Editor’s Note: Mike Chiropolos is Chief Counsel, Lands Program at Western Resource Advocates.

Minimize quantities of toxics and maximize setback distances as part of a comprehensive approach

As the State of Colorado considers how much to increase residential setbacks from oil and gas drilling and fracking operations, Western Resource Advocates is leading efforts for comprehensive improvements. Our letter is posted online.

Colorado needs to approve significant increases to setbacks in a comprehensive framework of updated rules addressing today’s technologies and formations – by implementing the legislative mandate that COGCC rules “protect the health, safety and welfare of the general public in the conduct of oil and gas operations,” C.R.S. 34-6-106(11)(a)(II).

Public health considerations trump any interest in developing oil and gas. The operator/lessee has the right to request a waiver of the setback, but no right to obtain a waiver where public health could be compromised. Setbacks need to be increased so that the presumption is that the operator cannot drill and frack too close to homes for safety and public health purposes – putting burden of obtaining waiver squarely where it belongs: with industry.

As drilling expands across the state and the Front Range, more and more Colorado citizens are suffering health problems from drilling and fracking operations within a few hundred feet of their homes. Cities and counties across the state are approving stronger protections for their citizens, only to be threatened with litigation from a state government apparently willing to intimidate its political subdivisions rather than address real problems consistent with state law. Litigation is not a solution nor will it make these issues go away. The State needs to act.

Unfortunately, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment appears to be ignoring the basic principle that prevention is the most effective public health approach. See http://cogcc.state.co.us/library/setbackstakeholdergroup/Recommendations/CDPHE.pdf Mitigation and various BMPs [Best Management Practices] might address some symptoms and nibble around the edges of what’s making people sick – but they don’t get at the root cause: allowing far too much industrial activity utilizing toxic chemicals that pollute our air and water, far too close to homes and communities resulting in far too much exposure.

Ample science and experience establishes that the statutory mandate of protecting human health and the environment in the conduct of oil and gas operations will be furthered by 1) minimizing the quantities of emissions and other toxics, and 2) maximizing the distance between these industrial sites and both residences and public places. These two principles should guide state policy on oil and gas activities in populated areas.

Colorado’s current 350 foot setbacks (only 150 feet in rural areas) are lagging far behind other states. Maryland requires 1,000 foot residential setbacks. Pennsylvania, North Dakota and parts of Louisiana require 500 foot setbacks. Colorado has a current rule on well location providing that wells drilled 2,500 feet or more “shall be located not less than six hundred (600) feet from any lease line[.]” Surely, homeowners and families are entitled to greater setbacks than arbitrary lease boundaries?

Western Resource Advocates and its partners at San Juan Citizens’ Alliance and Western Colorado Congress called for increasing Colorado’s setbacks to 1,000 feet for homes, and 1,500 feet for schools and hospitals. The letter outlines a comprehensive package of reforms building off four initiatives announced by Governor Hickenlooper: setbacks, well integrity, water quality, and fugitive emissions (air quality, health and climate). Improved planning subject to “Comprehensive Drilling Plans” and “Geographic Area Plans” (COGCC Rules 216 and 503) are integral to exploring win-win solutions to perceived conflicts.

Advanced technologies and planning tools offer the ability to significantly limit impacts and focus the footprint of development. Colorado must enact strong new regulations that serve as a national model for balancing public health and environmental protection, including wildlife and habitat, with energy development.

Two upcoming meeting on September 14 and 27 will determine the State’s course of action. The Colorado Oil & Gas Commission should remember that legislators and local government will continue to pursue meaningful protections for citizens and the environment if state agencies fail to do so. Half measures will not suffice: comprehensive reforms are needed.

Why censor, Times Call?

Times-Call handcuffs public opinion.

Readers of the Longmont Times-Call might be interested to know that what they read on the Opinion Page is not always what was written by the author. Our guaranteed Freedom of Speech was intended to apply to government censorship. Over the years it has come to mean censorship by anyone. That’s stretching things a bit. Certainly privately owned and operated organizations have the right to determine was is or is not communicated under their names. But newspapers and other media?! Aren’t they supposed to be the Fourth Estate?

Certainly freedom of speech is not absolute. The much-used example of not been free to holler “fire” in a theatre applies. But come on Times-Call. There is nothing in the Letter to the Editor by Ann Kibbey that appeared in the Sunday Times-Call, September 9, 2012, that justifies censorship. And, indeed, it IS censorship. (Censored items italicized in the letter by Ann Kibbey, republished below.) The letter came in under the Times-Call limit of 300 words. So that’s not an excuse. It wasn’t obscene, a personal attack, etc.. All the contents were valid and fair game. So TC — here’s my question for you, “Did you take out parts you didn’t like because you like the targeted oil and gas industry and want to serve as its de facto public relations watch dog?”

We’ll be watching Times-Call — especially over the next two months leading up to the election on November 6. Here’s what will be watching for: Where’s your bias? And how are you displaying it?

Editor, Free Range Longmont

I support the ballot issue that would ban fracking in the city of Longmont, and also ban toxic waste pits within the city limits.  There are way too many unknowns about the impact of fracking on ground water, on lakes, on the air we breathe and the food we eat.  The industrial use of roads in residential areas will cause noise pollution as well as damage to the roads.  The oil and gas companies are claiming that there aren’t any known dangers from fracking.  Anyone who has seen movies like Gasland knows that this is not true.  The oil companies, instead of doing the studies that are needed, just pretend that no studies are necessary.   They equate absence of proof with proof of absence. This is not credible.

Importantly, the oil and gas companies have refused to make a complete disclosure to the public of the materials they will use in fracking.  Since it is common knowledge that benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer, is being used in fracking, one can only wonder what chemicals are being concealed.   The oil companies claim that they need to keep secrets for proprietary reasons.  I find this impossible to believe.  They obviously collude with each other in many ways to get what they want, and anyone who showed up at a drilling in progress would have easy access to the materials being used by another company.  It seems, instead, that they just don’t want us to know all the chemicals being used.  In the 1970s, radioactive material was used to generate explosions.  Is this still being used?  We need proof of absence, not absence of proof!  We need full disclosure.  Without it, a ban on fracking is the only reasonable course of action.

Ann Kibbey, Letter to the Times-Call Editor

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.

Do you know who wants your water?

How can I conserve water? My answer may surprise you. Last week a city of Longmont water board member commented that he has a fiduciary responsibility to sell Longmont’s surplus water. Currently, Longmont leases out 600-acre-feet of water per year to Big Oil for fracking and drilling.

Oil fracking and drilling within our community will swell to consume thousands of acre-feet of clear water per year. Simultaneously, Longmont is encouraging its citizens to reduce their use of treated water by 3,500-acre-feet per year.

So, if I have a leaky faucet I have two choices:

1) I can repair the faucet to reduce my consumption. This will increase Longmont’s surplus water. The surplus water from my leak will be sold for fracking. The water will be mixed with toxic chemicals to produce fracking fluid. The fracking fluid will be injected miles under the ground into the Niobrara tight sand formations. Toxic water spurts back from the well and needs to be quarantined. It is trucked hundreds of miles to disposal sites to be forced into 2-mile deep isolation wells. The mountain stream water that Longmont sold to the drilling company is irrevocably removed from the hydrological system (assuming that everything goes well). It will never again runoff the surface. It will never again soak down or evaporate up into the water cycle.

2) I can let the faucet continue to drip.

In this case my leaked water will soak down into the soil or evaporate into the atmosphere or drain to the treatment system. It is conserved within our natural environment.

So, what is the best way for me to conserve the water that is leaking out of my faucet?

Maybe I should just let it drip. Every drop counts.