Tag Archive for hydraulic fracturing

Which natural resource will prevail?

What do you think of when you hear the words “natural resource”?  OK, let’s narrow the field.  Do you think of water?  Or do you think of oil and gas?

Colorado Senate Bill 12-107 sponsored by Senator Morgan Carroll may just pit those two resources against each other.  That shouldn’t be the case.  In Colorado, the clear frontrunner should be water.  Most Coloradans are well aware that we have no water to spare or to waste.  Yet that precious life-sustaining resource is under siege by the oil and gas industry’s drilling and production technology known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Senate Bill 107 will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 1:30 PM.  You can register your support for the passage of the Water Rights Protection Act here or here.  Your support will indicate the value you place on Colorado’s water and on the health and safety of Coloradans.

The legislative declaration of SB 12-107 states that “energy exploration by means of hydraulic fracturing should be conducted in a responsible way that ensures the safety of Colorado residents and Colorado communities” and that “water quality and an adequate supply of water are essential to Colorado’s economy and are topics of great concern to Colorado’s cities and towns, Colorado’s agricultural economy, and the outdoor recreation and tourism for which Colorado is known across the nation and throughout the world.”

Among the Water Rights Protection Act provisions are a requirement that before drilling commences that the operator provide to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Department of Water Resources a good-faith estimate of where and how the operator intends to acquire the water and a good-faith estimate of the amount of water that will be required for hydraulic fracturing.  After completion the operator is required to report where and how the operator actually acquired the requisite water and the amount of water actually used.

Before an operator is authorized to frack, it must collect water quality samples related to potential impacts from fracking from all active water wells located within one-half mile of the oil and gas well.

The Water Rights Protection Act also provides for water-based setbacks.  An operator will not be allowed to conduct fracking “within one-half mile of any surface water, including a pond, reservoir and other natural or artificial impoundment or stream, ditch or other artificial waterway unless the operator uses a closed-loop system.”  This provision offers some measure of protection for the waterways within Longmont and, of course, Union Reservoir.

The Act also requires that “an operator shall not insert into the ground any quantity of chemicals known to cause or reasonably anticipated to cause cancer,” such as benzene, toluene, ethybenzene, or xylene.

These and the other provisions of the Water Rights Protection Act are common sense requirements to help protect both the quantity and quality of the water we need for survival and are necessary to protect the public’s health and safety.

It only takes a minute or two to let your representatives know that you value Colorado’s water resources and that your health and safety must be protected.

Longmont, you’re fracked. OK by Council

The following address was presented to the Longmont City Council on April 17, 2012 in response to the the “draft” dilling/fracking regulations. The Longmont City Council ignored the testimony and pleas of the community, the advice of four of its boards and commissions and advanced on a 6-1 vote a gutted version of the regulations to ordinance. Sarah Levison provided the protest vote.

Fracked behind closed doors

Fracked behind closed doors

This document of Longmont’s proposed oil and gas regulations shames this city.  And it should shame you.  But I suspect it won’t.  It is nothing more than a capitulation to the oil and gas industry and a betrayal of the citizens of Longmont.

As a home rule city, you have the legal opportunity to do much more.  You met in executive session on March 27 and April 3 to discuss draft oil and gas regulations and to receive legal advice and obtain instructions regarding the same.  It does not take a Philadelphia lawyer or a rocket scientist to determine when and where your decisions took place.  Tonight’s discussion is likely to be nothing more than a dog and pony show to once again pretend to the Longmont public that you are listening to their testimony, the evidence of the dangers of drilling within the city and the threats to human health, safety and welfare from fracking.

Our health, safety and welfare are constitutionally (both United States and Colorado) and statutorily guaranteed.  Yet our Democratic governor, our Republican attorney general and the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, the oil and gas industry sock puppet, prefers to thumb their collective noses at the people and smile all the way to the bank to deposit campaign contributions from their benefactors.  The same holds true of most members of the Longmont city council who occupy their seats by virtue of the financial assistance and dirty campaign tactics of Western/American Tradition Partnership and its local sympathizers who do not know enough or care enough to even protect themselves and their families.

It was no accident that American Tradition Partnership first showed its rabidly anti-people face in Longmont in 2009.  This organization, funded by the extraction industries and the Koch Brothers, knew the oil and gas industry was moving its way to the western end of the Wattenberg Field and the Niobrara Play and needed a Longmont city council that would “play” ball with them – pun intendedThey got it and they got more of it last year.  And now the people of Longmont are getting fricking fracked.

So you’ll sacrifice your personal integrity, the well-being of your community and the health and safety of your families on the altar of oil and gas profits and I suspect you’ll even use the nauseatingly familiar buzzwords of your political party to justify the decisions you made weeks, if not months, ago.

But don’t expect respect or support for your choices and don’t expect that the community will take your actions lying down – or bending over.

This is not over until the proverbial fat lady sings – and you can be sure that she is just warming up.

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.

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.

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.

Times-Call editorial naive and shortsighted

I am grateful the Times-Call editorial on Jan. 3 voiced the merits of the Longmont City Council’s decision to enact a 120-day moratorium on accepting and processing new oil and gas drilling applications. However, the editorial oversimplified the residents’ concerns and the reasons why this moratorium and the tighter regulations we hope are forthcoming are so important.

First, the editorial states that the oil and gas companies “rightfully argue that chemically charged fluids are pumped deep below the water table, that well bores are lined and that the surface is protected from used fluids” and so, therefore, they say, the fracking process should be allowed (presumably because those factors somehow mean it’s safe). I’m not sure I agree how “rightful” that argument is, but I can say it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the oil and gas companies would make it. Of course they would — they want to drill! I wouldn’t expect them to say there are known and unknown dangers and risks to this process, especially in a heavily populated area. But I certainly hope the City Council and city staff will take those arguments with a grain of salt and pay attention to the mounting evidence that argues differently.

The editorial goes on to say, “They (Longmont residents) have reason to be concerned about groundwater quality, even if the drilling company guarantees it won’t be tainted.” Wow, guarantees it? OK, I don’t know about you but I find that a little suspect. If they truly guarantee it, let them put the money up front that it would take to fix a groundwater contamination, if it were to occur, including all potential costs for health issues, environmental cleanup and lost property values. If they can truly guarantee it, they shouldn’t have any problem putting this money aside before they drill, since there is apparently no chance they’ll ever have to use it.

I believe this editorial was shortsighted and oversimplified. While it talks about the concerns about groundwater quality and a brief mention about property values, it fails to mention all the other concerns that residents “rightfully” have, including heavy truck traffic, noise, lights, vibrations, air pollution, the vast amounts of water that will be taken out of the water supply forever, to name a few.

These are among the numerous issues that I hope the City Council and city staff will be sure they fully understand as they develop new regulations and that they will take all necessary steps to ensure the health, safety and well-being of Longmont residents and properties.

Coombs/Levison support drilling moratorium

I want to applaud Mayor Dennis Coombs for suggesting a 6-month moratorium on Hydraulic Fracking before the City Council. However, it is truly sad that only Sarah Levison voted along with the Mayor. Are these five dissenting Councilmembers not concerned about the health, safety and wellbeing of the citizens of Longmont?

At the Nov. 15 Longmont City Council meeting, a Firestone resident shared about 24/7 drilling operations behind her home – with lights, noise, and strong petroleum and rotten egg odors that occurred during and after the drilling of the well. She stated that her house vibrated all night long and there were 50 water trailers parked behind her home. The traffic from semi-trucks delivering water for fracking the well occurred all hours of the day/night. Would you call this a friendly industry?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) escaping during and after drilling operations have been implicated as being carcinogenic, endocrine disrupters and nerve agents. Dr. Theo Colborn of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX), addresses the dangers from natural gas drilling in this video.

In Wyoming, the EPA has found a link between fracking operations and groundwater contamination.

I encourage you to watch the movies “Gasland” or “Split Estate.” These are both available at the Longmont library. What you’ll find is that fracking is not a benign method of drilling as the industry touts.

Is Longmont going to become a ‘Drilling’ sacrifice zone? I urge you to contact the council members that objected to a moratorium – Santos, Sammoury, Witt, Bagley and Finley – and tell them that it is not in our best interest to allow fracking in and around the City of Longmont.

Super Advisory Committee to hear about drilling

Oil and gas drilling at Fairview and SH 119

An informational meeting will be held on December 7th (Wednesday) from 6 PM to 9 PM at the City Council Chambers (350 Kimbark Street) to to provide information on oil and gas issues to the members of the Board of Environmental Affairs, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Water Board . Members from the Planning and Zoning Commission will not be attending the meeting. Presentations will be given by city staff and outside agencies and organizations. The presentations will be similar to those provided at the November 15th City Council meeting. In addition to the previous speakers, Mr. Wes Wilson, an ex-EPA staffer who has information on the environmental effects of oil and gas operations, has been invited to give a presentation.

This meeting will be educational only. Board members will have the opportunity to ask questions of staff and the presenters as they relate to the presentations. While this is a public meeting and the public is invited to observe the presentations, there will not be any public participation or a Public Invited to be Heard period at the meeting.

For those who would like to preview the presentations or for those not able to attend the meeting, the video of the presentations at the November 15th Council meeting is available here.

Don’t rush drilling decisions

Editor’s Note: The following address was presented to the Longmont City Council on November 15, 2011. The address was authored by Darcy Juday, Vice Chair of the Water Board, who has 20 years experience in oil and gas exploration. It was presented and endorsed by Kaye Fissinger, Chair of the Board of Environmental Affairs.

Short-term profit, long-term damage

Drilling in Wattenberg Field is coming to the edges of Longmont; and if the first wells are successful, it could continue west into the heart of our city.

Now we have the unique opportunity to consider the effects this will have on Longmont’s livability. If we rush into this unprepared, we may have regrets for 20 years to come. Other nearby communities are also assessing the impact of large scale drilling within their boundaries. Longmont should take advantage of the experience of those communities.

Council has met with Weld County and heard of their positive experience; but that’s been mostly in rural areas. We should also hear from Boulder County which has had drilling on Open Space, and from Arapahoe County which is about to experience a drilling boom. Other counties and cities are drawing up their own regulations. We should learn about what they are considering. We should learn what other counties and communities are proposing to add to their regulations, regulations that likely may go beyond those that Longmont currently has in place.

We should ask for air pollution controls, pre- and post- drilling water sampling, enclosed drilling mud circulation, visual barriers, and landscaping in our parks. Those are big picture items.

We should also know about the operating company. Weld County has had good experience with large companies but problems with smaller ones. This smaller company, TOP Operating, has drilled on Longmont property before. Did they perform as they said they would?

And lastly, our investigation should be a joint effort with Council, Water Board, Parks and Recreation and the Environmental Board in any studies, meetings and presentations. Deliberate study can prevent future regrets.

Don’t wait until you’re personally threatened

We are living in such an amazing time. Our trust in the conventional centers of power is at an all-time low. Whether it is local government, state government or national government, our belief that they or their regulatory agencies truly care about the interest of the public is highly questionable.

The hierarchical structure of government seems to benefit only those that are at the top or those that believe they are immune from the tentacles of power. Those that are at the top are committed to protect and increase their influence and make the rules that benefit this top-down structure. They believe that with charm and ruthlessness they can coerce the general public into accepting their decrees.

The public tends to not react until they are personally threatened by one issue or another: hydraulic fracking in their backyard, GMOs in their food supply, their inability to get a living wage job, healthcare that they can’t afford, foreclosure on their homes, etc.

But somehow the general public seems not the see the inter-consecutiveness between all of these issues. They are basically economic in nature; those who control the money, control the outcome. Changing who controls the hierarchy will make no difference! As long as power is controlled by money, the results will always be the same.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is horizontal in nature, designed to draw attention to the injustice and unfairness of our status quo, money-driven power structure! It’s not so much about specific demands as showing the frustration with our dysfunctional system. If you feel frustrated or marginalized, occupy your city, your town, your neighborhood. It’s your last best chance!

Fracking — coming to a location near you

Plans are being prepared by city staff and others to allow drilling for gas and oil on Longmont properties.  The mineral rights involved are substantially owned by others with Longmont owning only surface land, although the city itself does own some mineral rights.

TOP Operating, a drilling firm, has already held a neighborhood meeting in conjunction with the city for those in the vicinity of Union Reservoir, Sandstone Ranch and the Sherwood property at County Road 20-1/2.  The company’s representative, Dale Bruns (of the LifeBridge/West Union development infamy) also appeared at the October Water Board meeting and Bruns and the owners of TOP Operating appeared at the Board of Environmental Affairs October meeting.

Cougar Land Services, a seismic survey firm that has requested a permit to conduct surveys on Longmont property, is expected to appear before the two boards in November.  The purpose of the seismic surveys is to locate additional oil and gas under Longmont properties.

The TOP Operating plan is to access 80 to 100 wells through five drilling pads located on the Bogott and Adrian water and open space properties west of Union Reservoir that are owned by Longmont, at Sandstone Ranch, on the Sherwood open space property and one additional site.  These plans include directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Drilling preparations could begin in as little as two to three months.

Frack You Longmont

Frack near Longmont? It's no fairy tale.

Mineral rights issues are complex. Those of you who have seen “Gasland” and/or “Split Estates” will understand that there can be surface land rights and mineral rights for the same piece of property.  Most landowners only own surface rights.  Federal and Colorado law actually permits owners of mineral rights to locate on surface-owned lands of others to drill for the oil and gas (mineral rights) that they own.  In most cases, property owners have acquiesced and leased to them — in some cases for revenue, in some cases for some control over location and/or the number of drills.  If these companies so choose, the can erect a vertical drill for every well.  Outrageous, but true!

While there can be many wells of oil and gas near each other, today’s technology allows for drilling directionally or horizontally to access several of these wells through single drilling sites.  Fracking now makes many of these sources economical for the oil and gas industry.  Fracking uses a combination of water, sand and a chemical cocktail to break apart shale rock and release trapped oil and gas.  Fracking is a serious threat to water supplies regardless of industry propaganda to the contrary.  There are also other environmental hazards with fracking.

About three weeks ago, Longmont voters received a telephone poll conducted by American Tradition Partnership (ATP), formerly known as Western Tradition Partnership (WTP).  Among their many questions was, and I paraphrase, “Would you be OK with oil and gas drilling on Longmont’s open space?”

American Tradition Partnership is rabidly anti-environmental.  They are funded by the oil, gas and coal industries.  Even more significant, the organization is amongst the nation’s best liars who have never had a relationship with shame, and likely never will.

ATP/WTP fully funded Longmont Leadership Committee in the 2009 Longmont election that conducted the ugliest political campaign in Longmont’s recent memories. That election ushered in a majority on city council that espouses a radical ideology. In this year’s election, American Tradition Partnership has openly endorsed Bryan Baum and Health Carroll and opposed Sarah Levison and Sean McCoy in Longmont’s upcoming election.

Mayor Baum raised the issue of Longmont’s mineral rights at the 2010 council retreat.  The subject was not openly resurrected after that time and most of us who are concerned about potential drilling wrongly assumed that the subject was going nowhere.  It is my belief that American Tradition Partnership has acted with the mayor and his block on council since the 2009 election, if not before.  The dots connect.  In essence ATP/WTP is receiving payback for the support provided to elect Baum, Santos, Witt and Sammoury.

This latest turn of events is appalling and our options are limited.  We are losing control of our city and our environment.  Let your voice be heard in whatever forum you have available or feel comfortable in using.

Don’t defile Longmont’s Open Space

In a recent Guest Opinion, I wrote about Western Tradition Partnership.  WTP funded a Longmont political committee that waged an ugly political campaign to elect Mayor Bryan Baum and council members Gabe Santos, Katie Witt and Alex Sammoury.

Western Tradition Partnership is primarily funded by the oil, gas and coal industries.  WTP is now known as American Tradition Partnership.

Last week ATP polled a substantial number of Longmont voters.  It was an extensive poll.  The poll clearly promoted Baum for mayor and at-large candidate Heath Carroll.

American Tradition Partnership is rabidly anti-environmental.   Halfway through the poll, a second agenda became evident.  Their questions about renewable energy were designed to push respondents to respond negatively to green energy.

But the question that should alarm all of Longmonters was this, and I paraphrase, “Would you be OK with gas and oil drilling on Longmont’s open space?”

American Tradition Partnership is calling in its chits.  It spent money to elect the above-mentioned candidates and now its secret contributors want something in return.

Over the next four weeks Cougar Land Services, already operating in Weld County, will seek permission to perform seismic surveys on our open space.   Make no mistake, this is a precursor to drilling with the belief that it will pass the next council.

Our open space belongs to the people of Longmont and must not be disturbed, defiled and degraded.

If you want to end this threat to Longmont’s open space, you have no alternative but to vote against Bryan Baum and those on his preferred slate.   Protect our environmental, recreational, agricultural and water assets from drilling and likely some hydraulic fracking.  Vote in Dennis Coombs as Mayor and return incumbents Sarah Levison, Brian Hansen and Sean McCoy to council.

This land is our land.