Tag Archive for Longmont Board of Environmental Affairs

Community requires strict regulation of oil and gas drilling

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

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

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

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

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

Questions and sticker votes can be viewed here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Free Range Longmont Endorses: Brian Hansen for Ward 1

Brian Hansen

It is hard to beat the ringing endorsement of Brian Hansen that was presented by Ruby Bowman.  Free Range Longmont fully agrees with everything Ms. Bowman wrote.

As Chair of Longmont’s Board of Environmental Affairs, I can attest to the exceptional value that Brian Hansen has provided to environmental issues by virtue of his doctorate in Analytical and Environmental Chemistry.  Hansen is a proud advocate for the environment at all policy levels.  He understands the ramifications not only to our quality of life but to our economy that will result from failures to address the environmental issues that threaten our future.

Hansen provided great insight and understanding during the Board of Environmental Affairs development of the “Commercial Green Points” program.  This program is based on the International Green Construction Code but allows builders and developers flexibility in meeting the programs requirements.  It is more than unfortunate that this program has not been brought before the current city council.  The existing make-up makes it all but certain that the program would be rejected.  The current majority led by Mayor Brian Baum is hostile to environmental concerns.

It should not go without saying that Brian Hansen is thoroughly prepared on all issues that come before the Longmont City Council.  Hansen challenges those organizations that have contracts with the city and does not hesitate to question their reports when information contained in those reports is suspect.

Brian Hansen is a strong protector of Longmont’s assets and deserves to be returned to City Council as the representative for Ward 1.