Tag Archive for oil and gas drilling in Longmont

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.

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.

“If it isn’t in your backyard now, it could be.”

Frack You Longmont

Fracking near Longmont? It's no fairy tale.

A substantive article appeared in the Business Section of the Sunday Denver Post under the title of “Oil Greases Land Rush.” 

Because oil and gas drilling is coming to Longmont’s Union Reservoir, the Sandstone Ranch area, the Sherwood Open Space area at County Road 20.5 and an area known as Evans #8, it is important that the Longmont community learn as much as possible about what this will mean to our quality of life.

Free Range Longmont has already begun coverage of this issue.  We will continue to provide you with information from a number of perspectives. 

Excerpts from the article referenced above appear below.  The excerpts were chosen to serve essentially as “Cliff Notes” on the why – and why now – of what some are referring to as the next “mother lode.”

At the 2010 City Council retreat, our current mayor raised the issue of “mineral rights” that might be owned by Longmont, asking if they had been pursued.  The subject garnered no further public discussion or visibility.  We are only now learning that the city was approached in June of this year by TOP Operating to approve a conditional use permit for drilling operations on city property. We do not know what conversations may have taken place between Mayor Bryan Baum and his 2009 and 2011 campaign supporters prior to beginning the conditional use permit negotiating process. Longmont citizens should demand full disclosure from the mayor, members of city council and members of city staff.

“Oil Greases Land Rush”  by Mark Jafee, The Denver Post

Between 2008 and 2011, leasing activity in six Front Range counties — Larimer, Weld, Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and El Paso — more than doubled, with 8,100 leases filed in the 12 months ending Aug. 30, according to county

Propelling the rush is the discovery of oil in the Niobrara — a geological formation sitting more than 6,000 feet below the Front Range.  Most of the leasing and drilling has been focused on Weld County — the better known and most-promising part of the Niobrara

The strategy of the companies and speculators has been to assemble large land positions in the formation.

In this highly competitive and often secretive game, land companies working for drillers try to assemble parcels and negotiate leases. Often leases aren’t filed in the oil company’s name.

The stealth and shifting corporate decisions have left property owners confused and frustrated.

“Leasing is highly competitive,” said John Dill, a Denver- based spokesman for Chesapeake. “We often do mass mailing just to get the word out.”

The approach isn’t that surprising in a competitive market, said Neil Ray, president of the National Association of Royalty Owners’ Rocky Mountain Chapter.  “Sometimes they are just testing the waters,” he said. “They’re trying to determine if it will be easy or difficult to get leases.”

The larger companies have now built fiefdoms along the Front Range.

EOG has 220,000 acres, mostly in northern Weld County, with a target of completing 45 wells in 2011, according to a company presentation.

Noble Energy more than doubled its holdings to 840,000 net acres in 18 months and plans to drill 85 wells, Chuck Davidson, the company’s chief executive, told investors in September.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp., based in suburban Houston, has a net 900,000 acres in Colorado — much of it from acquiring Union Pacific and Kerr-McGee interests. The company is aiming to drill more than 40 wells this year, according to Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen.  [Anadarko Petroleum has hired Cougar Land Services to conduct seismic surveys to locate additional wells.  They have requested permits from the city to conduct these surveys on city-owned properties.  Unlike drilling, the city has the right to deny permission for these surveys.]

Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake has amassed 800,000 acres in Colorado and Wyoming.

The top drillers and number of permits for the 12-month period ending Aug. 30:

Weld County

Mineral Resources: 1,018
EOG Resources: 594
Diamond Resources: 483

Larimer County

Marathon Oil: 50
Strata Oil & Gas: 45
Prospect Energy: 44

Nikki Stansfield, who lives in a suburban-style Larimer County development, persuaded neighbors to hire a lawyer to deal with a driller…. Still, concerned that state rules don’t provide enough protection to homeowners, Stansfield is seeking a meeting with Gov. John Hickenlooper.”The lesson is,” Stansfield said, “if it isn’t in your backyard now, it could be.”

Read the entire article here.

Safeguards needed for oil and gas drilling

Editor’s note: Mr. Cunningham’s commentary was first seen in the Denver Post and is fully reposted here with the author’s permission. His commentary is especially relevant inasmuch as the City of Longmont is preparing to allow drilling on Longmont’s Open Space.

Only a nitwit would think this is a good idea.

Fracking? This Close? We Need to Stop This.

As a Colorado resident, I have always enjoyed getting outside, exploring the outdoors in the Rocky Mountain National Park and breathing in the fresh air. However, that clean air is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Heavy oil and gas drilling is already spewing millions of tons of harmful pollutants Colorado’s air and it’s getting worse.

The oil and natural gas industries are dumping dangerous pollutants like methane and sulfur gases and benzene into our air, causing serious health problems ranging from asthma attacks to cancer and premature death. Drilling has increased in the growing front range suburban communities in Weld County and all across the western part of Colorado. But it’s not just here. Millions of families around the country are becoming increasingly exposed to these deadly pollutants.

Few people realize that the natural gas industry is currently exempt from the Clean Air Act. This allows natural gas companies to dump massive amounts of pollution into the air every day.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The Environmental Protection Agency​ can stop this deadly air pollution that is suffocating communities from Parachute and Rifle to Greenly, and across the country. For the first time ever, the EPA has proposed cost-effective pollution safeguards to close industry loopholes and clean up toxic air pollution from oil and gas production. These safeguards would cut methane pollution, asthma-causing smog and other hazardous air pollutants by nearly 4 million tons per year.

It is not surprising that the oil and gas industry is lobbying heavily against these proposed protections.

Yet these safeguards will benefit everyone – including industry. Strong air pollution protections will help oil and gas companies capture gas that currently leaks into our air during production, saving businesses an estimated $30 million each year. Cleaning up industry practices and our air just makes sense.

The EPA recently opened a comment period to ask the public what it thinks of their recently proposed pollution protections, and on Wednesday they’ll be in Denver to hear from residents affected by air pollution from oil and gas drilling. We all need to tell the EPA that we want these air safeguards to be as strong as possible.

Here in Colorado, I want children to be able to grow and raise their own families without worrying about breathing dangerous air pollution. That’s why I urge everyone in and around Denver to join us as we fight to clean up the oil and gas industry and protect clean air for our families.

Kirk Cunningham is co-chair of the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter’s Conservation Committee.