Tag Archive for oil and gas inspections

Coloradans will continue to say “No” to oil and gas without action.

The following Guest Commentary appeared in The Denver Post on June 27, 2013 and is reproduced on Free Range Longmont with permission from State Representative Mike Foote.
Mike Foote, Colorado State Representative, House District 12

Mike Foote, Colorado State Representative, House District 12

Oil and gas is an issue that will not go away. The number of active wells in Colorado has doubled over the last four years. The number of spills and other contamination incidents has also increased. Drilling has encroached ever closer to more densely populated areas. The industry will spend and make billions of dollars in Colorado in the upcoming years.

People across Colorado have expressed legitimate concerns about their health and safety as well as their lack of a voice in the process. Changes to the system to increase transparency, accountability, local control and safety can go a long way in addressing those concerns.

That’s why I and other legislators brought forward proposals, including imposing minimum penalties for serious violations of the Oil and Gas Conservation Act and changing the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to focus on protecting public health and the environment, ending its conflicted dual role of promoting oil and gas drilling while simultaneously regulating it.

The industry opposed those bills, as well as others increasing water monitoring requirements, increasing the number of well inspectors, creating a health impact study, and assessing fees for local inspection programs. None of those common-sense reforms made it through the legislature.

However, some hope emerged at the end of the session when Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order directing the COGCC to “reevaluate its enforcement philosophy and approach.” The governor’s order went on to say, “Colorado requires strong and clear enforcement of the rules and assessment of fines and penalties accordingly.”

Implicit in the order was the recognition that enforcement of oil and gas industry regulations in Colorado is neither strong nor clear, and that the COGCC has become too cozy with the oil and gas operators it is supposed to be monitoring. It is my hope more progress can be made on this issue as well as many others related to oil and gas over the next year.

Recently, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association announced it would conduct a “listening tour” around the state this summer. As an elected official, my job is to listen to the people of Colorado all year long, and I hear widespread frustration about the current oil and gas system. Perhaps after listening like I have, COGA will be more interested in partnering toward some solutions rather than saying no to any real reform. Because if the industry continues to say “no,” the people of Colorado will say “no” to oil and gas.

That is exactly what is happening across the Front Range right now. Concerned citizens’ groups have popped up from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. A ballot measure banning fracking passed in Longmont with a bipartisan 60 percent margin. Ballot measures in other cities and counties are promised this year.

Instead of taking their concerns seriously, industry supporters have called these citizens extremists and hypocrites for heating their homes and driving cars to work. That isn’t the language of dialogue; that’s the language of confrontation. People have responded with the tools available to them: public protest and the ballot box.

Coloradans know that our most precious natural resources are not gas and oil, but water, air and natural beauty. They will act to protect what’s most precious.

Until Coloradans have confidence that the oil and gas industry is behaving responsibly in our state, and under strict environmental safeguards, we will see this dynamic continue. Building public confidence by setting and enforcing high standards will not only protect the environment and people’s health and safety, it will also protect the livelihoods of the Coloradans who work in the industry.

Negotiation requires more than just sitting at the negotiating table. It requires a willingness to accept opposing viewpoints and a commitment to find common ground. Coloradans deserve no less.

State Representative Mike Foote represents House District 12 in Longmont, Lafayette and Louisville.

 

 

TOP Operating: Flagrant, serial COGCC rule violator

Editor’s Note: The following testimony was given to the Colorado Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Energy Committee on March 21, 2013, by Gordon Pedrow. SB 13-202 concerns additional inspection of oil and gas facilities. SB 13-202 advanced out of committee to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Mr. Chairman and Committee members.

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

Former Longmont City Manager, Gordon Pedrow

Thank you for this opportunity to be heard regarding this important matter.  I am Gordon Pedrow, a twenty year resident of the city of Longmont.  Until I retired on April 1, 2012, I served the community for 19 years as city manager.  I am here to share with you why many Longmont families support SB 13-202.  I am certain you are aware that the state government in Colorado is experiencing a massive hemorrhage of trust when it comes to adequately regulating oil and gas operations.

The citizens of Longmont have been struggling for many months to protect their health and quality of life from the negative impacts of heavy industrial activities associated with oil and gas operations.  This battle began in 2011 when the TOP Operating Company began the process of permitting a new multi-well drilling site within the city’s corporate limits.

Using the COGCC’s online data base, citizens examined the inspection and enforcement record of the two existing wells within the Longmont city limits that were closest to residential areas.  The results were appalling.

In 2011, Both Rider #1 and the Stamp wells had numerous unresolved violations, including benzene contaminated ground water 100’s of times above state standards.  I am going to provide the committee some specific information about Rider #1 and  its operator, TOP OPERATING COMPANY.  I believe this information will clearly demonstrate why residents were appalled in 2011 and remain so today.  It will clearly demonstrate why passage of SB 13-202 is a necessary first step in appropriately regulating this industry and restoring public trust.

RIDER WELL #1: 350 feet from homes in the Quail Crossing subdivision, 350 feet from Trail Ridge Middle School

  1. July 17, 2006, Engle Homes to COGCC (TOP’s contaminated well on Engle’s property)
  2. July 21, 2006, COGCC to TOP Operating:  Provide site Investigation and Site Remediation Plan
  3. December 7, 2006  Notice of Alleged Violation (200100371)  Numerous violations
  4. 4.     (nothing done for a year) TOP and COGCC staff failed to accomplish anything.  Both ignored the owner, Engle Homes and residents rights to have safe operation
  5. December, 2007  Engle Homes again found violations not corrected
  6. September 2008  COGCC fined TOP $10,000 for failure to remediate
  7. March 30, 2009  Still Benzene problem

2011Public scrutiny of both TOP and COGCC performance begins by angry Longmont residents.  (You would think a state agency might try harder when citizens are engaged) However, the concerns of the citizens were still ignored by TOP and COGCC.  Both the regulators and the regulated act as though they are above the citizens!!!!

  1. January 24, 2012 Notice of Alleged Violation (1771570) Rules 210d, 301, 308A, 308B,309,603j,604d,906a
  2. February 22, 2013, COGCC  issued a Notice of Order finding Violation and Hearing set for March 25/26   COGCC staff is seeking an order finding violation of all the above rules and imposition of a fine not to exceed $85,000.
  3. 10.                         March 21, 2013.  (today) TOP still in violation & Benzene levels still out of compliance.

SETTLEMENT:  The most appalling COGCC document regarding this whole Rider Well #1 fiasco has now come to light.  For over 6 years, TOP OPERATING COMPANY has flagrantly disregarded COGCC orders and the COGCC has ignored its mandate to protect public health and the environment.  Now the regulators and regulated have gotten together for a sweetheart settlement deal as outlined in this Administrative Order by Consent now scheduled for March 25/26.

Despite flagrant, serial, multi-year violations of state rules and regulations, the COGCC staff has now agreed to three unbelievable provisions.

   Read these sections from the consent order. 4,6,8

Unfortunately, this ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER BY CONSENT does not deal with the benzene in the ground water within 350 feet of Trail Ridge Middle School.  That matter is still being mitigated !!

I encourage you to pass SB 13-202.  Furthermore, before this legislative session adjourns, I encourage you to carefully review the entire regulatory operations of the COGCC.  Because more inspectors inserted into a flawed agency culture will most likely be wasted resources.