Tag Archive for Sandstone ranch

Let your voice be heard

The City of Longmont is in the process of developing revised and additional regulations covering oil and gas drilling within city limits. Applications for permits are expected following a 120-day moratorium that is scheduled to end on April 17, 2011.

Oil and gas drilling at Fairview and SH 119

Draft regulations were intended to be published on January 31, 2011. It was clear from the outset that a 120-day moratorium was inadequate for the amount of work that is required to craft regulations that would protect the health, safety, and well-being of citizens and residents. City staff is now making changes to its schedule in order to meet the arbitrary moratorium expiration on April 17, 2011.

At the January 24, 2011, city council meeting, City Manager Gordon Pedrow announced that instead of releasing draft regulations on January 31, “options” would be made available to council members, board members and the public.

January 31 came and went without “options.” On February 2, the city released a document that was not the promised “options” (whatever those might have been), but a 60+ page document titled “City of Longmont Oil and Gas Regulations Update.”

Mr. Pedrow indicates that the options, now known as “questions,” will be delayed until a Public Open House on February 6, 2011, to be held in the lobby of the City Council Chambers between 4:30 and 6:30 PM. No one will have an opportunity to see these “questions” until that time. There will be no opportunity to reflect on their meaning or potential implications for the future of Longmont.

The city has created a highly controlled environment for the release of questions. It will establish parameters and attempt to squeeze the public into a narrow band of choices that reflect the choices that the city’s attorneys and staff believe are acceptable.

It is important that members of the community maintain their own integrity on this issue and insist that the city respond to their demands and requirements.

Following the Public Open House, at 7:00 PM in Council Chambers, a joint meeting of the Board of Environmental Affairs, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and the Water Board (The Super Committee) will be held.

Information will be presented by city staff to the Super Committee and questions will be taken from the Super Committee. At that point, the public will have an opportunity to be heard in the same manner as at council meetings, a 3-minute Public Invited to be Heard.

Following the Public Invited to be Heard segment members of the Super Committee will be electronically polled with “multiple choice” style preferences to pre-determined questions. These questions may or may not be the same as those given to the public.

Mr. Pedrow has indicated that the responses from the public and the Super Committee will be compiled and presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission on February 15. That meeting is held in the Council Chambers at 7:00 PM and also has a Public Invited to be Heard Segment.

On February 21, the results of all three events will be presented in a Study Session to the City Council in the form of Draft Regulations. At that point the council may address an extension of the moratorium, provide additional input as to what should be included in the Regulations Ordinance, or accept the draft regulations as presented.

Barring any extension of the moratorium, the First Reading of new regulations will occur on March 13 and the Second Reading and Public Hearing will be held on March 27, 2011. If the ordinance passes, it will become law in the City of Longmont effective 10 days later and applications for permits will be accepted beginning April 18, 2011.

Drilling/fracking before Council tonite (Tuesday)

Here’s an interview done by KGNU with Kaye Fissinger.

Those who are following the issues of drilling (and fracking) oil and gas on City of Longmont property will want to attend the City Council meeting tomorrow Tuesday, November 15th. The meeting begins at 7:00 PM.

Appearing before the council will be representatives from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (industry trade group), the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (the state agency that authorizes oil and gas development), representatives from Boulder and Weld counties, and Phillip Barber (an attorney who specializes in oil and gas hired by the city).

TOP Operating, who owns mineral rights beneath Union Reservoir and other city properties, has approached the City of Longmont for a conditional use permit to drill on city-owned properties. Five drill pads are under consideration: two on the west side of Union Reservoir, one at Sandstone Ranch, one on the “Sherwood property” at County Road 20-1/2 and one known as Evans #8 (somewhat near Sandstone). A surface use agreement is intended to be a companion to the conditional use permit.

The city adopted oil and gas regulations in 2001. Those standards include well and production site setbacks from occupied buildings and public right-of-way, production site containment, visual impacts and aesthetics, access road design and maintenance, noise mitigation, floodplain compliance, oil and gas transport, air quality, wildlife mitigation, signs, screening and landscaping.

Some of the Colorado Commission’s answers to Frequently Asked Questions is extremely bothersome. The following is a sampling.

    • The COGCC’s authority to prevent and mitigate significant environmental harm does not negate its obligation to encourage development of the oil and gas resource.
    • As long as there is severed mineral interest ownership in Colorado law which protects the property rights of mineral rights holders to access their mineral estate, and as long as the COGCC’s statute charges the COGCC with promotion of oil and gas development, the COGCC will be limited in its ability to satisfy surface owners or to stop oil and gas development.
    • Cases of public safety impacts from oil and gas operations are extremely rare and generally non-existent in Colorado
    • The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) provides for a defined “cumulative impacts” analysis for proposed projects classified as “federal actions”.  Colorado law does not provide for a NEPA “cumulative impacts” analysis for projects proposed on private or state-owned lands.  The COGCC can consider cumulative impacts within the limits of its authority under state law.

Within the city’s Municipal Code, there may be opportunity for greater protections than are expressed in some of the answers provided by the Commission.  Specifically, the city code states, “To the maximum extent practicable, a well site and a production site shall be located away from prominent natural features such as distinctive rock and land forms, vegatative patterns, river crossings, city-owned and city-designated open space areas, and other designated landmarks.

Considerably more details from the city’s municipal code can be found in the packet  for tomorrow’s meeting.

This issue is extremely complex.  Securing the best possible outcome will require genuine environmental concern from the sworn city council, stewardship and commitment from city staff, specialized legal counsel willing to push the envelope as far as legally possible, and outside expertise willing to stand up for the needs of Longmont residents who strongly object to drilling and fracking, particularly on Longmont Open Space.

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.