Talking Points for Larimer County oil & gas  regulations

Members and allies of the Larimer alliance have prepared the following list of critical concerns in the Consolidated Public Draft of Larimer County Oil and Gas Regulations. These can be used for reference in preparing written and oral comments to any of our County elected officials or public offices.

Air Quality:

  • Larimer County’s air quality is terrible, due largely to oil and gas industry emissions. The American Lung Association gives Ft Collins and Larimer County a grade F for air quality. In 2019, Fort Collins was ranked #24 worst in ozone pollution of over 200 cities in the US — and in 2020, Fort Collins ranked lower: #19 worst in the US. The NCAR FRAPPÉ study found conclusively that oil & gas industry emissions are the major driver of unhealthy air quality in the northern Front Range which includes Larimer County. Improving air quality depends on reducing emissions from oil and gas facilities.
  • Air quality monitoring in Larimer County is completely inadequate to accurately identify air pollution sources, types, and quantities. There is no reliable monitoring of emissions from oil & gas sites and facilities, in spite of substantial evidence that oil & gas sites and facilities are major sources of toxic and climate damaging emissions, with far greater emissions than what the industry reports.
  • Larimer County needs air quality monitoring that is capable of identifying and measuring emissions from oil & gas operations that impact local areas and regional air quality. Monitoring and reporting must be in real time to identify excessive and dangerous emissions, and to enable rapid response when such emissions occur.
  • Continuous monitoring and real-time reporting of air quality and emissions should be required at all oil & gas sites and facilities, paid for by operators, and conducted by a qualified independent expert reporting to the County. The County should investigate possible violations and complaints quickly and if a violation has occurred, take enforcement action(s) including a penalty sufficient to deter future violations.
  • If access to electricity is available, operators should be required to use electric motors (ie, not diesel engines). If electricity is not available, operators should be required to use only Tier 4 diesel engines which are relatively high efficiency and lower emissions. No exceptions.
  • Maintenance inspections on all equipment need to be required on a monthly basis with documentation provided to the county.
  • Operators should be required to take action to reduce emissions on Air Quality Action Alert Days (ie, not only asked to take voluntary action) and required to submit documentation regarding steps taken to the County for review.

Water Quality:

  • Oil & gas development — especially fracking — uses and destroys billions of gallons of water. Fracking typically uses 5 to 10 million gallons of water per well and turns it into toxic wastewater, often also with radioactive contaminants. The water used annually to develop new oil & gas wells in Colorado could supply over 75,000 households for a year — but after being used for fracking, this water is often too polluted to be reused and must be permanently disposed of, typically by injecting it underground, permanently removing it from being available for other uses and posing a threat to groundwater. This use and contamination of water puts drinking water, farming, and water ecosystems at risk in Colorado.
  • In 1999, the State designated over 86,000 acres in northern Larimer County to be exempt from the Clean Water Act (under Colorado Regulation 42) and has allowed wastewater from oil & gas production to be disposed of by underground injection (UIC) or use of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) units. Two companies — Wellington Operating and Prospect Energy — operate oil & gas wastewater disposal sites in northern Larimer County, with little to no oversight. In addition to underground injection disposal, hundreds of barrels of wastewater from oil & gas production are dumped into the Boxelder Creek alluvial every day.
  • No oil & gas development should be permitted within a 100-year floodplain, no exceptions.
  • Produced water, E&P waste, and other hazardous waste should not be used for dust suppression or irrigation, no exceptions.

Health Impacts:

  • Oil & gas development poses serious health risks. Fracking, disposal of toxic waste, and impacts to air quality are extremely detrimental to public health.
  • Published research on health impacts of oil & gas development shows overwhelming evidence that oil and gas activities are dangerous to public health, the environment, and the climate, with communities of color, Indigenous people, and impoverished communities bearing disproportionate harm. Conclusion by Physicians for Social Responsibility from nearly 2,000 medical, scientific and investigative reports: “There is no evidence that fracking can operate without threatening public health directly or without imperiling climate stability upon which public health depends.”
  • Byproducts of oil & gas development include dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are known carcinogens. These are emitted into air, water, and soil, impacting people in their homes, schools, playgrounds, and outdoor recreation areas, as well as livestock, wildlife, rivers, and lakes. Developing fetuses and children suffer health impacts, including respiratory effects, endocrine disruption, and cardiac and neurodevelopmental problems. Health impacts also include infertility, miscarriages, and congenital anomalies; asthma, ADHD, and pediatric cancers such as leukemia.

Wildlife and Habitat:

  • Hundreds of lakes and streams exist North of Fort Collins in Larimer County that support wildlife, from the fish in Boxelder Creek to federally protected Bald and Golden Eagles, to Ferruginous Hawks and Burrowing Owls. Large quantities of toxic waste from oil and gas production has been disposed of in this area for decades, allowed under Regulation 42 designation, with unknown impact on wildlife.
  • Wellington Water Works, located northwest of Wellington, conducts high pressure underground injection of toxic waste, under a permit that allows seismic activity i.e. earthquakes which are common with high volume underground injection control facilities. This facility is located only twelve miles from the first dam at Horsetooth Reservoir.

Permanent Degradation of Soil and Vegetation:

  • Land use that includes oil and gas activity causes serious and permanent damage to the ecosystem due to the creation of roads linking oil and gas facilities, noise, lights, dust, spills, and heavy machinery.

Setback distances:

  • A large body of medical and scientific evidence supports a 2500’ distance between oil & gas sites and places where people live, work, and recreate, to provide protection of public health and safety.
  • The County’s current draft regulations will allow new oil & gas sites to be located up to 1000’ from occupied buildings and use areas such as playgrounds and parks. And worse, the draft regulations will allow new housing to be developed as close as 500’ to existing oil & gas facilities (“reverse setback”). These setback distances will not adequately protect people’s health and safety; there is no medical or scientific evidence to justify or support such close proximity, and substantial medical or scientific evidence against such close proximity.
  • Larimer County should adopt setbacks (and reverse setbacks) that truly protect public health and safety:
  • 2500’ setback (including reverse setback) for all occupied buildings, recreation areas including parks and public open space, and conservation areas, from all operational oil & gas sites and facilties (not yet properly plugged and abandoned), unless a variance is allowed to a 2000’ minimum setback, with no exceptions to the 2000’ minimum setback;
  • 2500’ setback (including reverse setback) for schools, playgrounds, and care facilities and residential areas designated for the elderly, from all operational oil & gas sites and facilties, with no exceptions;
  • 1000’ minimum setback from any properly plugged and abandoned well.

Land Use Zoning:

  • Fracking is an industrial activity and should only occur in industrial zones. The County’s current draft regulations will allow oil and gas development including fracking in most land use zones — and if this is adopted, will open most of the County to oil and gas development.
  • At least one oil and gas investor has announced prospective plans to develop hundreds of oil and gas wells in northern Larimer County, which zoning provisions in the current draft regulations would make possible.

Larimer Alliance Air Quality Analysis and Critique of May 12 Discussion Draft

Submitted on June 4 to Larimer County Commissioners and Staff:

June 4, 2021

Dear Commissioners,

The Larimer Alliance appreciates the improvements in the proposed revisions to the County’s Oil & Gas regulations.

We would like to offer these suggestions to enhance section 11.3.3 (Air Quality).

  • Adding the section: Assessments. Studies, and Plans by Outside Experts. Independent experts, engineers or consultants referenced in this section will be retained by the Applicant and be subject to approval by Larimer County.
    • Air Quality
      • Existing emissions – An inventory of methane, VOC’s, NOx, CO₂, and particulate emissions must be conducted by an independent expert chosen and approved by the County and paid for by the applicant for all oil and gas facilities and operations in Larimer County owned or operated by the Applicant for the calendar year prior to registration or renewal. Operators must submit all Air Pollution Emission Notices for hazardous air pollutants submitted to the Air Pollution Control Division to the independent expert for review.
      • Air Quality Modeling – A modeling study must be conducted by an independent expert that considers all relevant environmental and atmospheric conditions, and:
        • Assesses the existing air quality at the proposed site;
        • Predicts the anticipated emissions (including hazardous air pollutants, methane, VOCs, NOx CO₂, and particulate emissions) from the proposed oil and gas facilities and operations, assuming use of and identifying all emissions control equipment and processes intended for use at the oil and gas facilities; and
        • Models the impacts on air quality from the proposed oil and gas facilities and operations over their lifetime, until final reclamation obligations are completed to the County’s satisfaction, including the compounding effects of climate change on ozone and particulate pollution in the county and taking into account and identifying all relevant factors including natural conditions and other air quality impacts from any existing or foreseeable source.
    • Adding these additional items:
    • Compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Oil and gas facilities and operations will not compromise the attainment of ozone standards of the Denver Metro/North Front Range ozone nonattainment area as established by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Oil and gas facilities and operations will not contribute particulate matter to the air in a manner that fails to protect public health.
    •  To protect air quality and public health, emissions control measures may be required, including, but not limited to, one or more of the following:
      • Compliance with the current, most protective air quality regulations and health-based standards, which may include regulations and standards set by the EPA, CDPHE, COGCC, Centers for Disease Control, or other relevant authorities.
    • Operators will maintain a daily log documenting reduced emission completions, available for inspection upon request.
    • Operator participation in the Natural Gas STAR Program or other voluntary programs to promote innovation in pollution control.
    • Tier 4 fracturing pumps and either electric or Tier 4 diesel engines.  These requirements will result in significant reductions of emissions and noise.
    • J. Air quality requirements for both new and existing facilities – Add the following language to the County’s 5/12/21 draft:
      • Within thirty days following the conclusion of each Air Quality Action Advisory Day, operators shall submit a report to the County that details which measures it implemented during that Air Quality Action Advisory Day.

We would urge that any documents (emissions inventories, modeling studies, reports, and daily logs of reduced emissions) produced for or by the operator, along with the documentation required and produced by the Operators to alleviate the increased air quality dangers associated with Air Quality Action Advisory Days be considered public so they can be posted on the County’s website or disseminated to the public upon request.

Thank you for improving the Air Quality section.   We appreciate the magnitude of work that has been put in thus far.


Tim Gosar & Gayla Martinez

for the Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety & the Environment.

The quest continues: where is the data on water & fracking?

My next question was to the Division of Water Resources, at

Dear DWR:

I am trying to find out where the state records are which show where fracking operators get their water, and where that ‘produced water’ ends up. I am most interested in Front Range operators, from Adams County northward.

Finding answers to those two simple questions is proving surprisingly difficult. Neither the COGCC or CDPHE have been able to help me.

I realize the data records may not be structured to answer such a question from the public, since they were perhaps not designed that way to begin with; however, as the political pressures on our water resources intensify, the data will need to be marshalled, somehow, to answer such questions, as times change. If you have any comments on that issue, I’d be interested in hearing that as well.

Best regards,
Rick Casey



April 29, 2021

Dear Commissioners,

The Larimer Alliance appreciates the review and revision of the County’s oil and gas regulations currently underway. We also appreciate your action to expand and extend the policy-making process, to provide greater scope for public participation than initially planned.

The Larimer Alliance wishes to provide comments on the proposed revisions to the County’s oil and gas regulations in the Discussion Draft released April 5, 2021.

General comment

In general, we are disappointed by the proposed revisions in the Discussion Draft. The proposed revisions (including proposed specific standards) would provide only weak and minimal protections for public health, safety, and the environment from dangers and harms of oil and gas development. The proposed revisions are well below the recommendations and standards advocated consistently by the Larimer Alliance, LOGIC, and other public advocates over the past two years.

The previous policy-making process for establishing the County’s oil and gas regulations in 2019-2020 was deeply flawed, biased heavily to cater to oil and gas developers, and resulted in weak regulations that set a very low bar for protecting the County’s residents, economy, and environment.

The proposed revisions in the Discussion Draft seem aimed to maintain the low bar, with minimal protection for residents and neighborhoods, public health, safety, and the environment. We find this puzzling and wonder whether the staff responsible for drafting the proposed revisions have recognized the fundamental reform expressed in SB19-181, which clearly prioritizes protection of public health, safety, and the environment, as well as voters’ expressed desire in the last election for significant re-orientation in County policies.

Going forward in revising the County’s regulations, the aim should be to set high standards and provide strong protections for public health, safety, and the environment in Larimer County, which is possible under reforms enacted in SB19-181, and in line with County residents’ preferences as expressed in last November’s election.

Specific comments

  • Article 11 has been revised in some sections, but Article 11.1.1. The intent has not yet been modified, yet this initial statement conditions all subsequent subsections. Substantive issues with the existing Intent language have been raised to County’s attention many times, including comments from the Larimer Alliance, LOGIC, and several other stakeholders. The inclusion of potentially conflicting objectives in the Intent statement without subsequent clarification poses a legal risk for the County. The County should acknowledge these issues and revise Article 11.1.1. Intent

Article 11.1.3. The purpose has not been revised. The problem is the same as for Article 11.1.1. discussed in comment 1 above.

  • 2. Review Procedures and Required Permits should be revised to include a simple, clear statement that the County has authority to deny applications that do not protect the public health, safety, welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources. To avoid potential legal risk for the County, the regulations should expressly state that applicants have no guarantee of permit approval.
  • Article 2.9.4 Setbacks address what is generally referred to as reverse To improve clarity, it would be helpful to title Article 2.9.4 as Reverse Setbacks.

The reverse setback distances in Article 2.9.4 are grossly inadequate to provide reasonable protection of public health, safety, and environment. The proposed reverse setbacks appear to be arbitrary (50’, 200’, etc.), inconsistent with proposed setback distances in Article 11.3. for the same proximities, and weaker than Weld County’s “low bar” regulations.

Setback distances and reverse setback distances should be based on science and evidence related to protection of public health, safety, and environment. The County needs to provide relevant evidence to support the proposed reverse setback distances. Setback distances and reverse setback distances should not be arbitrary.

The need to protect public health and safety from O&G sites and facilities is the same regardless of whether O&G development or occupied buildings come first. Distances for reverse setbacks and setbacks should be consistent to ensure public health and safety from O&G sites and facilities.

  • Article 11.3.2. Location Restrictions allows O&G well sites and production facilities throughout the County, in many zones that do not usually allow for major industrial facilities and operations. This is illogical and inconsistent with the purpose of zoning.

Nearly all contemporary O&G development involves large-scale industrial activities, facilities, and equipment. Current O&G sites typically have dozens of wells, each extending thousands of feet, with development and production involving large volumes of supplies, products, emissions, and wastes, including flammable and toxic materials, all requiring storage and transportation. Modern O&G operations bear no similarity to the small pump-jacks of the last century and should be treated as major industrial facilities and operations.

The County should apply zoning principles to O&G development, especially to large-scale and multi-well sites, by requiring such development be limited to  IH – Heavy Industrial. Allowing extensive industrial-type O&G facilities and operations in zones Natural Resources, Forestry, Agriculture, Agricultural Commercial Enterprise, Open; Airport, Planned Development and Rural Planned Development makes a mockery of the County’s zoning “system.”

  • Setbacks in Article 11.3.2. Location Restrictions are inadequate to provide reasonable protection of public health, safety, and environment. Setback distances must be based on science and evidence related to protecting public health, safety, and environment.

A substantial body of scientific evidence supports 2500’ setback for all occupied buildings to protect public health and safety; the Larimer Alliance, LOGIC, and several other stakeholders have provided evidence to the County for this and can do so again. Setbacks for protecting public health, safety, and environment should be firm and, without exception, to ensure adequate protection over time.

Setbacks for public playgrounds, parks, and other public use areas should be consistent with setbacks for occupied buildings, as the need to protect users’ health and safety is the same.

Some setbacks in Article 11.3.2 do not appear to comply with state rules, such as setbacks to certain water resources for which state rules require a half-mile setback.

Article 11.3.2.C.5. allows locating O&GFs within a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) designated 100-year floodplain if no other location is feasible. Locating O&GFs within a 100-year floodplain poses serious public health and environmental risk, especially at a time of flood emergency when action(s) to prevent harm from O&GFs to public health, safety, and environment are least likely to be feasible or successful. To protect public health, safety, and environment, O&GFs should NOT be allowed within a 100-year floodplain, with no exceptions.

The Larimer Alliance encourages Larimer County to set high standards to protect all its residents, businesses, finances, and the environment from the dangers and harms of oil and gas development. Larimer County should join with other local governments in Colorado to set a high bar for protecting public health, safety, and the environment.


Doug Henderson

Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety, and Environment


Larimer Alliance Blog