The following was developed by the Larimer Alliance Steering Committee in response to the draft O&G regs being considered by Fort Collins City Council.
The proposed regs on the city website can be found at:
The Larimer Alliance has reviewed these in detail, which is provided in a separate document. What follows is a synopsis meant to assist the public in understanding why we believe the regulations are deficient in their current form, and why the public needs to weigh in with their comments about this as well:
Point #1: Vast Expansion of Allowable O&G Operations and Facilities within City Limits:
The draft O&G regs specifically allows a wide range O&G operations and facilities in industrial zones. This includes seismic exploration, drilling, fracking, production, processing facilities, drilling waste management, and pipeline construction.
Point #2: O&G Pipelines Allowed in All Zoning Districts:
The draft O&G regs specifically allow the construction and operation of O&G pipelines in any zoning district of the City – including single, multi, and high density residential neighborhoods.
The regs provide only minimal neighborhood notice of planned pipeline projects and virtually no ability for residents to effectively contest the decision.
Point #3: Pipeline Setbaks Inadequate to Protect Public Health & Safety:
The draft O&G regs allow pipelines to be constructed with setbacks as little as 50 feet from homes and other occupied dwellings. There is no requirement that the pipelines be buried. Additionally:
- The setbacks are measured from the pipeline to the occupied dwelling’s wall — not to the homeowner’s property line.
- These setbacks for pipelines are much less than the current recommended standard of 2,000 feet. This is not acceptable, as pipelines can leak or rupture; and the impacts of toxic and combustible gas or oil leakage can have just as much adverse impact as an O&G operation, which has a standard setback of 2,000 feet.
- The 2017 Firestone tragedy, where natural gas leaking from a severed Anadarko Petroleum pipeline led to the explosion of a nearby family residence killing two family members, vividly illustrates the risks inherent in inadequate pipeline setbacks.
- Pipelines, either buried or above ground, should have the same setback.
Point #4: Rush to Adoption Limits Public Awareness and Participation:
The timetable for public input and discussion has been minimized to the point of near elimination. Few members of the public are even aware of these critical regulations; and the City is attempting to rush through their adoption during the busy Holiday Season when residents’ attention is focused elsewhere:
- This rush to adopt seriously flawed regulations is unnecessary and inconsistent with open, participative government. In a matter of this importance, the City should attempt to work in conjunction with its residents, not against them.
- Rushing adoption and limiting public participation also go against the spirit of SB 19–181, which emphasized local control over the Oil & Gas development and expressly prioritized the protection of public health, public safety and the environment.
Point #5: The Regs Place Industry Interests Above Public Health, Public Safety, Community Livability and the Environment:
The detailed wording of the draft O&G regulations reflects a consistent pro-industry perspective on multiple fronts. Examples include: limited opportunities for public notice and input in specific facility and pipeline siting and operational decision; the express allowance of pipelines in all zoned districts; the broad range of O&G operations and facilities to be allowed within industrial zones (many of which adjoin residential subdivisions and popular community gathering sites; and express provisions for altering zoning limitations to allow a wide range of these same O&G operations in other (non-industrial) zoned areas.
- Because the draft regs are so favorable to the O&G industry, the City’s adoption of them without significant modification would be tantamount to allowing the industry to write its own playbook for expanding O&G development within Fort Collins.
- This goes entirely against the spirit of SB 19-181 – which sought to put an end to allowing the O&G industry to regulate itself, and sought to ensure that protection of public health, public safety, and the environment was accorded primary consideration in O&G development decisions.
All this goes directly against the spirit of SB-181, the new state law that changed the mission of the COGCC from fostering the industry to protecting the health and safety of people and the environment, AND empowering local governments to pass their own rules on how the O&G industry should be governed within their jurisdiction. As written, these proposed regulations diminish the ability of city government to regulate O&G operations, when they should be strengthening that ability.
Very recently, in response to the strenuous objections raised by Larimer Alliance members and others, City staff have indicated that they will recommend changes to some, but not nearly all, of the regs’ most problematic provisions. HOWEVER, we have yet to see any of these supposed changes in writing. Moreover City Staff anticipates that any actual revised language won’t be made available until AFTER the City Council’s “First Reading” scheduled for Dec. 20, 2022. While we appreciate City Staff’s verbal commitment to address a small number of our concerns, no legitimate reason exists for rushing the regulation adoption forward through Council without giving the public a chance to review the actual regulatory language.
Our Specific Recommendations:
The Larimer Alliance believes that the entire draft regulation package evidences such a significant pro-industry slant and that the City’s adoption process, accomplished mainly behind closed doors thus far, has failed to seek and incorporate adequate public input. Thus, our recommended course-of-action would be for the City to withdraw the current draft regulations and to initiate an open, inclusive pubic process that provides more than token consideration of public health, public safety, community livability, and the environment. If this overall “re-think” is not achievable, the City should, at a minimum, make the following changes:
- Prohibit pipeline construction in all residential zones.
- Revise the pipeline approval process to provide for full public notice, hearing, and Zoning Commission evaluation and approval – as opposed to the minimal Basic Development Review process provided in the draft regs.
- Limit the wide range of O&G operations the regs would allow in Industrial Zones – in particular, eliminate seismic operations, Exploration & Production waste management operations, and O&G storage tank facilities.
- Require continuous air emission monitoring for VOC and methane emissions at the facility fenceline; and leak detection for tanks and pipelines.
- Require disclosure of fracking/drilliing water supply sources and volumes; and disclosure of plans for drilling fluid and “produced water” treatment and disposal.
- Require O&G operators to provide up-front financial assurance guarantees, such as bonding or reserved trust financial set-asides, to ensure that both operations and decommissioning activities are performed in a manner that protects public health, safety, welfare, and the environment.
- Strengthen the regs’ project approval provisions to require the City to examine and address the cumulative impacts associated with any proposed O&G operation as part of the approval process.
- Allow additional time for more public comment, discussion and oversight of the passage of any new O&G regulations.