Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ed Behan, resident and retired in Fort Collins. I’m glad to see you all have managed to dig out from one of our famous “upslop” storms. While we won’t exactly be out in shirtsleeves right away, at least we do know Spring will be here soon.
In returning to Colorado a few years ago, and finding the issue of oil and gas was bubbling up in the land I love so well, I was reminded of stories I had seen in Westword back in the nineties. Hydraulic fracturing, which had been toyed with in modern times dating back until at least the forties, was beginning to be utilized with more frequency and success in Colorado. The reports I was reading then, however, focused on ranchers and other residents on the Western Slope finding their groundwater being contaminated with the onset of “unconventional” drilling processes, as fracking was labelled at the time.
Fast forward a few decades. Fracking has taken hold in numerous oil fields around the country, extracting new oil and gas products out of previously depleted sources, from the Marcellus shale of Pennsylvania to the Permian Basin of Texas. . . and including the Wattenberg field of the Denver Basin, located largely to the East in Weld County.
I will provide you all with a reference page for your consideration, with links to articles highlighting some of the concerns about oil and gas development’s impact on water resources.
The issue, of course, is that the problems associated with potential contamination of both surface and ground water resources remain dire and salient. Both processing and disposal of waste water, and the infiltration of aquifers by petrochemicals and fracking fluids, are serious issues. Beyond that, the massive amount of water required to be injected with proprietary chemicals to execute the hydraulic fracturing has to come from somewhere. As evidenced by other water related issues perking in our region, we live in an arid climate, and it’s not getting wetter any time soon. Among other concerns, industry claims about the reprocessing of “produced water” from fracking sites are not necessarily to be taken at face value.
I also find it particularly interesting that the Delaware River Basin Commission recently made permanent what had been a moratorium on fracking in that entire Eastern watershed. You don’t suppose they know something we don’t, do you?
Thank you for your continued attention to these questions as you move forward with the revision of oil and gas regulations in Larimer County. You all have a good day.
Mayoral Candidate Molly Skold provided this response to our questionnaire. Note, her responses are numbered to correspond to our original survey headings. You may find those here:
I have only received money from individuals. I expect that all contributions will come from individuals.
Given the recent passage of Senate Bill 181, we need to assess the need for additional city regulations given existing city code and the limited current oil and gas activity within our city limits. I would investigate and bring together the views of all parties before creating additional regulations and changes in setback requirements.
Often Fort Collins and other parts of Colorado do not meet the EPA’s standards for ozone. Last year’s fires made our air quality worse. The city, through planning and a strategic view of growth, must align with development that builds clusters of shopping, dining, play and work so more people can walk, bike, use mass transit or drive a short distance. Partnering with builders, developers and city partners with this view will make Fort Collins more livable and will also reduce pollution. More significant improvements in this area can and must be made.
Also, some national trends are showing optimistic trends. We likely are on the cusp of an EV boom as costs come down and selection and mileage range improve. The city must build for the future so that electric needs are met in an efficient and sustainable way to meet the coming EV boom. COVID has made work from home an acceptable and productive reality for many. We need to work with major employers (the City of Fort Collins and other large employers) so we can keep “work at home” options available so to avoid the commuting.
I would investigate the need, effectiveness and the cost of 24/7 monitoring and real time reporting. After this review, if effective, the distribution of costs for 24/7 monitoring would be addressed. I would need to understand the specifics of the legal case proposed given the costs and time that would likely be paid by the citizens of Fort Collins.
The Platte River Power Authority (PRPA) has laid out conditions to meet the 2030 goal. The PRPA provides updates on progress and identifies hurdles to meet the target. If the form, content, or timeliness of these current updates are not sufficient, I would ask for adjustments. Fort Collins needs cost effective and reliable energy as it moves toward a clean energy future. I would need to further explore the cost and underlying reliability of our electric system in meeting the 2030 goal before finalizing a making a firm mandate of 100% clean energy by 2030. Constant oversight, management and collaboration is needed throughout the process.
I would want to understand the scope and specifics of the proposal. Senate Bill 181 gives municipalities the ability to govern oil and gas development as it pertains to the environmental impacts, safety, and health of its citizens within their jurisdictions. Further exploration of and collaboration with key leaders is critical to making final, impactful decisions.
District Three Candidate Tricia Canonico provided this response to our questionnaire:
1. Have you received, will you accept, or will you refuse to accept campaign contributions from donors and companies from the O&G industry or with strong financial interests in O&G development? If your campaign has already accepted O&G donations will it give them back? Please explain.
** I will not knowingly take contributions from donors advocating for O&G development nor will I accept contributions from the industry. I would be willing to return such donations. I applaud the Council’s recent decision to further restrict donations from LLC’s and political action committees. This is a positive action that will help ensure no group has undue influence on our City races.
2. SB19-181 substantially revised Colorado’s law governing O&G development: establishing clear priority to protect public health, safety, environment, and wildlife resources. SB181 also provides for significant local government authority to regulate O&G development, allowing local governments to increase protection of public health, safety, environment and wildlife resources beyond state minimum standards.
Do you think that Fort Collins should adopt new regulations for O&G development? If yes, what scope of regulations will you advocate the City to adopt?
Do you support a 2000’ or 2500’ setback from homes, schools & their playgrounds, high occupancy buildings, outdoor recreation areas (such as parks and trails), and water sources from new O&G operations? Please explain.
Fort Collins currently has a reverse setback of 500’ for new residential construction from existing O&G facilities, and allows exceptions for reduced reverse setbacks.
Do you support increasing the reverse setback without exception? Please explain.
** I believe Fort Collins should adopt new regulations for O&G development when there are gaps in SB19-181’s regulations and/or enforcement. I support at minimum a 2000’ setback for new O&G operations. In addition, on Council, I would advocate for stronger noise and air quality monitoring as well. Oil and gas operators should also be required to provide financial assurances to reduce the risk of future orphaned wells and sites.
I support increasing reverse setbacks as well. I’m reluctant to say there should be a hard and fast rule of no exceptions. I would instead support an appeal and variance process that would allow for some appeals.
3. The American Lung Association gives Fort Collins’ air quality an “F” grade, and ranks it the 19th worst out of 229 American cities. NCAR’s FRAPPÉ study found conclusively that O&G emissions are the major driver of unhealthy air quality in the northern Front Range. Emissions from O&G operations also cause significant spikes in pollutants that impact 1) local areas in proximity to O&G sites and facilities, and 2) regional air quality harming entire Front Range communities. A growing number of local governments have undertaken air quality monitoring programs capable of measuring and reporting pollutants in real time, including signature pollutants emitted from O&G operations and facilities.
What do you think Fort Collins should do to address its air quality problem(s)?
Would you support 24/7 monitoring and real-time reporting of air quality and emissions at all O&G sites and facilities in proximity to Fort Collins? Should this monitoring and reporting be paid for by the operator? Please explain.
** I support monitoring and reporting by the operator. New state rules will require oil and gas operators to monitor all new facilities. However, for both new and existing facilities, I support robust air quality monitoring as well as monitoring other aspects of facility compliance. Transparency about monitoring should be an important component of a comprehensive program and real-time reporting may be the best approach. I would also support supplementing monitoring with established action levels that place obligations on sites when certain emission thresholds are exceeded. I support operators paying for the monitoring and reporting about their facilities.
Would you support 24/7 monitoring and real-time reporting of air quality and signature O&G pollutant emissions for addressing regional air quality problems affecting Fort Collins? Should this regional monitoring and reporting be paid for by the O&G industry? Please explain.
** Yes I would support regional monitoring for Ozone and other emissions. I believe emitters should shoulder costs associated with pollution controls, monitoring and regulation. Colorado requires permitting and emissions fees to be paid by O&G industry. If additional monitoring is approved in Fort Collins, I support the City creating a fee structure associated with those costs that should also be paid by Oil & Gas.
Would you support collaboration by Fort Collins with other Front Range communities in taking legal action against polluters responsible for emissions that harm Fort Collins air quality, such as polluters in neighboring counties? Please explain.
** Yes. If polluters are operating outside of regulatory requirements or causing undue harm, legal action may be appropriate. Collaboration with other similarly harmed municipalities in a multi-party action is a reasonable and potentially effective approach.
4. Fort Collins is one of four municipalities that own and govern the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA) which provides electricity to the four municipalities including Fort Collins. In 2019, PRPA committed to achieving 100% clean energy generation by 2030. PRPA recently adopted a plan that includes building and operating a new natural gas-powered turbine around the same time it retires its Rawhide Coal Plant, which will be in conflict with PRPA’s stated commitment to 100% clean energy.
Would you support holding PRPA to the goal of 100% clean energy by 2030? Please explain.
Would you support requiring PRPA to establish and report with interim
targets (such as for 2023, 2025, 2027) for achieving 100% clean energy? Please explain.
** I support PRPA’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2030 and I support establishing and reporting interim targets. I applaud PRPA for currently producing nearly half of the energy delivered to customers from non-carbon resources with the addition of the Roundhouse wind project this past summer. I would like to see PRPA continue to make progress towards its 2030 clean energy generation goal in this manner. However, as PRPA is responsible for delivering reliable electricity to four municipalities it must also be prepared in case it is unable to meet its 2030 goal. I prefer to see a portion of PRPA’s energy produced by a natural gas-powered turbine to electricity generated by the Rawhide Coal Plant.
5. An investment company is advancing a proposal to drill hundreds of wells in northern Larimer County which could negatively impact local residents, air quality, City-owned natural area and wildlife, and the environment in northern Larimer County.
Would you take a strong position for the City to actively oppose this type of O&G development? Please explain.
** I would actively oppose this type of oil and gas development. Larimer County has a critical shortage of affordable and attainable housing. If land is to be developed in our County, affordable and attainable housing should be prioritized so that more of those who work in Fort Collins or Larimer County are also able to afford to live here. Otherwise, I support keeping as much of this undeveloped land as possible as Open Space. Additionally, air quality in Fort Collins is among the worst in the country; more oil and gas drilling would only exacerbate an already serious problem.