TALKING POINTS ON CONSOLIDATED PUBLIC DRAFT O&G REGULATIONS

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.

Sincerely,

Tim Gosar & Gayla Martinez

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

www.larimeralliance.org

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

My next question was to the Division of Water Resources, at https://dwr.state.co.us/Portal/dwr/AskDWR

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
webmaster: larimeralliance.org, larimerallianceblog.org, focosustainability.org, colivableclimate.org