All posts by Rick Casey

FRACTRACKER/LA EVENT WENT WELL!

A good time was had by all at Avogadro’s Number on March 30, 2023 at this first post-covid public event for the Larimer Alliance. Many thanks to Kyle Ferrar from FracTracker traveling out from California to share his expertise and the fundamental data projects they are conducting.

To see pictures of the event, go to our Facebook page.

To see the blog page about the event, with more links to information, click here.

THIS STATE ACTS LIKE IT COULD CARE LESS ABOUT OUR AIR POLLUTION

I know that being in charge of fixing our air pollution problem here in the must be a difficult job. And I know that the oil and gas industry has long been a strong political force in Colorado. I get that.

But when I learned that the Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) has had a backlog of air permits dating to back over a decade ago, I was incredulous. Applications that have not been processed since they were made over ten years ago? How is that even possible? And does this mean that the original polluters have simply been allowed to continue polluting without a permit?

However incredulous this may seem, it was nonetheless reported on in this recent story in the Colorado Sun on December 16, 2022:

Colorado falls further behind on air pollution permits while losing court cases brought by environmental groups

This lapse by a critical regulatory agency to perform its crucial role in protecting our air quality has not gone unnoticed — and has been a serious enough lapse to get them sued. And to then lose the lawsuit, since the Adams county judge agreed with the plaintiff, the Wildearth Guardians. As the director, Jeremy Nichols, noted, the APCD seems to “just let polluters run the roost and systematically it doesn’t seem like things are changing.” This does not inspire confidence that the agency’s staff is acting in the public’s interest — and that it has not been doing so for quite a while.

But the APCD is not the only culprit. In fact, the entire O&G regulatory framework under the Polis administration has a “light touch”, shall we say, when it comes to making industry comply with environmental law. This has been described in gruesome detail in this article by longtime activist and knowledgeable commentator Phil Doe, published in CounterPunch on December 9, 2022:

A History of Malignancy: Governor Polis and the Oil Industry in Colorado

As the article makes clear, the other major regulatory body, the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), more or less opens the door to industry “bottom feeders” to invade our neighborhoods and poison us. And this will continue until we, the people, start speaking up, making our voices heard, and demanding real regulatory enforcement.

LA bans O&G!

On December 2, 2022, the Los Angeles city council voted unanimously to ban all future oil and gas (O&G) drilling inside the city, and to retire all active O&G wells within 20 years. This is huge!

The details can be read in the following AP article:

Los Angeles City Council votes to ban oil and gas drilling

Compared to what residents in the Front Range have been going through, the afflicted communities in LA like Wilmington, Jefferson Park and University Park have been enduring in closer proximity and in far greater numbers, for decades. So this dramatic reversal by the city council must come as a much welcomed result; and surely there must be more of a story behind it?

Indeed there is, and it’s called community activism! See this website for STAND-LA, the main activist group that seems responsible for getting the city council to make their decision. This was no overnight success story; they have been fighting city hall, and the O&G industry, for the last decade.

If you go to their website, there is a brief but informative video that shows the shocking proximity of active wells: literally right next door to residences, schools and churches. It is no wonder they have made so many people to suffer from chronic health conditions for much of their lives:

There is a similar struggle to get the county to do the same. Let’s hope they can do so soon!

The city also published an Oil Ordinance Fact Sheet which can be read here.

Or view here:

LA-Oil-Ordinance-Fact-Sheet

Here in Larimer County, the Larimer Alliance has been working hard to get our county commissioners and city council to recognize the risks of O&G operations, and to use the legal power which they now possess, to take matters into their own hands, and pass meaningful regulations on O&G industry in their jurisdictions — or, better yet, do what LA has done: ban it outright and retire existing wells as soon as reasonably possible.

Has the Fort Collins city council abandoned us?

Below is an email I sent out to the general listserv for Larimer Alliance volunteers on November 18, 2022, which enclosed an email that I had sent to all Fort Collins City Council members that day, expressing my concerns over the proposed oil & gas regulations for the city — which seem to have suddenly come out of nowhere — but are being pushed by the Mayor and Council for rapid adoption — but with which the Larimer Alliance has grave concerns. We hope we get this message out to the broader Fort Collins community before a public meeting of the Council on Dec 20, 2022, which should be the time that we show up and express our concerns (if not our outrage?) over this.

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Hello Larimer Alliance volunteer: 

We have a problem! Please see below an email I just sent to the Fort Collins Mayor and City Council. 

The Larimer Alliance needs to show up en masse at the December 20 council meeting to express our strong disapproval of new proposed oil and gas regulations — which have appeared out of nowhere, but would dramatically change the potential for oil and gas operations to take place — within city limits! 

If you want to express your opinion on the matter to the mayor and Council, which I strongly urge you to do, send your own written message to: cityleaders@fcgov.com

–Rick

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November 18, 2022

Dear Mayor and City Council members: 

I am writing to submit some comments I sent to the Planning and Zoning Commission Hearing that took place on Thursday, November 17, 2022. I wanted to attend in person, but the inclement weather conditions forced me to stay home. 

I would like to state my qualifications to address this issue. I have lived in Colorado since 1981, and in Fort Collins since 2018. I currently reside in Council District 3. I am a full time employee at HP Enterprise as an IT engineer, and have been teaching a course in environmental economics at Front Range Community College since 2009. I have been involved in environmental activism in the Front Range since 2012, and am currently the webmaster for the following websites concerned with environmental quality in Colorado, both locally and statewide:  

larimeralliance.org

larimerallianceblog.org

focosustainability.org

colivableclimate.org

ncalf.org

I would like to comment on the draft Oil & Gas Regulations that are under consideration by the Council. 

First, it is with surprise and dismay that I learned that these proposed regulations are trying to be rushed through for approval by the Council with so little public discussion or awareness. This suggests, unfortunately, there is some strategy behind this, for whatever reasons, and that whoever authored these regulations does not want them to be subjected to public discussion. So my first ask would be for the Council to please extend this rushed approval process, and let there be a full public discussion of these highly significant regulations, which could impact us for years. 

The next opportunity for public comment on this is at the council meeting on Tuesday, December 20,  the height of the winter holiday season. This is hardly an opportune date to encourage public attendance. I would urge the mayor and Council to schedule a second opportunity for public input soon after 2023 New Year’s holiday is over.  

It was truly shocking to see how many loopholes have been created in these regulations for the oil and gas industry. If I were to express this in commonly understood vernacular, these loopholes are “big enough to drive a Mack truck through.” What do I mean by that, exactly? 

Buried in these loopholes is the ability of O&G operations to get zoned into ANY part of the city! Examining the details of “allowed use” means that things like well drilling, O&G operations, seismic exploration, or the production and transport of O&G products can get approved — anywhere! at the discretion of the director of the program. I find this totally unacceptable, and would ask that a new set of regulations be developed without such sweeping loopholes. We cannot allow for the O&G industry to exploit such loopholes and think they can pursue O&G operations within the city. 

As the leaders of our city government, you would probably like to hear some positive suggestions of how to help the situation, and not just hear complaints. So here is a positive suggestion that can help with these regulations: please provide strong financial assurances for any regulations pertaining to possible O&G operations in the city. 

I would strongly prefer that NO O&G operators ever seek to develop any fossil fuel resources within the city limits, given our global warming situation. However, since that may be unrealistic, I would like to suggest the following: develop strong financial assurances rules that would anticipate and prevent small operators from coming in, chasing lower value reserves, and then walk away from their drilled wells, without properly providing the financial reserves to properly plug and abandon the well should it prove uneconomic. 

As you may be aware, this is a huge problem for the entire state right now, with a potential $8B (yes, BILLION) liability facing the state of Colorado, which is more than a fourth of the state’s entire budget in 2022 of about $36B. Therefore, establishing strong financial assurance rules would be a straightforward way to assure the public that the city council is sincere about protecting our local environmental quality from that kind of risk. That particular risk is an unsavory aspect of past behavior by the COGCC (Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission), who should be blamed for creating this problem, which we strongly need to acknowledge and throw off as a relic of the past. 

In closing, it was a disappointment to see that there was no virtual attendance possible at this meeting by the Planning & Zoning commission. Perhaps that could change in the future, particularly during the hazardous winter driving season. 

Very Sincerely, — Rick