All posts by Ed Behan

Larimer Alliance calls on Larimer County to extend timeline for revision of local Oil & Gas regulations

The following letter was submitted to the Larimer Board of County Commissioners and the Larimer County Planning Department, with copies to the Planning Commission and County Manager.

February 8, 2021

Dear Commissioners and Staff,

We applaud the Larimer County staff and Commissioners Kefalas, Shadduck-McNally and Stevens, and the Larimer County Planning Commissioners for quickly embarking on the process of reviewing and revising the Larimer County oil and gas regulations (and land use code) which were passed in April 2020, but mandated for review after the State completed (Mission Change) rulemaking required by SB19-181.

At the 1-25-21 BOCC Work Session, Mr. Lafferty proposed a process and a timeline of completing revision of County regulations by April 26, 2021 with no plan released for public participation. Mr. Lafferty also indicated that he would release relevant information for the regulation revision on March 10, only six weeks before the April completion deadline. Although Mr. Lafferty recently released a questionnaire and other pertinent information via email to previous contacts involved in the County’s regulation development process, the public deserves a longer time frame for public participation. Review and revision of the County regulations and land use code are likely to be extensive. We ask for a timeline that is sufficient to enable an exchange of information and dialogue. Many areas of the County regulations now fall far below revised State regulations. Indeed, in comparison, the County regulations are weak, unprotective, and do not reflect the goals of the constituents nor the clear intent of SB19-181 to prioritize public health, safety, welfare, the environment and wildlife.  In addition, State law allows local governments to be more protective than State regulations which calls for additional consideration of protective regulatory decisions. 

The County staff, under the previous BOCC, informed the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) that the County would not give input on pending oil and gas facility applications within Larimer County.  Unless the County has communicated a different message to COGCC, this remains the County’s stance on applications being considered by COGCC. Currently COGCC has six applications for well pads, one injection well application, and applications for recompletions.  We want our County to be involved in these applications and all future applications for oil and gas facilities and for recompletions.  We ask that the County communicate to COGCC clarifying this new stance. This request could simply consist of informing the COGCC that the County wishes to take advantage of new COGCC rules, which also give Counties the right to local government consultation for any applications within boundaries and applications within 2000 feet outside their boundaries, (as proximate local governments).

We urge the BOCC to put a moratorium on pending applications at the County level while the County’s regulations are being revised. We ask for a 6-month moratorium.  It would be time and energy intensive for the County staff to be revising the oil and gas regulations while simultaneously working with operators and the COGCC on applications for amending existing locations, recompletions or new locations. We ask that both types of processes be done separately allowing staff to give its full attention first to regulations revision and later to oil and gas facility applications. 

We also urge BOCC to inform the COGCC that Larimer County wants a hold on all pending and future applications for the same length of time as the moratorium. The BOCC can request that the COGCC hold consideration of Form 2 and 2A. and injection well permits pertaining to Larimer County during this timeframe to better preserve Larimer County’s ability to engage in the process and protect its residents and environment.

In sum, we are asking for:

  1. A sufficient timeline for public process:  A public process that allows adequate time for thorough review and revision of Larimer County Oil & Gas regulations.
  1. The County to provide input to the State on all current and future applications: Please tell the COGCC the County is changing its earlier stance and now wants to review and provide input for every pending and new Larimer County oil and gas facility application, including recompletions, effective immediately.
  2. Implementation of a moratorium: We urge the County to put a moratorium on all Oil and Gas applications at the County level for 6-months while the County is revising its regulations.
  3. Request the COGCC to hold pending applications: We urge the BOCC to request COGCC to hold new or pending applications at the State level for the same duration as the County moratorium.

Thank you for your consideration of these requests.

Ed Behan on behalf of Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety & the Environment

Larimer Alliance Calls for O&G Moratorium While County Revises Regulations (cover letter)

January 19, 2021

Larimer County Commissioners, 

Congratulations to Jody Shadduck-McNally and Kristin Stephens on your successful election to the Larimer County Board of County Commissioners. We look forward to working with you along with Commissioner John Kefalas.

We understand that the pandemic has disrupted our county’s budgets as well as the health and livelihoods of its residents, and so you begin your service like racehorses at a gate. We ask that you include an investigation of local oil and gas regulations in your first-tier of business as well. The effort dovetails battling the disruption of Covid 19. It also aligns with the Climate Action Plan instigated by Commissioner Kefalas and sought by a majority of voters. 

Covid 19 most often kills via the respiratory system. Now is the time to realize our long fight for clean air in Northern Colorado. We may not control the pandemic, but we can help our residents in recovery by addressing air quality. We’re looking for the will of our commissioners to lead the way. 

The attached letter is an overview of where we see frightening gaps in governance of oil and gas in our county boundaries. We’ve made suggestions and we stand ready to serve by clarifying our  concerns and assisting connections with experts on state regulations. We also can help compare how other counties are responding to SB-181. 

We look forward to participating in our county’s direction, and to doing our best to facilitate support you need in your jobs. Please never hesitate to ask us for information, a connection or to respond to proposal ideas. 

With respect and well wishes,

Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety & Environment

Tim Gosar, Chair

League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans

Andrew Forkes-Gudmondsun, Deputy Director

Larimer Alliance Calls for O&G Moratorium While County Revises Regulations

January 19, 2021

Larimer County, Colorado

Dear Larimer County Board of County Commissioners:

The Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety & the Environment was formed in 2019 to support strong oil and gas regulations that protect public health, safety, welfare, the environment, and wildlife as mandated by SB19-181. We’re grateful to the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans (LOGIC), who work to bring about proactive and pragmatic oil and gas policy solutions across Colorado, and have supported our active engagement in rulemaking and advocacy. The Alliance and LOGIC have engaged constructively and offered expertise as a resource to Larimer County as the county embarked on a process to develop local oil and gas regulations.

That process ended in April 2020 with new oil and gas regulations inserted into Larimer County’s 20-year land use code. Prior to approval, the County Planning Commission mandated that a review of these regulations (and related land use code) be initiated no later than “120 days after state regulation was completed”. There was concern that the County regulations might fall below that of the state regulations. That has shown to be a prescient requirement.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) completed its Mission Change Rulemaking (Series 200-600 and 800, 900, 1200) on Nov. 24, 2020, which concluded the bulk of the COGCC revision of the State’s oil and gas regulations. If the clock starts on November 24, 2020 the County is required to start its review by March 24, 2021.

 For this reason, we ask that the County instate a 6-month moratorium on the consideration of new oil and gas applications while the County regulations are being reviewed and revised. The revision of the County’s regulations and the review of the new COGCC and AQCC regulations will likely be time consuming for County staff. Without a moratorium, the County staff could have siting applications in process concurrent with regulation review and revision.

The Larimer Alliance urges the new BOCC to begin review of the County regulations as a first order of business in 2021. We believe this is imperative for several reasons:

  1. The current Larimer County regulations on location decisions for new oil and gas applications provides insufficient guidance for siting. Not only will it cost the County time and money, it could also be an exercise in futility because the COGCC will be applying the State’s new, much more protective regulations to permit approvals beginning January 15, 2021.
  2. The current County regulations do not sufficiently protect public health, safety, welfare, the environment and wildlife (PHSWEW), in compliance with SB-181 and new State regulations. Numerous areas are not as protective as the new State regulations including setbacks, noise, odor, and light pollution, which leave the County’s population vulnerable to health impacts associated with oil and gas development (details follow in this letter).
  3. Our County is vulnerable to outside interests’ efforts to develop oil and gas without abiding by needed protections. Areas of vulnerability in the County regulations include: the exclusion of recompletions and confusing ambiguous language allowing for loopholes and legal vulnerability, such as the last minute inclusion of the term, “Greenfield” in the regulations.
  4. The need to review and revise County oil and gas regulations is in line with the County’s work on a Climate Action Plan, which is slated to include emissions from within the Larimer County Jurisdiction. 1 In addition, there is a pressing health imperative to improve air quality during the Covid pandemic as air pollution is increasing the risk of Covid death. 2

Also,

Following are specific areas of the current Larimer County oil and gas regulations that are weak and leave County residents, environment and wildlife vulnerable to detrimental health and other effects from increased air, water and land pollution. This list is not inclusive, but we are providing points of concern.

  • There are no clear standards or methods of enforcement for any violations nor consequences for noncompliance, such as fees or suspension of operations in the County regulations. The current regulations rely on industry self-reporting of incidents; state inspectors inspect each site approximately every 18-24 months. (Note: Adams County has worked with COGCC to have their own oil and gas inspector on staff.)
  • Insufficient setbacks: State regulations require 2000-foot setbacks between all new oil and gas facilities, homes, schools and other high occupancy buildings. The County regulations say “1,000 feet from building units, including high occupancy building units, or as required by COGCC.” Updating setback requirements would avoid confusion.
  • Lack of protections for public-owned open spaces.
  • Lack of protections for water resources.
  • Weak parameters for “nuisance” odors, vibrations, noise, and lights. To compare, COGCC noise limits are based on residential zoning standards, whereas the County would allow industrial noise levels during construction of oil and gas facilities. Larimer County regulations also allow noise above the zoned area designations to be increased by 10 decibels, in 15-minute increments during daylight hours.
  • Recompletion (redrilling and/or hydraulic fracturing) of existing wells are not included in the current County regulations, yet carry many of the same risks, health concerns and nuisance impacts as a new development. One area of concern is a vulnerable field north of Wellington, where the Larimer Alliance knows there is interest and intent to recomplete existing wells.
  • Reciprocal (aka reverse) setbacks for any new development adjacent to existing oil and gas facilities are not included in the County regulations. “Buyer beware” is not a protection.
  • State rules for Venting and Flaring, Spills and Releases are now much stronger and protective than the County’s regulations.
  • The current County regulations do not require information demonstrating that the operator is capable of fulfilling their financial obligations, such as the types of requirements enacted by Boulder County (Special Review for Oil and Gas Operations 3) or those set forth in the proposed COGCC 700 Series rules (Financial Assurance and Oil and Gas Conservation and Environmental Response Fund 4) and the Oil and Gas Conservation Act. 5

We also request that you consider 24-hour, state-of-the-art air quality emissions monitoring. It is necessary to truly protect public health. Larimer County has been in the EPA nonattainment zone since 2008. We currently have a “serious” surface ozone rating, which will likely soon be increased to a “severe” rating. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health, the oil and gas sector contributes 28% of NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) and also contributes to the “on road” sector of 32%. When mixed with sunlight NOx is a primary cause of surface ozone. The oil and gas sector’s NOx emissions increased from 41 tons per day to 66 tons per day, in Colorado nonattainment areas from 2011 to

2017. 6 The geography of our county makes the accumulated surface ozone back up against the Foothills and has shown to have health damage equivalent to every resident, every child, of smoking a pack of cigarettes each day. 7 We have some of the worst air quality in the United States — and we have wholly insufficient measurement. To act on science and to adequately protect public health, we need quality data.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns. We look forward to working with you and Larimer County staff to ensure protection of public health, safety, and environment related to oil & gas development in the county.

Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety & Environment

Tim Gosar, Coordinator

League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans

Andrew Forkes-Gudmondsun, Deputy Director

Citations within this document:

  1. MINUTES What the Larimer County Climate Action Plan will Include.
  2. Air Pollution Is Increasing The Risk of COVID-19 Death, According to New Studies
  3. https://assets.bouldercounty.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/land-use-code-article-12.pdf
  4. The text of these regulations is still in the process of revision at the COGCC
  5. The text of these regulations is still in the process of revision at the COGCC
  6. CDPHE’s Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority DMNFR NOx Emissions: 2011-2017, CDPHE Presentation to Larimer County Oil and Gas Task Force, Aug. 15, 2019, page 16.
  7. Smog And Other Air Pollution Is Linked To Lung Damage, COPD : Shots – Health News

LARIMER ALLIANCE ENDORSES State senator Joann Ginal and Representatives Jeni arndt and Cathy Kipp for Re-election

     The Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety & the Environment is a coalition of Northern Colorado citizens and groups committed to protecting Larimer County from harm by oil and gas development.  We aim to educate the public about this issue and ensure that local and state governments develop and implement policies that prioritize the protection of public health and safety, environmental quality, wildlife resources, and the integrity of public lands, in accordance with Colorado law.  

     Since our founding in 2019, the Alliance has been focused on oil and gas issues in Larimer County and greater Northern Colorado. Particular attention was given to new regulations enacted at the County level under the mandate of Senate Bill 19-181, a state reform which called for more protection of health, safety, and the environment by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), and allows more local control. 

    The current Board of County Commissioners enacted local regulations that were not in the spirit of SB-181. Both before and after the passage of those local rules, the Alliance provided input at the State level as new regulations on oil and gas were being drafted by the COGCC and the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC). This frequently includes consultation and collaboration with Larimer County’s representatives in the State Legislature.  

Our experience throughout this process has led us to endorse State Senator Joann Ginal in Senate District 14, Representative Jeni Arndt in House District 53, and Cathy Kipp in House District 52 for re-election in 2020. 

     With a 20- year career in bio-sciences specializing in reproductive endocrinology prior to her entering the Colorado legislature, Senator Ginal has long been concerned about the effects of oil and gas development on public health and the environment, and co-sponsored SB-181. She ran bills on the epidemiological effects of oil and gas development on nearby communities, as well as on the potential earthquake hazards presented by fracking.

     Representative Kipp serves on the House Energy and Environment Committee, closely tracking the new regulatory processes of both the COGCC and the AQCC. Representative Arndt serves on many committees. Her knowledge of water law is the reason why she has been appointed Vice-Chair of the Western Council of State Governments’ Agriculture and Water Committee. She is keenly aware of issues centered on the vast amount of water utilized in fracking processes. 

     Representatives Arndt and Kipp were both co-sponsors of SB-181 in the House. As new regulations were being formulated this year by the COGCC, all three of our Larimer County legislators signed a letter to support greater setbacks of oil and gas projects from homes, schools, and other sensitive locations. 

     We feel these public servants are paying quite appropriate attention to environmental issues in general and oil and gas regulatory issues in particular. It is our hope that they can continue their advocacy on behalf of Larimer County on these and other issues as they are re-elected to their seats in 2020. As ever, the Larimer Alliance stands ready to assist in educating and informing our representatives and the community at large as these issues march forward.