All posts by Ed Behan

Remarks by Larimer Alliance representatives to the COGCC’s Cumulative Impact listening session on February 3

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission held a virtual listening session on the need for Cumulative Impacts Rulemaking today. Many folks representing a range of environmental groups and communities affected by oil and gas operations in our state and region spoke to both the arcana of regulation and the real human effects they have experienced. We are happy to report that those speaking in favor of comprehensive rulemaking far outnumbered those “fourth and fifth generation” Coloradans speaking against any further constraint on the industry.

Three members of the Larimer Alliance presented the following statements either live in the session or by submitted comments:

From Doug Henderson:

Good afternoon Commissioners,

I am a Larimer County resident and member of the Larimer Alliance for
Health Safety and Environment, a coalition representing thousands of
people in this County.

Our air quality in Larimer County is terrible, due largely to oil and
gas emissions.

The American Lung Association gives our air quality a grade F. Three
years ago Fort Collins ranked #24 for worst ozone pollution in the US.
Now it is ranked #18 worst. Our air quality is getting worse, due
largely to oil and gas emissions.

You know that these emissions harm people’s health and the environment.
You know about the science confirming these impacts.

You know that fracking uses over 10 billion gallons of fresh water in
Colorado every year, turning it into toxic waste.

You know that impacts are local, regional, and global – causing a wide
range of harms from damaging prenatal health to exacerbating climate
change.

And you know that many impacts are cumulative.

SB181 requires the Commission to seriously consider cumulative impacts
in its decisions.  But so far, it has failed to do so, while ignoring
and understating harm to health, safety and welfare, and to our
environment and climate.

Several years ago I spoke to this Commission about the critical role of
people with authority to either stop harm, or to condone harm and to
thereby enable it.

We all are aware of tragedies where officials ignored or denied evidence
of wrongful conduct and harm when they could have acted to stop it. By
their own choice, each became an enabler of harm and each bore
responsibility for the damage done. We have seen it in churches and
schools, in policing and institutions of justice, and in agencies
responsible for natural resources.

Here in Colorado, for decades oil & gas operators have caused harm to
health, safety and the environment, with general impunity.

SB181 was intended as a turning point: for the COGCC to start protecting
public health, safety, welfare and the environment.

Commissioners, your legacy has yet to be fully written.

Will you enable harm from cumulative impacts to go on unabated?

Or will your legacy be protecting the public interest and welfare, and
our environment and climate?

Your legacy as this Board of Commissioners depends on what you, acting
in a majority, choose to do.

We want you to:

     • First, uphold the intent of SB181 regarding cumulative impacts.

     • Ensure that your cumulative impacts task force truly represents
impacted communities and incorporates the latest health and
environmental science.

     • Use EPA standards, without creating compliance loopholes.

     • Deny applications that will contribute to unhealthy pollution
levels, and until our air is no longer classified severe ozone
nonattainment.

     • Require operations to cease emitting ozone precursors on high
pollution days, with accurate monitoring and meaningful enforcement.

     • Penalize operators for inaccurate emissions projections and
inaccurate reporting.

     • Require operators to P&A old wells before permitting a new well.

     • Require fracking operations to use recycled water; and place a
limit and fee on use of fresh water.

Thank you for hearing us in Larimer County.

Respectfully,
Doug Henderson

From Ed Behan:

Good afternoon, commissioners. My name is Ed Behan. I am the Media and Outreach Liaison with the Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety, & the Environment, and I reside in Fort Collins. The Larimer Alliance has advocated at both the local and state level for improved regulation of oil and gas operations in Colorado since the passage of Senate Bill 19-181. We were also one of a group of six environmental organizations that submitted a petition to you last August calling for rulemaking on the cumulative impacts of this industry on our state’s air quality.

There are others here who will address the whys and wherefores of why such rulemaking is necessary. From my own personal perspective, such impacts go beyond just air quality. I have concerns, among other things, about the ridiculously large amounts of water that unconventional oil and gas drilling, also known as fracking, takes out of our already critically drought-stricken drainages. Many others can detail with more eloquence than me the impacts on public health, impacts on wildlife habitats, impacts on marginalized communities, and even impacts on property values near such operations.

But what I want to address is the nature of the working group you proposed to establish last December to work on cumulative impact rulemaking. At the time, Director Robbins indicated he thought that work could be completed in the first quarter of 2023. One month has expired of that first quarter, so I ask: When will the group be set up, how will it be staffed, and do you honestly think it can complete the process in the remaining two months of this first quarter?

It is my understanding that these listening sessions are to help establish the parameters of such a working group, so I propose you move carefully in setting it up. I know the oil and gas industry, as a stakeholder, will have representation in such a body. You should also include representatives of local governments and communities, both rural and urban. Academic and professional experts should be empaneled who can address the health and environmental impacts that have been brought to your attention. And you should surely include representatives of environmental advocacy organizations. Any such group should also hold public hearings with opportunities for citizen comment, and I think it should also be given a good deal more time to effectively address the questions of what regulations are appropriate and what effective enforcement would look like.

Anything less than this would not be what I consider a transparent and good-faith effort. The people and environment of our beloved state deserve a sincere and comprehensive process to address this critical issue. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I hope you will give this serious consideration.

From Rick Casey:

Good afternoon commissioners and members of the CDPHE. I appreciate the opportunity to make this public comment.

I have been a teacher of environmental economics at Front Range Community since 2009, and have been the webmaster for the non-profit Larimer Alliance since it got started in 2019. I have resided in Colorado since 1981, and have lived in Fort Collins since 2018. I have been closely involved in the issue of fracking in Colorado since 2012, first in Lafayette and Boulder, and now in Fort Collins and Larimer county.

I would like to go on record at this meeting to state that the COGCC has been grossly negligent in failing to pursue the measurement and documentation of cumulative impacts as part of their duty to carry out the intent of SB-181 since it was passed into law in May 2019.

I believe the COGCC has been dragging its feet for too long on this vital issue, and you have lost much of any credibility with the broader public because of your years of delay. Quantifying the negative impacts to the health and environment from decades of O&G activity is the foremost need and intent of SB-181. More than anything else, the COGCC could help restore confidence of the public on this matter if they quickly pursue some programs to study the most intensely affected areas of O&G activity in the state and publish them in a transparent and prompt way.

Thank you.
Rick Casey

MY REMARKS AT FRACK OF THE STATE, FRACK OF THE CLIMATE EVENT ON BEHALF OF THE LARIMER ALLIANCE, JANUARY 17, 2023

Good morning, people. My name is Ed Behan and I am with the Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety, & the Environment.

Yesterday there were many celebrations of the life and times of the late, great Martin Luther King, Jr, and his lifelong quest for social justice. And now here we are demanding environmental justice. This is sometimes dismissed as not being a related issue. However I don’t think I need to remind folks that the efforts of Cultivando, the community around the Bella Romero Academy, and tribal groups who resisted the Dakota Access Pipeline and other extractive incursions on native lands, only serve to demonstrate that the issues are intertwined and always have been.

Three years ago, with the passage of Senate Bill 19-181, this State made the remarkable first step of reordering the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to prioritize the protection of our communities’ health, our safety, and our environment.

The Larimer Alliance has advocated for improved local regulation under the mandate of that legislation, as well as lobbied at the State level during rulemaking processes.

We are all here to mark progress made. . . but also to mark that the first step taken has been a stumbling one at best. While new rules have been enacted, and new monitoring standards have been crafted, it is clear that everything from bureaucratic inertia to outright discouragement of effective enforcement has hindered our progress. This legislature has the opportunity and the duty to correct that and keep us moving forward.

Today, as in his inaugural speech last week, the governor is supposed to reaffirm his commitment to Colorado achieving the goal of having its energy needs met by 100 % renewable sources by 2040. But you all have seen the figures, you know the reality of the thousands of oil and gas permits that have been approved since he took office in 2019, and the hundreds more in the permitting pipeline. I’ll take a leap here, give Mr. Polis the benefit of the doubt, and assume we achieve the goal of Colorado’s energy needs being carbon free by the goal date. . . but where is all this oil and gas that is being developed going? I assure you, if it is not being burned here in Colorado, it is being burned somewhere else. And my friends. . . THAT AIN’T CARBON NEUTRAL!

WE ALL KNOW WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE, AND WE NEED TO HOLD OUR LEADERS ACCOUNTABLE TO SEE THAT IT HAPPENS. THANK YOU.

LETTER TO LOVELAND COUNCIL MEMBER ANDREA SAMSON FROM ALLIANCE SUPPORTER NANCY GARCIA ON CENTERRA DRILLING PROPOSALS

ONE OF OUR SUPPORTS IN LOVELAND SENT THE FOLLOWING LETTER TO HER CITY COUNCIL MEMBER, ANDREA SAMSON, REGARDING THE ISSUES SURROUNDING PROPOSED DRILLING NEAR CENTERRA BY THE MC WHINNEY DEVELOPMENT GROUP:

January 12, 2023

Dear Andrea,

Economic growth in the City of Loveland is bound by a Uniform Development Code (18.01.01.02) designed to promote public health, safety, and the general welfare.  Allowing hydraulic fracturing in the Centerra Region of Loveland violates this code and the city’s comprehensive plan.  Below are just some of the ways that fracking is NOT compatible with the Uniform Code.

Code: Promote economic opportunity, encourage investment, and promote property values.

Reality: The Oil and Gas Industry provides less than 1% of the states total employment but is projected to cost $1.36 billion annually in damages to the environment. That is 1.5 times the total taxes and fees oil and gas brings to the state. (CO Fiscal Institute, 2022).  Property values decline in areas polluted by  noise, heavy large vehicle traffic, and toxic air caused by invisible fracking gas leaks verified by infrared cameras. (Earthworks, 2022) More and more property owners in Centerra are voicing their concerns and protesting the planned 26 wells that they want stopped. (multiple dates, Loveland Reporter Herald.)

Code: Promote good civic design and site layout.

Reality: Loveland allows reverse setbacks that allow drilling only 300 feet from businesses that employ people such as wholesale nurseries, storage yards, heavy industry, composting facilities, and essential utility facilities. Residential development other than high occupancy buildings is located only 500 feet from an existing oil and gas facility. (City of Loveland Planning Division).  A majority of members of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission say “All homes and schools in Colorado should be protected from new oil and gas drilling by a 2,000-foot buffer or setback – four times the current standard for urban areas”. (The Colorado Sun, 9-9-20) In areas with dense oil and gas site layout we see lower birth weights, more children with congenital heart defects, and more childhood cancers. (CU Anschutz Professor Lisa McKenzie). Being close to drilling sites is also dangerous for the elderly and those with breathing issues.

Code: Promote fiscally responsible infrastructure and services.

Reality:  The Oil and Gas industry has tens of thousands of orphaned wells that could cost tax payers billions of dollars to clean up. In addition to the financial burden “all of the science indicates that the dangerous gases that spew from wells are major contributors to climate change.” (Joe Salazar, Colorado Rising, 8-31-21). Climate caused disasters alone have cost the state between $20 billion and $50 billion since 1980. (Colorado Fiscal Institute)

Code: Lessen the risk of flood, fire, panic, and other dangers.

Reality: Fracking poses unique dangers to residential areas by subjecting families to known carcinogens like benzene.  In 2017 fracking gases in Firestone combusted violently in a home causing serious injuries and 2 deaths. “Forced pooling” has allowed gas companies to annex mineral rights and drill beneath homes without the owner’s consent. Climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions, like methane, contribute to severe weather leading to floods and wildland fires.

Code: Promote the conservation of energy, water, and environmental resources.

Reality: Fracking is a water intensive industrial process. It uses, 1.5 million to 16 million gallons of water per well, according to the United States Geological Survey.<https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/how-much-water -does-typical-hydraulically-fractured-well-require__;!!HxSnvVm2WdNPEuU!rxwQM 2UytYawcVsFzHuVsPQh0pU4UIuY7unoMMcHMeGLKizQC9rLqOym5M-3MoidYtBPjn1HC7Uy0RVe3fj0kjSXBXEpbnsdgItRO70$>

We don’t get that polluted water back and we’re currently in a 1200 year drought.

Code: Promote the use of renewable energy.

Reality: To curb our climate crisis, we need to end our dependence on fossil fuels. That may have seemed far-fetched a decade ago given the cost of installing wind and solar at the time, but in 10 years, the price of solar electricity dropped 89%, and the price of onshore wind dropped 70%. (Rocky Mountain Institute, 2019). Continued use of fossil fuels is expensive and unnecessary.

Please consider the future of our city and adherence to the Uniform Development Code as you make your decision about allowing fracking in Centerra. For everyone’s health, safety, and the general welfare city leaders owe it to its citizens to not permit fracking within city limits.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Nancy Garcia,

Ward 2 Loveland

NANCY RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING REPLY FROM LOVELAND CITY COUNCILMEMBER ANDREA SAMSON:

Nancy,

Thank you for your email and the thorough, comprehensive and specific information you provided. I appreciate you taking the time to break each issue down and to relate it to code compliance with the examples directly from our code.

I have copied city manager Steve Adams and city attorney Moses Garcia in my response so that your email can be included in any information presented to council and/or planning commission in the event this issue comes before Council.

Thank you again, very much,

Andrea Samson

Loveland City Council

Ward 2

Letter submitted by Larimer Alliance and other allied groups to Fort Collins City Council regarding draft oil and gas regulations

The following letter was submitted to Fort Collins City Council regarding the pending draft regulations for oil and gas development within the context of the evolving Land Development Code. It has been signed by the Larimer Alliance, Sierra Club Poudre Canyon Group, 350 Colorado, and the Fort Collins Sustainability Group. If you hover your cursor over the bottom of the first page, you will see arrow prompts to access the rest of the pages.

Joint-Env-Org-OG-Reg-Ltr-to-FC-City-Council-FINAL12-17-2022