All posts by Rick Casey

Loveland Rally Against McWhinney Fracking Showed Great Community Spirit!

Despite a windy and chilly day, the “Keep Centerra Beautiful” rally was well attended, well organized and went on for hours. It showed there is real community spirit behind the movement to stop the McWhinney plan to drill at two fracking sites in Loveland.

Colorado Rising had organized and advertised the event, which the Larimer Alliance also helped to promote. The location was actually in Veterans Park, which is across from Lake Loveland, and the well known Loveland Heart sculpture on the north side of Eisenhower Boulevard. This was their nice graphic about it:

Colorado Rising’s graphic for the April 23, 2022 rally

The event was structured around a series of speakers that included elected government representatives, a doctor from Physicians for Social Responsibility, a nationwide nonprofit, members of Colorado Rising, our spokesperson from Larimer Alliance (Ed Behan), and several “affected residents.” There was also music, from a guitarist accompanied by a singer (though I failed to get their names).

First I helped Ed set up the Larimer Alliance table:

Ed and Keith man the Larimer Alliance table

As the crowd slowly started to gather, a musician played and sang:

A number of signs had been posted on the fence facing the busy traffic along Eisenhower Boulevard:

Protest signs along the road

The speakers got started with a prayer and invocation from Colorado Rising organizer Harmony Cummings about how the event was occurring on stolen land where the Arapaho and Ute tribes used to live, and then led off with a yoga breathing exercise:

Our first speaker leading us in a yoga stretch

Meanwhile, other protesters waved their signs at passing cars — some of which would honk their horns in support:

Waving signs at passing traffic

Soon after the starting time at 11am, a small crowd had started to gather. As you can tell from how people are bundled up, there was a stiff, chilly wind that kept up through the day, with whitecaps on Lake Loveland:

A small but spirited crowd began to gather…

This one visitor to the Larimer Alliance table shared her pet tortoise, Tiki, and their protest sign — small in size, big in heart:

The protest of Tiki, the tortoise

Another animal protester shared their sign:

Dogs can protest too!

First to speak was Larimer County Commissioner Jody Shadduck-McNally:

Larimer County Commissioner Jody Shadduck-McNally speaks at The Keep Centerra Beautiful rally

Commissioner Shadduck-McNally spoke powerfully and eloquently about the need for local governments to use their legal authority to regulate oil and gas operations, and for we citizens to continue to attend meetings, and “ask the hard questions” of their elected representatives. The crowd repeatedly applauded during her short speech, and gave her a resounding closing applause. It was a decidedly pro-community, pro-safety and pro-healthy environment stance.

Next to speak was a member of the Loveland city council, Andrea Samson:

Loveland city council member Andrea Samson addresses the rally

Councilmember Andrea Samson likewise asserted that local governments have the right — and the duty! — to protect the health, safety and environmental quality of their communities from the oil and gas industry. Reciting every other Loveland city council member by name and their respective wards, she exhorted Loveland residents to call up, write to or meet with their council representative, and demand that they take action on the McWhinney fracking proposal. The decision to allow the proposal to go forward or not rests entirely with the Loveland council; so this is why Loveland residents need to let their will known to them.

Next in the line of elected representatives to speak was Christiaan van Woudenberg:

Erie Trustee Christiaan van Woudenberg addresses the crowd

Mr van Woudenberg has been on the Erie Board of Trustees (their version of a city council) for four years, and was recently reelected to another term. He and his family have resided in Erie for over a decade, and his progressive views on how Erie should develop in a sustainable manner are well known. Christiaan was outspoken in his support for stopping residential drilling of any new fracking wells, and also called out to those in the crowd to “get engaged” and speak to their elected representatives — repeatedly! He also got a rousing round of applause for his impassioned delivery.

By now the crowd had grown to around 75 folks or so, as shown here:

The crowd hears from “an affected resident”

At the microphone is “an affected resident”, who identified as Ramone, and lives near where one of the proposed Centerra drilling sites could go in. He was rather upset at the prospect, and made it quite clear he did not want such a destructive and polluting operation be allowed to happen so close to residential neighborhoods.

Next up was Sandra Duggan, one of the organizers with Colorado Rising:

Colorado Rising organizer Sandra Duggan

She is also an Erie resident, and shared her personal story — or horror story, as it came across — of having to endure the nightmare of a fracking operation being conducted in proximity of her family’s home. The suffering was inflicted in multiple ways: by the inescapable noise of drilling rigs, generators and trucks, the blazing light panels that are kept on 24×7 during the drilling and fracking phases, and then the insidious air pollution, which could be tainted with who knows what VOCs and methane, besides the diesel fumes produced by the trucks and generators. She is now pregnant with her first child, and has real fears about the endocrine disruption that can occur, and potentially even transmitted to her baby. In an effort to protect themselves, her family has installed a thousand dollars worth of air filtering equipment in their home. Her moving story was painful to hear.

The next “afflicted resident” to speak was Kathy Kemper, who actually lives about 450 feet from the Knight Pad drilling site near Union Reservoir:

An afflicted resident, Kathy, shares her story

Kathy minced no words in her own “horror story” of how awful it is to have live just a few hundred feet from a massive fracking site. Her family’s quality of life that they had sought on their six acre property has been destroyed. Despite the operator’s placement of “sound barrier walls” around the perimeter of the operation, they still endured sleepless nights from the noise. The paintings on their walls would tremble from the vibrations of passing trucks. Cracks have appeared in their walls. One of their doors can no longer be closed since the door framed has skewed by the vibrations coming through the earth. Cathy was damn mad, and wanted the crowd to get damn mad with her, and then do something about it through their government.

Following Kathy, another organizer from Colorado Rising spoke next, Harmony Cummings:

Colorado Rising organizer Harmony Cummings shares her story

She shared that she had worked in the oil industry for eight years, in North Dakota, where the large Bakken fracked oil fields are located. She saw close up the industry does not care in the least for its environmental destruction, or how much it damages the health of people in the area affected by their activity, or even for the health and safety of its own workers — not to mention the effect the industry has on global warming. Witnessing this callous indifference to its life threatening actions, much less its refusal to take responsibility for global warming, motivated her to leave the industry, and to seek out an activist organization like Colorado Rising, so she could feel like she was past of the solution, not part of the problem.

Now to address the rally was an expert in human health: Dr. Cory Carroll, who was there representing Physicians for Social Responsibility, PSR (psr.org).

Dr Cory Corrall speaks to the many health hazards from fracking

He recounted stories of his own patients in the Fort Collins area, who if they describe any unusual symptoms, his first question is to ask if they know if they live near any oil and gas operations. He has had patients with unusual symptoms that defy diagnosis — other than a common characteristic being that they lived in proximity to an O&G operation. Brandishing the thick hardcopy book in the air, Dr. Carroll said the annual compendium from the PSR from the latest report about the dangers of fracking. (You can find out more about this annually updated report by clicking on this link.) This annal report, now in its 7th year, gets updated each year with new evidence of the medical dangers from fracking; it now contains over 2,000 abstracts of peer reviewed articles, reports, and studies. If you are ever challenged by anyone who wants some proof that fracking is dangerous, just show them this report!

Finally, wrapping up the lineup was the spokesperson for the Larimer Alliance, Ed Behan:

Ed Behan with the Larimer Alliance

Ed delivered a concise history of how the Larimer Alliance has been focused on the political side of the issue, since forming in summer 2019 for the purpose of seeing the proper implementation of the SB-181 in Larimer County. This was the historic law passed in May 2019 that, supposedly, gave local communities, i.e. our city councils and county commissioners, the legal power equal to the state to regulate oil and gas operations within their jurisdictions. Since I have been with the Alliance since they were formed as well, I am all too familiar with this story as well.

When the Alliance was formed, we decided that we needed to focus on the county level for an effective implementation of this new law — though city governments also have this power, if (and it’s a big if) they choose to use it. In the previous year, 2018, a lone Democrat, John Kefalas, had been elected to the three person board of Larimer County Commissioners. The other two Republican commissioners had both been there for nearly three terms (or twelve years!). As we might have expected, the ensuing struggle played out along party lines, with the two Republican commissioners outvoting the lone Democrat with just about a 100 per cent record. So in that first year after SB-181, the commissioners empowered an oil and gas “task force” to come up with recommendations; and they basically changed nothing. This is well documented on our website, on this page Past commentary on County O&G Regs. We testified many times at county commissioner public meetings to express our concerns, largely to no avail (other than the satisfaction of having packed the public record.)

So, when the election year of 2020 turned out the two male term-limited Republican commissioners, and elected two female Democratic commissioners, our hopes were raised. A new task force came up with stronger regulations, though still not as strong as we would like. And so we are still pushing the commissioners on this board to take action, and use their power to protect us from this destructive and predatory industry. Our current focus is on getting a real time, continuous air quality monitoring system, such as exists in Boulder, Longmont, Erie and Broomfield; and enjoying working with Colorado Rising on that project.

Here are some other nice pictures expressing the community spirit that was on grand display at the rally:

Dear Loveland city council: Just Say No to McWhinney!

some coal in your christmas stocking: the potential of O&G well abandonment in colorado

As 2021 draws to a close, I wanted to add one last post to the blog here about an issue concerning the oil and gas industry that bears remembering for its possible effect on all citizens of Colorado: the potential of O&G well abandonment in Colorado, and the possibility of state taxpayers having to pay for it — instead of the O&G industry.

That possibility was made all too clear in an interview that the radio station KUNC did on November 19, 2021 with Andrew Forkes-Gudmunson, who is the deputy director of LOGIC, the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradoans. This was part of the station’s excellent news show about local issues, the Colorado Edition that airs at 6:30pm. You can still listen to the interview on their website at

https://www.kunc.org/show/kuncs-colorado-edition/2021-11-19/plugging-up-the-problem-of-colorados-orphan-wells

To get to the chase, after all of the state data was analyzed by LOGIC, using data from the COGCC website, LOGIC came to the conclusion that about 70 per cent of the active wells in the state produce less than one barrel of oil a day, and that the majority of those wells are owned by small operators, not by a major oil company. It is within reason to also infer that many of these low producing wells are never going to increase their production since they are “played out”; and then to conclude that the operators have not yet abandoned them because of the cost of doing so. When a well operator tells the COGCC that they are going to abandon a well, the well needs to be plugged before the operator can abandon it, i.e. cease to have any legal connection or obligation to it. And to plug a well carries a certain cost. Though it basically means pouring cement down the oil bore and letting it dry, it can be more or less expensive depending on the type of well, how deep it is, and other environmental factors that might entail additional measures.

Long story short, looking at the data carefully seems to indicate that the COGCC has allowed a lot of small operators to keep their played out wells in the “active” category simply because the operators don’t want to declare them to be in need of being plugged before abandoning them. This is, unfortunately, the sad end of allowing an industry to effectively self-regulate itself, going back over seven decades.

Thus, when looking at a range of estimates for plugging a well, there is an all-too-real possibility of the total price tag for plugging all these wells that should have been abandoned before now coming in at something like $7 BILLION! To put that figure in perspective, the 2019-20 state budget was about $32.5 billion; or that for 2021 state population, would be about $1,100 for every man, woman and child in the state.

It is because of this possibility that the COGCC is holding its final phase of rulemaking for SB-181 via public hearings about Financial Assurance during January and February. “Financial Assurance” basically means holding the O&G industry to account for the cost of plugging abandoned wells. See this other blog post for the calendar of events about that, and if you would like to express your opinion. The COGCC would love to hear from you! ūüôā

Please keep this in mind as we enter 2022…Happy New Year, everybody!

northeRn larimer county gets noticed…FINALLY

The residents who live in the vicinity of the oil and gas wells in northern Larimer County — such as the Hearthfire neighborhood and County Road 13 — know all too well all about leaking tanks, foul odors and unsafe air pollution; and finally this attracted some media attention. The Larimer Alliance is thankful for this story in the Coloradodoan that was published December 6, 2021:

Oil company hasn’t replaced leaking tanks near Fort Collins despite months of complaints

It was certainly a great effort by the reporter Jacy Marmaduke, the people she interviewed, and especially the videographic work by Earthworks’ Andrew Klooster.

As Ms Marmaduke accurately described, existing oil and gas wells and transmission facilities have fallen through the cracks of industry regulations. Even though SB-181, the 2019 law that dramatically reformed how oil and gas is regulated, and empowered local city and county authorities, in theory, to write their own regulations about oil and gas operations, these have only applied to new wells — leaving existing operations to continue to be regulated by the state. This has come as quite the disappointment of local residents who were hoping for some help and relief from the continuing air pollution.

As we’ve come to find out, when existing tanks start leaking, the state regulators have been slow to react; as the hapless residents having to endure the foul air have found out. It has taken months of effort by local residents complaining to the authorities responsible, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, to get them to inspect the sites.

Unfortunately, it will likely take many more months of efforts by citizens calling out for redress to fix the problem. Please show your support by either commenting here, sending your thanks to the Coloradoan for the above story, or contacting your city and county offices to express your concerns.

My question for the O&G GHG Roadmap

The O&G GHG Roadmap is a major policy objective of the Polis administration, as explained at https://energyoffice.colorado.gov/climate-energy/ghg-pollution-reduction-roadmap.  However, some have questioned the intentions of the administration.  Nonetheless, the CDPHE is charged with soliciting public input  on the issues, as its part in this policy action, which will happen in two meetings, on August 16 and 31, 2021.
I registered to have some public input, and sent the message below as my questions for them.
You can still register to attend the August 31 meeting; see this link.
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Dear CDPHE:
One question I have as a concerned citizen is this: the current air quality monitors maintained by the CDPHE only detect the presence of ozone; but as we all know, ozone can be created from various constituent gasses.
The technology exists to measure not just ozone, but those constituent gasses as well, and it is my understanding that the technology used by BoulderAIR monitoring stations (see https://bouldair.com/) are capable of measuring these constituent gasses. This is especially important in order to determine how much of the ozone is being caused by vehicular traffic and how much is being caused by oil and gas operations.
There are five such stations already in place, operating in a coordinated fashion, providing a comprehensive picture of regional air quality in those areas, and building a legally defensible dataset of pollution sources. Would it not make sense to enlarge this network to cover the entire regions where ozone is a problem? Otherwise, how are you ever going to know the true source of this highly problematic pollution, and therefore manage the problem?
Thank you.
Sincerely,
Rick Casey
Fort Collins, CO