Category Archives: LOGIC

the BOULDERAIR tour rocked!

Thanks to efforts by Councilwomen Laurie Anderson of Broomfield, and to Andrew Forkes-Gudmunson of LOGIC, an idea for a tour became a reality last week. On short notice, a select crowd of community leaders, including some of from the Larimer Alliance, were asked if they would like to attend a tour of one of BoulderAIR‘s monitoring stations. Would a few of us be interested in attending the tour, at noon on Thursday, September 23, 2021?

You betcha! was the response. The organizers were trying to limit it to about a half dozen, but nearly twice that number showed up. People were from Broomfield, Fort Collins, and Loveland, including past Colorado legislator Mike Foote, who helped craft the historic SB-181 legislation.

The monitoring station from a distance

When we arrived at the Soaring Eagle Park in Broomfield, Dr Helmig, the CEO of BoulderAIR, was just finishing up a tour provided to members of the Aurora city government; so it was a busy tour day!

The previous tour group almost done

The Soaring Eagle Park in Broomfield is located in the Anthem housing development, which does have expansive views:

Looking north, where Longs Peak is visible in the distance

Unfortunately, this upscale housing development is also home to fracked wells, some just a few hundred feet from homes, which were drilled in the years prior to SB-181. Hence the strong interest by local government in getting such monitoring stations installed.

A stable tower anchors the mobile trailer that houses all the equipment, and provides the means of attaching the various sensors that record environmental conditions and air pollution:

Dr. Helmig explaining the various sensors

The trailer contains sophisticated equipment, worth tens of thousands of dollars, and analyzes the air samples in real time, and automatically publishing the data on the BoulderAIR website in less than 15 minutes. The equipment is under constant maintenance and calibration; though largely automated, the entire system nonetheless needs a good deal of tender loving care to keep it in good operating condition.

The big silver tubes connect to an air conditioner, which prevents the trailer from getting too hot inside

The presentation wrapped up with an explanation of the key piece of equipment: a gas chromatograph. The heart of the machine is this delicate part:

The orange coil is the heart of a gas chromatograph: a 50 meter long glass tube, barely a couple of millimeters wide, through which the gas sample travels

On the same site is another sampling station, an AJAX system, which is not part of BoulderAIR, but which Broomfield contracted to build prior to contracting with BoulderAIR:

An AJAX station, with an air sampling canister

The Soaring Eagle BoulderAIR station has the most complete set of sensors of any of the seven stations that they operate. It went into operation in April 2020, and has helped Broomfield identify several local pollutants, even ones not associated with oil and gas. There are two new fracked wells that went in within the past two years within about a mile radius; a third well’s drilling rig was just visible about a mile to the southeast from this site, which is being drilled now. So the city has ample reason for wanting a monitoring station in this area.

Partial screenshot from the BoulderAIR website showing the live data from the Soaring Eagle station

To see the graphs for yourself, browse to www.bouldair.com/broomfield.htm

(Best viewed on a laptop or desktop screen)

One of the many interesting facts that Dr. Helmig mentioned during the tour was that this station measured 40 days of non-compliance for ozone this past summer; the recommended threshold for maintaining human health set by the EPA is FOUR DAYS — in other words, this location in Broomfield was 10 TIMES THE RECOMMENDED SAFE THRESHOLD FOR SURFACE OZONE THIS SUMMER! It would be interesting indeed to study the data from those days and find out what percentage of the VOCs causing the ozone were from oil and gas sources versus VOCs coming from vehicular pollution. Why hasn’t this been done, one might wonder?

Well, apparently the state of Colorado is not interested in pursuing that question; and Broomfield does not have the expertise in-house to answer it either. But if BoulderAIR had the resources to hire more qualified staff, they could answer the question for us. But, as Dr. Helmig joked, you can’t just put out a Craigslist ad for this kind of job! Up until now, he has been so busy keeping the monitors going, his small team has not been able to pursue such questions; that might change in the future if BoulderAIR could hire more staff.

As far as anyone knows, these monitoring stations are unique: there are simply no other monitoring stations in the US, or in the world for that matter, that can match their analytical capability. Given the extreme amounts of ozone and, on occasion when accidents happen at oil and gas sites, dangerous amounts of other toxic chemicals that go wafting over the landscape, it would seem a no-brainer that more of these stations need to get built, AND more powerful regulations put in place to allow the state and local governments to shut down chronic pollution sources.

The Larimer Alliance is engaging with the city and county departments to support the installation of one or more such monitoring stations in the county, and support the important work of BoulderAIR. We will keep you posted of developments!

The Oil & Gas 101 Webinar was a rousing success!

I attended LOGIC’s Oil & Gas 101 Webinar tonight (April 21, 2021) and was much impressed. The audience was quite engaged, which numbered around 35 to 40. A link to the recording is posted below.

Here is a brief excerpt of a question I posed in the chat:

19:52:37 From Rick Casey to Everyone:
Awesome presentation; I’d like to make a suggestion for LOGIC’s push for air quality monitoring. This is a regional issue, and will take regional policy. So all us individual communities desperately need a coordinated approach, informed by real technical expertise. Something like a grant from the EPA to set up a system of BouldrAIR monitoring stations, from Denver to northern Weld County, that would comprehensively measure *exactly* what is in our air and where it is coming from….now THAT would be awesome! Rick Casey, webmaster, larimeralliance.org. THANKS AGAIN LOGIC!!!

…which was answered very positively:

19:53:38 From Sara Loflin – LOGIC, Erie (She/her/hers) to Everyone:
@Rick Casey, YES! A goal over the summer is to form a working group of local electeds and constituents to really ramp that up and get it going.

And here is a link to the recording of the webinar (you will need a Facebook account to view): https://www.facebook.com/COLOGIC/posts/2803612406635451

 

Wrapping up 2020…

This week I spent a good deal of time following the proceedings of the AQCC.  After having read most of the GHG Roadmap and the Ozone Reduction SIP (over the course of the last couple of months), I sent in a written comment and also signed up to speak Wednesday night.  There was a good turn out, with statements from numerous elected officials including our own County Commissioner, John Kefalas.  Some comments were general, some focused on specific aspects of the SIP, but overall it was an hour and a half (I left before all the comments had been completed) of unanimous pleas for the commission to tighten regulations and to be more aggressive in reducing emissions.  


The next morning, I rejoined the AQCC zoom meetings to hear the staff response.  I sensed there was some disappointment that the public seems to under-appreciate the work that has been done and the progress that has been made.  A lot of their presentation was spent detailing the legal and procedural constraints that would make it nearly impossible for them to rewrite the SIP at this late date in order to include all of the alternatives that were being demanded, including the proposed early closings of the three coal generators.  There would be several serious consequences to any delay in submitting the SIP to the EPA.
They acknowledged that more needs to be done, and pointed out that there will be opportunities in the future for more revisions.


It was also mentioned that some of the comments received seemed to conflate regulations relating to O&G and those that relate to major sources of emissions that are non-O&G.


Between these two meetings I also had the privilege of participating in an excellent three-night on-line summit hosted by LOGIC. (I know many of you were also in attendance.)  Senator Faith Winter was the keynote speaker Wednesday evening and she gave a fabulous tutorial regarding effective advocacy for climate change.  From her talk and from the information I gleaned listening in to the AQCC, I have the following take-aways:


1)  Not all losses are really losses;  the testimony (both written and oral) given to the AQCC will likely bear fruit down the road.

2)  We have to get into the game early–staff mentioned that there were numerous opportunities for public comment during the summer when there would have been more time to incorporate alternatives; we have to do our homework, build relationships; and join the process early on.

3)  Some of the work must be done legislatively.  The AQCC, and other state agencies have to work within the authority given to them by the law. We need to engage more with state legislators, especially those who have shown an interest in developing related legislation.

4)  Speaking of building relationships, I honestly believe that our state leadership has made a dramatic shift from pre-2018 days. Getting things done in government and politics is a clunky, ungraceful business, but I think most of the state agencies are making a serious effort to address climate change.  They are not moving as fast or as boldly as we need them to, but our encouragement and support will go farther than constant criticism from all sides. Let’s give them credit where credit is due and then assure them that we will have their backs as they push forward. 


One final comment regarding Tom Gonzales.  I don’t know if he was present for Thursday’s vote, but on Wednesday it was mentioned that he was absent due to his responsibilities as Larimer County Health Director.  He has a few other things on his plate right now.