In response to a significant joint letter submitted earlier in the year by six environmental groups active in the Front Range, the COGCC at last responded to repeated requests for rules about the cumulative impacts of pollution from O&G activities. See here:
In the last paragraph you will notice that the Larimer Alliance is mentioned among the other five groups: 350 Colorado, WildEarth Guardians, Womxn from the Mountain, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Sierra Club of Colorado.
My name is Edward Behan, and I am a resident of Fort Collins, Colorado. I am here to express my concern about proposals for financial assurance requirements to be exercised on oil and gas operations in Colorado.
I think it is very important to require sufficient bonding from an oil and gas operator to cover the costs of plugging a well at the end of its service life, and to restore the land upon which it was operated. This is a concern to me whether it is a new drilling operation, or if a company is taking over an existing site for further exploitation. I am also seriously concerned about those wells that are simply abandoned by some operators if they have financial difficulties. It is clear that some outfits are more meticulous about their responsibility for these costs than others. It is not right that the State of Colorado and its taxpayers should pick up the bill for reclaiming any drilling site that has been abandoned without proper closure and restoration. Nor would that be fair to any operator who does execute their final operations responsibly.
Before my wife and I moved back to Colorado in 2016, we lived for fifteen years in the Gulf Coast region of Texas and Louisiana. The last eight years in Baton Rouge were particularly instructive. We were there at the time of the BP oil spill, and in the aftermath of that tragic accident, there was much discussion about other elements of how the industry had been acting in that area for decades. Plugged and abandoned wells both onshore and offshore, that were supposedly sealed, were leaking. Pipeline tracks and canals that had serviced the drilling operations throughout Louisiana’s fragile wetlands had never been restored to their original condition, and that damage has contributed to the loss of coastal wetlands. The regulatory agencies and the legislature seemingly had no interest in holding the oil companies to the requirements of the agreements that they had signed regarding restoration of the land.
Colorado has a different sort of environment, but one that is equally fragile. The effects of improperly closed out drilling sites will have impact on our air and water quality. The Commission has a unique and weighty responsibility in this, especially under your newer mandate to protect the health, safety and environment in supervising the oil and gas industry.
I ask that you pay attention to those calling for full cost bonding of individual wells. Those costs may vary, but they need to be calculated to ensure that we taxpayers are not subsidizing their operations, and that proper care is taken of our precious Western environment. Thank you.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) will hold virtual hearings on their staff’s proposed Financial Assurance Rules. Two online sessions will happen on Thursday, January 20 and one on Friday, January 21. A Zoom sign-up link for making public comments in those sessions can be found here. The deadline to sign up for those sessions is Tuesday, January 18 at 12:00 Noon. Written comments can be entered on the same form at the bottom of the page, and will become part of the public record of these hearings.
It is clear the O&G industry wants to maintain the status quo of the State subsidizing their operations by keeping down the cost of bonding for the recovery and restoration of their well sites. Their estimates of what the full cost to actually clean up a wellpad at the end of its service are woefully inadequate. O&G’s preference for blanket bonding of multiple sites rather than coverage for individual wells is also a problem. Our allies at LOGIC have provided this link which tells the tale of what a mess this can be, and the cost to Colorado taxpayers.
We join in asking for these changes to COGCC staff’s draft of Financial Assurance regulations for the O&G industry in Colorado:
The need for bonds that cover all costs of plugging, cleanup and reclamation of every well in the state.
Stop the practice of “blanket bonds,” effectively a public subsidy for clean-up costs that perpetuates the orphaned well problem
Current financial assurances rules perpetuate the industry’s scam, artificially keeping wells “economical” as operators discount the true cleanup costs, letting the public pick up the bill instead.
The COGCC needs to add a per-well fee on operations in the state to generate revenue to clean up orphaned wells.
Require full cost bonds for all new wells
Require full costs bonds for all transferred wells
Require operators to generate a full cost bond for all existing wells in the state in a reasonable amount of time.
Require all of the State’s financial assurances rules apply to O&G operations and drilling on federal public lands in Colorado.
LARIMER ALLIANCE IS STILL WORKING TO HELP FUND THE LAWYERS ADVOCATING WITH US FOR BETTER FINANCIAL ASSURANCES RULEMAKING AT THE COGCC
The LarimerAlliance is working to advocate for implementing effective new rules on the oil and gas industry, both locally here in Larimer County and before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). We are hoping to assist in the funding of lawyers and other technical experts as new financial assurance regulations are developed by the COGCC
The Larimer Alliance is urging the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to require full cost bonding for all new and existing wells, and all wells upon transfer. Colorado taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for day-to-day operations, nor for the pollution, spills, or disasters associated with oil & gas (O&G) operations. The most recent draft of financial assurance rules presents a proposal for blanket bonding of O&G sites, rather than requiring full cost coverage individually for completed operations or abandoned wells. A detailed discussion of the full cost of dealing with wells at the end of their service can be heard in this segment of KUNC’s Colorado Edition, talking with Andrew Forkes-Gudmunson of LOGIC. Examples of continued emissions from an abandoned O&G facility can be seen in Earthworks videos utilizing Optical Gas Imaging enabled by FLIR technology, as seen in the screen captures above and in this blog post.
The LarimerAlliance asks your continued financial support to help compensate an attorney representing us in the final stages of the COGCC financial assurance rulemaking. As party to State level rule making, we have worked in the past with attorneys from the Conservation Groups coalition, which includes organizations such as LOGIC and Earthjustice. We will again collaborate with them at the upcoming hearings for this round of rulemaking, currently scheduled for January and February of 2022, as detailed in this post from the Larimer Alliance blog. Having knowledgeable, skilled, dedicated, and persuasive legal help is imperative to our success.
We’ve set a goal for this drive of $4,000.00, and we have already raised $2,745.00
Our goal is for the COGCC to enact rules so that all new and existing wells, and all wells upon transfer, will be required to carry full cost bonding. Your continued contributions will help us add a legal expert to aid in advocating on our behalf of this extremely important goal.
The Larimer Alliance will continue to provide
updates on the progress of these hearings,
and on opportunities to provide public comment.
For all you do, our continued thanks!
Or if you prefer please send checks made out to
the Larimer Alliance to401 E. Prospect Rd, Fort Collins, CO 80525