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
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
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
• 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
• Require operations to cease emitting ozone precursors on high
pollution days, with accurate monitoring and meaningful enforcement.
• Penalize operators for inaccurate emissions projections and
• 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.
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.