The following was submitted to the opinion section of the Fort Collins Coloradoan following their article on April 30 which solicited citizen ideas for priorities for the City Council.
I read with interest the article in the Coloradoan on Sunday, April 30, looking at the various priorities the Fort Collins City Council are working on. I don’t fault the goals, nor the intention to try and arrive at the best solution across a range of difficult issues.
Of particular interest to me is the commitment of the City toward establishing a regulatory scheme for oil and gas operations. The City Council approved amendments to their land use code on April 4, focusing on setbacks and zoning to restrict the actual territory within city limits available for oil and gas development. This is a good first step, but by itself does not represent comprehensive regulation. While I am aware our fair city may be on the edge of the Denver-Julesburg Basin, and very few legacy sites are actually present within the City’s growth management area, it would be naive to say we are not still at risk to have further exploration occurring within the greater Fort Collins area. The oil and gas industry organizations presented their own argument prior to April 4 that opposed even the use of setback and zoning to constrain their operations, suggesting there may be more brewing beneath the surface than immediately meets the eye.
I am a member of the Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety, & the Environment, and we advocated for more detailed regulations. At present, we are communicating with City Council and Staff for the modifications to municipal code that may fill the gaps. Fort Collins is likely to be annexing territory to the East of current city limits, if not to the North as well, where the two legacy operations have caused considerable problems for residents. Given that there is substantial industry interest in territory around Wellington and Windsor, the notion that some oil and gas activity may eventually find its way into the future growth management area of Fort Collins is not at all beyond the realm of possibility.
As well, the City and County should also be looking at more comprehensive, real time and networked air quality monitoring systems beyond the canister type of site-based sensors that can tell of an issue after it has already happened. The reality is that while there may be minimal oil and gas activity destined to happen within Fort Collins and Larimer County, we are heavily impacted by the emissions from over 20,000 wells in Weld County that have left the Front Range with some of the worst air quality in the country. And the greatest source of precursors to surface level atmospheric ozone, which grievously affects the health of our citizens, are the emissions of oil and gas sites concentrated so heavily to our immediate East.
Fort Collins, Colorado