The following letter was submitted to Fort Collins City Council regarding the pending draft regulations for oil and gas development within the context of the evolving Land Development Code. It has been signed by the Larimer Alliance, Sierra Club Poudre Canyon Group, 350 Colorado, and the Fort Collins Sustainability Group. If you hover your cursor over the bottom of the first page, you will see arrow prompts to access the rest of the pages.Joint-Env-Org-OG-Reg-Ltr-to-FC-City-Council-FINAL12-17-2022
The following summary was prepared by Rick Casey with input from others who attended the Fort Collins City Council meeting on December 20, when the first reading of revised draft oil and gas regulations took place. I will let Rick’s excellent account speak for itself:
This is a quick summary of the city council meeting I attended, where the first reading of the proposed O&G regulations was discussed. Kevin Cross asked if I could write this up, so I did.
Two other members of the Larimer Alliance (LA) attended (Ed Behan and John McDonagh), as well as Kevin Cross (KC), who presented on behalf of the FCSG. Another woman, Barbara Goldman, also spoke to the regulations on her own behalf. She urged the Council to simply ban all O&G activity within city limits.
After waiting for the agenda item to come up at around 7pm, the three Larimer Alliance members all spoke against it, mostly on the basis of the approval process being too compressed for meaningful public participation. On behalf of the FCSG, KC said much the same, and also mentioned the lack of financial assurance in them, in order to guarantee the O&G operator will be able to properly plug and abandon the well at its end of life. Lamentably, public commenters were limited to two minutes each, hardly enough time to make a meaningful comment.
Once public comment was done, two city staff members who have worked on the issue briefed the Council. They showed a map that illustrated how much land will be “drillable” under the new regs (which is quite limited), and reviewed, in fair detail but quickly, the work that staff had done on this issue up to this point. Council members then commented on the proceedings.
The Council approved the first reading, but delayed the second reading until April 4, 2023. I assume this means that revisions to the regulations can still be made, but I don’t know how much public input will be possible.
In hindsight, the LA felt satisfied that their detailed critique of the first draft of the regulations had been well considered by city staff, which resulted in the second draft, published prior the meeting.
The video recording can be seen here:
The LA Steering Committee will be considering its options in the meantime.
(Footnote: the comments made by representatives of the Larimer Alliance, Fort Collins Sustainability Group, and other community members appear around 1:56:35 in the recording)
On December 2, 2022, the Los Angeles city council voted unanimously to ban all future oil and gas (O&G) drilling inside the city, and to retire all active O&G wells within 20 years. This is huge!
The details can be read in the following AP article:
Compared to what residents in the Front Range have been going through, the afflicted communities in LA like Wilmington, Jefferson Park and University Park have been enduring in closer proximity and in far greater numbers, for decades. So this dramatic reversal by the city council must come as a much welcomed result; and surely there must be more of a story behind it?
Indeed there is, and it’s called community activism! See this website for STAND-LA, the main activist group that seems responsible for getting the city council to make their decision. This was no overnight success story; they have been fighting city hall, and the O&G industry, for the last decade.
If you go to their website, there is a brief but informative video that shows the shocking proximity of active wells: literally right next door to residences, schools and churches. It is no wonder they have made so many people to suffer from chronic health conditions for much of their lives:
There is a similar struggle to get the county to do the same. Let’s hope they can do so soon!
The city also published an Oil Ordinance Fact Sheet which can be read here.
Or view here:LA-Oil-Ordinance-Fact-Sheet
Here in Larimer County, the Larimer Alliance has been working hard to get our county commissioners and city council to recognize the risks of O&G operations, and to use the legal power which they now possess, to take matters into their own hands, and pass meaningful regulations on O&G industry in their jurisdictions — or, better yet, do what LA has done: ban it outright and retire existing wells as soon as reasonably possible.
The following was developed by the Larimer Alliance Steering Committee in response to the draft O&G regs being considered by Fort Collins City Council.
The proposed regs on the city website can be found at:
The Larimer Alliance has reviewed these in detail, which is provided in a separate document. What follows is a synopsis meant to assist the public in understanding why we believe the regulations are deficient in their current form, and why the public needs to weigh in with their comments about this as well:
Point #1: Vast Expansion of Allowable O&G Operations and Facilities within City Limits:
The draft O&G regs specifically allows a wide range O&G operations and facilities in industrial zones. This includes seismic exploration, drilling, fracking, production, processing facilities, drilling waste management, and pipeline construction.
Point #2: O&G Pipelines Allowed in All Zoning Districts:
The draft O&G regs specifically allow the construction and operation of O&G pipelines in any zoning district of the City – including single, multi, and high density residential neighborhoods.
The regs provide only minimal neighborhood notice of planned pipeline projects and virtually no ability for residents to effectively contest the decision.
Point #3: Pipeline Setbaks Inadequate to Protect Public Health & Safety:
The draft O&G regs allow pipelines to be constructed with setbacks as little as 50 feet from homes and other occupied dwellings. There is no requirement that the pipelines be buried. Additionally:
- The setbacks are measured from the pipeline to the occupied dwelling’s wall — not to the homeowner’s property line.
- These setbacks for pipelines are much less than the current recommended standard of 2,000 feet. This is not acceptable, as pipelines can leak or rupture; and the impacts of toxic and combustible gas or oil leakage can have just as much adverse impact as an O&G operation, which has a standard setback of 2,000 feet.
- The 2017 Firestone tragedy, where natural gas leaking from a severed Anadarko Petroleum pipeline led to the explosion of a nearby family residence killing two family members, vividly illustrates the risks inherent in inadequate pipeline setbacks.
- Pipelines, either buried or above ground, should have the same setback.
Point #4: Rush to Adoption Limits Public Awareness and Participation:
The timetable for public input and discussion has been minimized to the point of near elimination. Few members of the public are even aware of these critical regulations; and the City is attempting to rush through their adoption during the busy Holiday Season when residents’ attention is focused elsewhere:
- This rush to adopt seriously flawed regulations is unnecessary and inconsistent with open, participative government. In a matter of this importance, the City should attempt to work in conjunction with its residents, not against them.
- Rushing adoption and limiting public participation also go against the spirit of SB 19–181, which emphasized local control over the Oil & Gas development and expressly prioritized the protection of public health, public safety and the environment.
Point #5: The Regs Place Industry Interests Above Public Health, Public Safety, Community Livability and the Environment:
The detailed wording of the draft O&G regulations reflects a consistent pro-industry perspective on multiple fronts. Examples include: limited opportunities for public notice and input in specific facility and pipeline siting and operational decision; the express allowance of pipelines in all zoned districts; the broad range of O&G operations and facilities to be allowed within industrial zones (many of which adjoin residential subdivisions and popular community gathering sites; and express provisions for altering zoning limitations to allow a wide range of these same O&G operations in other (non-industrial) zoned areas.
- Because the draft regs are so favorable to the O&G industry, the City’s adoption of them without significant modification would be tantamount to allowing the industry to write its own playbook for expanding O&G development within Fort Collins.
- This goes entirely against the spirit of SB 19-181 – which sought to put an end to allowing the O&G industry to regulate itself, and sought to ensure that protection of public health, public safety, and the environment was accorded primary consideration in O&G development decisions.
All this goes directly against the spirit of SB-181, the new state law that changed the mission of the COGCC from fostering the industry to protecting the health and safety of people and the environment, AND empowering local governments to pass their own rules on how the O&G industry should be governed within their jurisdiction. As written, these proposed regulations diminish the ability of city government to regulate O&G operations, when they should be strengthening that ability.
Very recently, in response to the strenuous objections raised by Larimer Alliance members and others, City staff have indicated that they will recommend changes to some, but not nearly all, of the regs’ most problematic provisions. HOWEVER, we have yet to see any of these supposed changes in writing. Moreover City Staff anticipates that any actual revised language won’t be made available until AFTER the City Council’s “First Reading” scheduled for Dec. 20, 2022. While we appreciate City Staff’s verbal commitment to address a small number of our concerns, no legitimate reason exists for rushing the regulation adoption forward through Council without giving the public a chance to review the actual regulatory language.
Our Specific Recommendations:
The Larimer Alliance believes that the entire draft regulation package evidences such a significant pro-industry slant and that the City’s adoption process, accomplished mainly behind closed doors thus far, has failed to seek and incorporate adequate public input. Thus, our recommended course-of-action would be for the City to withdraw the current draft regulations and to initiate an open, inclusive pubic process that provides more than token consideration of public health, public safety, community livability, and the environment. If this overall “re-think” is not achievable, the City should, at a minimum, make the following changes:
- Prohibit pipeline construction in all residential zones.
- Revise the pipeline approval process to provide for full public notice, hearing, and Zoning Commission evaluation and approval – as opposed to the minimal Basic Development Review process provided in the draft regs.
- Limit the wide range of O&G operations the regs would allow in Industrial Zones – in particular, eliminate seismic operations, Exploration & Production waste management operations, and O&G storage tank facilities.
- Require continuous air emission monitoring for VOC and methane emissions at the facility fenceline; and leak detection for tanks and pipelines.
- Require disclosure of fracking/drilliing water supply sources and volumes; and disclosure of plans for drilling fluid and “produced water” treatment and disposal.
- Require O&G operators to provide up-front financial assurance guarantees, such as bonding or reserved trust financial set-asides, to ensure that both operations and decommissioning activities are performed in a manner that protects public health, safety, welfare, and the environment.
- Strengthen the regs’ project approval provisions to require the City to examine and address the cumulative impacts associated with any proposed O&G operation as part of the approval process.
- Allow additional time for more public comment, discussion and oversight of the passage of any new O&G regulations.