Category Archives: Local government (city & county)

When will you feel safe from oil & gas in Larimer County?

The founding statement and mission of the Larimer Alliance (see here) as an organization has been to protect our environment and its citizens from the impacts that the oil and gas industry. However, this does not provide us with specific goals or metrics; but that has always been our ongoing focus of activities, ever since we started as an organization in summer 2018.

But this is a question I’ve really thought about, both personally and as a volunteer, as to how can I be more effective personally, and how the Larimer Alliance can be most effective as a platform. Through our presence on social media, testimonies at public meetings, and lobbying of our elected representatives, we have been hard at work on this over the time since then.

And our work has paid off! We were well positioned to take advantage of the election of the two new county commissioners, Kristin Stephens and Jody Shadduck-McNally, and now the commissioners have extended the moratorium on any new drilling permits for oil and gas wells in our county.

However, there are still 41 pending wells waiting to be approved which could be drilled here; see this screenshot from the COGCC website taken today:

Pending wells, Larimer Cty, April 30, 2021

Even with all of our actions, and with the apparent support of our commissioners, who also do not seem in favor any further drilling here, these oil and gas operators — Magpie Operating, Kerr-McGee and Prospect Energy — are still willing to drill.

Not only are these 41 wells a threat, there is an active, on-going campaign by a Dallas-based investment fund, King Operating Company, which has been aggressively promoting this even during the months of the Covid pandemic:

Larimer County Investment Fund, King Operating Company (click for link)

King Operating openly declares they would like to drill some 200 wells in the Wellington area, which would change that part of northern Larimer County forever. The drop in the price of and demand for oil during the pandemic has not deterred King Operating from pushing forward, nor has the passage of SB-181 in Colorado, nor has the passage of new oil and gas regulations.

So, I ask you, what do you think would make me feel safe from the outside,  and outsized, threat of large, even multi-national, oil and gas companies seeking to drill up Larimer County, like they have Weld County? What would make you feel safe?

The only thing that will make me feel safe is seeing that our fossil fuel based economy is moving towards alternative energy in a convincing way. When I see that most of our coal-based electric power plants have been removed, or slated for removal, because the majority of the grid is running on alternative energy. When I start seeing at least half of the vehicles on the streets are electric, and there are enough charging stations that no one has to worry about being unable to recharge their car on a trip. When I read in the news that the stock prices of companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Texaco have plummeted to the level of junk stocks, because no one wants to invest in companies that have no future. And when companies that manufacture electric cars, wind turbines and solar panels are attracting the real investor dollars, because their markets are booming, and they have a solid business future.

That is when I will start to feel safe. But how is that going to happen? By changing the economics on which the oil and gas industry is based. And while that might sound like Mission Impossible to some:

click for link to the funky old TV series from the 60’s…

I can assure it is not that difficult, because this plan has been researched, studied to death, and lobbied for in the US Congress for over a decade. The plan is called a carbon tax; and the best carbon tax proposal that I have seen is the one from the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL; see their website at citizensclimatelobby.org).

I would remind the reader that I have taught environmental economics at Front Range Community College since 2009, and have had carefully reviewed the various proposals for how fossil fuels are regulated, and the various proposals for supporting the transition to alternative energy.

The first thing to understand about the CCL bill (whose full name is The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, H.R. 2307; see full details here: energyinnovationact.org) is that it is not just a tax on carbon, and also a dividend program.

In other words, all the money collected by the tax will be refunded to the American people (less the cost of administering the program). It is designed to be revenue neutral, and not increase the size of any other government programs. So, although this is called a tax, it is more properly referred to as a fee, since this will not raise any additional revenue for the government, which is the purpose of a tax.

The fee is based on the carbon content of the fuel in question, and is charged at the point where it enters the economy. In practical terms, this means the first wholesaler that sells a fossil fuel, before it has been processed or consumed. (See full analysis here: energyinnovationact.org/section-by-section-analysis). The carbon content would be established by the fuel classification, based on the CO2-equivalent of the fuel when burned or processed (this would be established in government labs, and applied uniformly). The tentative fee has been proposed at $15 per metric ton (which is quite low), but would ratchet up every year until GHG reduction levels have been met.

The CCL has been lobbying Congress for over 14 years about this, and have constantly refined how the program would work, based on their own research by hiring firms like Regional Economic Models, Inc (REMI) to study the effect of a revenue-neutral carbon price on the American economy. (see that report here) How the impact of rising carbon prices combined with the dividend has also been closely studied by the CCL consultants (see their Carbon Pricing Studies).

I would not expect most of our blog’s readers to want to delve deep into the weeds about this plan. What I would expect our readers to  like to know is when I would feel safe — because that might assure them when they could feel safe — which is the primary reason for my writing this post.

And, last but not least, I strongly suspect that a carbon tax would spell the death knell for any more outside oil and gas companies wanting to drill in Larimer County — something that no amount of local regulation could ever do.

So please let me assure you: if the US Congress can pass  the CCL version of a carbon tax/consumer dividend plan, that I would start to feel safe. And when the full impacts of a carbon tax start to work themselves out in the American economy, by hastening the disinvestment in fossil fuels, and hastening the investment in alternative energy and all its associated infrastructure — that’s when I will start to actually feel safe. Of course, that will take a few years…so, with that realization, you might appreciate what a long haul we are all in for in this transition from a fossil fuel based economy, to one that is based on energy — primarily electric — from alternative energy.

Finally, I would add that these are my personal opinions, and not those to the Larimer Alliance itself (though I would encourage their adoption of this position that I advocate).

 

 

 

CRITICAL ALERT FOR COMING WEEK: CALL FOR COMMISSIONERS TO EXTEND O&G MORATORIUMS

CRITICAL ALERT!

     

April 13: Demand extension of O&G moratoriums!

The Larimer Alliance is calling for public comment when The Larimer County Commissioners hold a public hearing at 3:30 PM, Tuesday, April 13. They will consider extending the current one month moratoriums on processing 1041 and oil and gas permits. The temporary moratoriums presently in force will expire on April 15. The hearing will take place in the hearing room of the County Courthouse and Administrative Building at 200 W. Oak St. in Fort Collins. Registration and general information on the meeting and agenda can be found on this page, and the direct link to register for this event can be found here

The Commissioners and Planning Department have laudably extended the process for revision and public comment. The processing of applications related to oil and gas development should remain on hold until that process has been completed, and Larimer County has comprehensive and effective regulations in place.

If you are unable to attend this session, remember you can still register your opinion with the Commissioners at their administrative matters meeting, held regularly every Tuesday morning at 9:00 AM also at the County Courthouse. Your comment can be delivered virtually on line, by calling in, or by email as detailed here.

Why is all this important? Find out by attending

Cleaning Up Our Air: Oil and Gas Impacts on Larimer County

A webinar by Larimer Alliance, LOGIC, and Earthworks, April 12

Join an informative online forum on April 12 at 7:00 PM for an honest discussion on air quality and oil and gas development in Larimer County and the northern Front Range.

Register here to attend!

Cleaning Up our Air will feature respected panelists:

Mike Foote: A former state representative and senator who helped draft Senate Bill 19-181, Mike is an attorney who will highlight how changes in Colorado law now enable local governments to protect their communities.

Elise Jones: Executive Director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, former Boulder County Commissioner, and current member of the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, Elise will bring knowledge and experience as a policy maker and an organizer heading a group promoting more efficient and sustainable public energy systems.

Laurie Anderson: a Broomfield City Council member, resident, engineer, and mother, Laurie will speak about Broomfield’s efforts to protect residents and neighborhoods from harmful emissions by oil & gas development.

Andrew Klooster: A Colorado staffer with Earthworks, Andrew will show and explain images of emissions at oil and gas operations using Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) technology, discussing its implications for addressing damage to air quality in Larimer County and the northern Front Range.

Andrew Forkes-Gudmundson: Deputy Director of LOGIC, Andrew will moderate the forum.

The Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety, & the Environment is a coalition of citizens and groups advocating for effective regulation of oil and gas development to protect our people, communities, environment, and wildlife.

For further information or any questions, please contact [email protected]

Please consider a donation to help cover the costs of presenting this webinar and the Larimer Alliance’s ongoing work to protect ….

  www.larimeralliance.org

SOME TALKING POINTS RELATED TO O&G LOCATION, SITING, AND SETBACKS

 

Some of our members and allied experts have come up with some potential talking points for addressing concerns about O&G location, siting, and setbacks. Your own experiences if you live near such facilities are also critical points of reference in advocating for strong regulation in Larimer County.  

On the use of zoning for control of siting: Can be a useful tool, and provide set expectations for both a property owner and a potential O&G site developer.

A landowner can apply for a change of zoning, and zoning designations tend to be easier to change than set land use regulations. As such, zoning is not as resilient a tool for those concerned about encroachment of O&G in their neighborhood.

Some proposed O&G sites in our region are clearly heavy industrial complexes. Some local jurisdictions have opted to limiting their location to areas zoned as industrial.

 

On Alternative Location Analysis: Considered in some discussions as one of the most “important and dangerous” tools in a local government’s kit. The idea is for an O&G developer to propose alternative sites with an evaluation of the relative benefits or hazards of any location analyzed for local consideration. This presents the possibility that one of a range of sites may be described as the “safest” and should be approved. But a local government is empowered by SB-181 to deny approval of any application if it does not meet its criteria for safe operation and the protection of public health and the environment.

Some jurisdictions may require a minimum number of alternate siting options, some have no limits. The important thing that should come into play is that whatever site is to be approved, it must meet the local authority’s regulatory standards, and those can be more stringent than State rules. Which ever standards are most protective should apply, whether the State’s or the County’s.

 

On Setbacks and Reciprocal Setbacks: Although current COGCC regulations call for a 2,000 foot setback from all occupied buildings, other analyses of the effects of O&G development suggest a distance of 2,500 feet is more appropriate. The critical impact of emissions and the nuisance factors of noise, light, and dust are mitigated to some extent by such distancing from active well projects. There are also clear arguments for maintaining that distance from parks and open space, critical drainages, and wildlife habitat.

Reciprocal setbacks, also known informally as reverse setbacks, have to do with the location of new residential or other development near existing oil and gas facilities. Each project goes through different stages during its service life, with varying degrees of risk at each level of development and extraction. During its active phase, the most prudent course would be to maintain the same 2,500 foot setback of construction from the working wellpad.

Concerns about the integrity of any such facility do not cease when the well is finished producing and is shut down. Once a well plugged and abandoned, continued monitoring for potential leaks of methane and other compounds is necessary. Some experts indicate that any new construction in the vicinity should be kept at a minimum of 1,000 feet from the site, and more ranging out to 2,500 feet would be even better. Accidents associated with abandoned wells, while rare, can have catastrophic consequences, and close monitoring to assure against this may require attention for an indefinite period of time.

Special thanks to our friends and allies at LOGIC for their review and recommendations!

Larimer Alliance calls on Larimer County to extend timeline for revision of local Oil & Gas regulations

The following letter was submitted to the Larimer Board of County Commissioners and the Larimer County Planning Department, with copies to the Planning Commission and County Manager.

February 8, 2021

Dear Commissioners and Staff,

We applaud the Larimer County staff and Commissioners Kefalas, Shadduck-McNally and Stevens, and the Larimer County Planning Commissioners for quickly embarking on the process of reviewing and revising the Larimer County oil and gas regulations (and land use code) which were passed in April 2020, but mandated for review after the State completed (Mission Change) rulemaking required by SB19-181.

At the 1-25-21 BOCC Work Session, Mr. Lafferty proposed a process and a timeline of completing revision of County regulations by April 26, 2021 with no plan released for public participation. Mr. Lafferty also indicated that he would release relevant information for the regulation revision on March 10, only six weeks before the April completion deadline. Although Mr. Lafferty recently released a questionnaire and other pertinent information via email to previous contacts involved in the County’s regulation development process, the public deserves a longer time frame for public participation. Review and revision of the County regulations and land use code are likely to be extensive. We ask for a timeline that is sufficient to enable an exchange of information and dialogue. Many areas of the County regulations now fall far below revised State regulations. Indeed, in comparison, the County regulations are weak, unprotective, and do not reflect the goals of the constituents nor the clear intent of SB19-181 to prioritize public health, safety, welfare, the environment and wildlife.  In addition, State law allows local governments to be more protective than State regulations which calls for additional consideration of protective regulatory decisions. 

The County staff, under the previous BOCC, informed the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) that the County would not give input on pending oil and gas facility applications within Larimer County.  Unless the County has communicated a different message to COGCC, this remains the County’s stance on applications being considered by COGCC. Currently COGCC has six applications for well pads, one injection well application, and applications for recompletions.  We want our County to be involved in these applications and all future applications for oil and gas facilities and for recompletions.  We ask that the County communicate to COGCC clarifying this new stance. This request could simply consist of informing the COGCC that the County wishes to take advantage of new COGCC rules, which also give Counties the right to local government consultation for any applications within boundaries and applications within 2000 feet outside their boundaries, (as proximate local governments).

We urge the BOCC to put a moratorium on pending applications at the County level while the County’s regulations are being revised. We ask for a 6-month moratorium.  It would be time and energy intensive for the County staff to be revising the oil and gas regulations while simultaneously working with operators and the COGCC on applications for amending existing locations, recompletions or new locations. We ask that both types of processes be done separately allowing staff to give its full attention first to regulations revision and later to oil and gas facility applications. 

We also urge BOCC to inform the COGCC that Larimer County wants a hold on all pending and future applications for the same length of time as the moratorium. The BOCC can request that the COGCC hold consideration of Form 2 and 2A. and injection well permits pertaining to Larimer County during this timeframe to better preserve Larimer County’s ability to engage in the process and protect its residents and environment.

In sum, we are asking for:

  1. A sufficient timeline for public process:  A public process that allows adequate time for thorough review and revision of Larimer County Oil & Gas regulations.
  1. The County to provide input to the State on all current and future applications: Please tell the COGCC the County is changing its earlier stance and now wants to review and provide input for every pending and new Larimer County oil and gas facility application, including recompletions, effective immediately.
  2. Implementation of a moratorium: We urge the County to put a moratorium on all Oil and Gas applications at the County level for 6-months while the County is revising its regulations.
  3. Request the COGCC to hold pending applications: We urge the BOCC to request COGCC to hold new or pending applications at the State level for the same duration as the County moratorium.

Thank you for your consideration of these requests.

Ed Behan on behalf of Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety & the Environment