Category Archives: Fort Collins City elections

All about the city elections, both mayoral & council

Written comments by Rick Casey to the BOCC on the final public input on Larimer County’s O&G regulations

[Author’s Note: I submitted the following comments to the Board of County Commissioners on July 28, 2021 because I did not get the opportunity to speak in the Zoom meeting on Monday night, July 26, 2021. Since the topic of this final meeting was about the financial ability of operators to conduct their business, that was my focus.]

Good evening commissioners, county staff, and the public in attendance:

Thank you for allowing public testimony at tonight’s historic meeting. I and my colleagues in the Larimer Alliance deeply appreciate this opportunity to make our voices heard.

Climate change is barreling down on us, and anybody who is in denial of this reality is either in denial of global scientific evidence or is seriously in need of a mental health checkup. I am sure the county government is on the side of science, factual evidence and the law.

Since this evening’s meeting is primarily about fiscal responsibility of how oil and gas operators conduct their business, I will frame my comments around the long term outlook for how well local operators will be able to continue to operate. I am only a common layperson who reads the news, but having been an economics instructor at Front Range Community College since 2009, I have read deeply into these economic issues.

I would ask the commissioners to be especially wary any operators seeking to drill new wells in the county. The primary economic indicator to which these operators will frantically point is the international price of oil; typically the NY Mercantile Exchange price, which today was $72/bbl. But that price is as unstable as a wind vane: it will change with the winds of change in international economics. Last September, that price was at $36/bbl. The current price is based on recent announcements by OPEC+, which could change tomorrow.

Fundamentally, the long term price of oil is stacked against drilling of any new wells because the forecast for the long term need of oil and gas is, shall we say….unfavorable.

The evidence for this is that the GHG from cars and trucks surpassed the GHG from coal-fired power plants back in 2016 — and has been rising ever since. Coal is at an industrial dead end of life. Though unthinkable a mere decade ago, that industrial dead end is now a reality. The other looming industrial dead end is the drop in future demand of fossil fuels for transportation. The future for this demand is in turmoil.

The use of EV’s, or electric vehicles, is ramping up, and every major car manufacturer in the world, including GM, has announced a target date by when they will cease production of fossil fuel powered vehicles, with dates varying from 2030 to 2050, most by 2035. The state of Colorado is already investing significant state resources in the encouragement of EV’s. We can certainly expect the adoption of EVs to grow dramatically in the next decade.

The date for the end of fossil fuel powered vehicles is just a mere decade and a half away. Although this is a high level macroeconomic projection, it is an undeniable global economic force that the commissioners should consider, for it will undoubtedly have dramatic implications for current investment decisions in the county.

Other macroeconomic factors that could affect investment decisions are national energy policy, such as a possible future carbon tax, which would dramatically impact any local operators’s financial projections.

I have not even begun to address the long term health impacts, which is a whole other argument against allowing any further investment in oil and gas drilling in the county.

Also, all the arguments by private property owners about “takings” are invalid, which SB-181 specifically addressed. These people need to read the law, which was arrived at after years of strenuous democratic activity — and also realize that the national and global imperatives about global climate change far outweighs any of their claims about damage to their private property and income.

Based on this evidence, I think the county should be steering its investments away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy-based industries.

Thank you.

Comments on Land Use and Locational Topics

These are comments I submitted to the Larimer County Planning Department for the public meeting held April 8, 2021, “Oil and Gas Regulations Public Meeting to discuss Land Use and Locational Topics”

Dear Larimer County Planning Department,

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on this planning process. I am a Fort Collins resident since 2018, and a Colorado resident since 1981.
In accordance with the new priorities of SB-181, I would hope that the Alternative Location Analysis can be used to instruct operators who intend to drill an O&G well that they intend to frack, that they supply in the application a plan that shows drill sites that can be located as far away as technically possible from any inhabited structures or open space parks, preferably over a mile.
My understanding of fracking technology is that horizontal drilling can extend for miles; so locating drill sites as far away as possible from peoples’ homes, schools, hospitals, or any inhabited structure would seem in keeping with the spirit of SB-181.
As this compendium on the health risks of fracking details, this document:
In this authoritative document is much evidence that suggests that anyone living within a mile of a drillsite has an elevated risk of negative health effects. As such, the past setbacks of 500 feet or even 1000 feet have no scientific justification.
This is the main point I wish to make: if one of the advantages of horizontal drilling is that it can be extended for miles, at likely only a marginal increase of cost to the operator, there this suggests there are potentially enormous benefits to gain by locating these harmful operations as far away from people as possible.
Weighing such benefits against the costs is not an analysis I have ever seen, but this approach would be extremely useful, I would think, for the tasks that the Planning Department is tasked with.

Response from Council Candidate Susan Gutowsky

District One Candidate Susan Gutowsky provided this response to our questionnaire:

Thank you for your leadership in Fort Collins and your commitment and dedication to seek the office of Mayor and City Council.  We look forward to your responses.

  1. Have you received, will you accept, or will you refuse to accept campaign contributions from donors and companies from the O&G industry or with strong financial interests in O&G development? If your campaign has already accepted O&G donations will it give them back? Please explain. 
  • No, I have not received nor would I accept a campaign contribution from donors and companies from the O&G industry.
  1. SB19-181 substantially revised Colorado’s law governing O&G development: establishing clear priority to protect public health, safety, environment, and wildlife resources. SB181 also provides for significant local government authority to regulate O&G development, allowing local governments to increase protection of public health, safety, environment and wildlife resources beyond state minimum standards.

Do you think that Fort Collins should adopt new regulations for O&G development? If yes, what scope of regulations will you advocate the City to adopt?  

  • The City of Fort Collins should adopt regulations including but not limited to 2500 foot setbacks on all schools, residences, medical facilities.
  • Halt new oil and gas applications
  • Disallow re-fracks
  • Require some form of bond or cash deposit from existing oil and gas operators to finance future clean up or other responsibilities necessary due to current or abandoned well operation or retirement that protects the environment, municipality, State, and citizens from harm.

A substantial body of peer-reviewed scientific research shows significant negative health impacts from close proximity to O&G operations.

Do you support a 2000’ or 2500’ setback from homes, schools & their playgrounds, high occupancy buildings, outdoor recreation areas (such as parks and trails), and water sources from new O&G operations? Please explain. 

  • Yes, I do support that. Given that our City voted for a 5-year moratorium on fracking pending the results of studies regarding the health impacts of fracking and we now have a body of peer-reviewed research showing that it is harmful. We should not be allowing new permit applications. Furthermore, at this point, given our water shortages and transition to renewable energy, I see no reason why we should allocate resources to Oil & Gas. We should focus on the future of energy in our City.

Fort Collins currently has a reverse setback of 500’ for new residential construction from existing O&G facilities, and allows exceptions for reduced reverse setbacks.

Do you support increasing the reverse setback without exception? Please explain.

  • Yes, the reverse setback should be the same as any other setback. For example, the setbacks are increased to 2500 ft. a reverse setback should be the same.  This is about public health and safety not profit or affordable housing.
  1. The American Lung Association gives Fort Collins’ air quality an “F” grade, and ranks it the 19th worst out of 229 American cities. NCAR’s FRAPPÉ study found conclusively that O&G emissions are the major driver of unhealthy air quality in the northern Front Range. Emissions from O&G operations also cause significant spikes in pollutants that impact 1) local areas in proximity to O&G sites and facilities, and 2) regional air quality harming entire Front Range communities. A growing number of local governments have undertaken air quality monitoring programs capable of measuring and reporting pollutants in real time, including signature pollutants emitted from O&G operations and facilities.

What do you think Fort Collins should do to address its air quality problem(s)?  

  • One of the things we need to do is focus very intensely on building out our multimodal transportation options to get people out of their cars. We can control that.
  • We need to work through intergovernmental programs to incentivise the use of solar energy. It should be as easy to transfer the monthly payment between owners as utility bills and should not count against their debt to income ratio.  If we can help with that as a municipality we should. Likewise, we should do the same thing for backup power technology like solar walls (batteries) to ensure homeowners can have power to heat their homes whether the sun is shining or not.

Would you support 24/7 monitoring and real-time reporting of air quality and emissions at all O&G sites and facilities in proximity to Fort Collins? Should this monitoring and reporting be paid for by the operator? Please explain.

  • Yes, I would support 24/7 real time monitoring of air quality and emissions at all O&G sites and facilities in proximity to Fort Collins. Operators should be responsible for their own overhead and it is their responsibility to protect public ehealth and safety if they wish to do business in our city.

Would you support 24/7 monitoring and real-time reporting of air quality and signature O&G pollutant emissions for addressing regional air quality problems affecting Fort Collins? Should this regional monitoring and reporting be paid for by the O&G industry? Please explain.

  • Yes for the same reason stated above.

Would you support collaboration by Fort Collins with other Front Range communities in taking legal action against polluters responsible for emissions that harm Fort Collins air quality, such as polluters in neighboring counties? Please explain.

  • I as a single council person would not be able to make that decision.  
  1. Fort Collins is one of four municipalities that own and govern the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA) which provides electricity to the four municipalities including Fort Collins. In 2019, PRPA committed to achieving 100% clean energy generation by 2030. PRPA recently adopted a plan that includes building and operating a new natural gas-powered turbine around the same time it retires its Rawhide Coal Plant, which will be in conflict with PRPA’s stated commitment to 100% clean energy.

Would you support holding PRPA to the goal of 100% clean energy by 2030? Please explain.

  • Yes, it is imperative that we do so.

Would you support requiring PRPA to establish and report with interim targets (such as for 2023, 2025, 2027) for achieving 100% clean energy? Please explain.

  • Yes, it’s important that we know how we are doing so that we can make adjustments along the way to ensure that we meet our goals. What we do not want to happen is to get down the road, realize we are not on target then not have enough time to course correct in order to meet the goal.
  1. An investment company is advancing a proposal to drill hundreds of wells in northern Larimer County which could negatively impact local residents, air quality, City-owned natural area and wildlife, and the environment in northern Larimer County.

Would you take a strong position for the City to actively oppose this type of O&G development? Please explain.

  • Absolutely. For all of the reasons stated above. 

https://www.susan-gutowsky.com/