Category Archives: Larimer County Commissioners

Larimer Alliance Air Quality Analysis and Critique of May 12 Discussion Draft

Submitted on June 4 to Larimer County Commissioners and Staff:

June 4, 2021

Dear Commissioners,

The Larimer Alliance appreciates the improvements in the proposed revisions to the County’s Oil & Gas regulations.

We would like to offer these suggestions to enhance section 11.3.3 (Air Quality).

  • Adding the section: Assessments. Studies, and Plans by Outside Experts. Independent experts, engineers or consultants referenced in this section will be retained by the Applicant and be subject to approval by Larimer County.
    • Air Quality
      • Existing emissions – An inventory of methane, VOC’s, NOx, CO₂, and particulate emissions must be conducted by an independent expert chosen and approved by the County and paid for by the applicant for all oil and gas facilities and operations in Larimer County owned or operated by the Applicant for the calendar year prior to registration or renewal. Operators must submit all Air Pollution Emission Notices for hazardous air pollutants submitted to the Air Pollution Control Division to the independent expert for review.
      • Air Quality Modeling – A modeling study must be conducted by an independent expert that considers all relevant environmental and atmospheric conditions, and:
        • Assesses the existing air quality at the proposed site;
        • Predicts the anticipated emissions (including hazardous air pollutants, methane, VOCs, NOx CO₂, and particulate emissions) from the proposed oil and gas facilities and operations, assuming use of and identifying all emissions control equipment and processes intended for use at the oil and gas facilities; and
        • Models the impacts on air quality from the proposed oil and gas facilities and operations over their lifetime, until final reclamation obligations are completed to the County’s satisfaction, including the compounding effects of climate change on ozone and particulate pollution in the county and taking into account and identifying all relevant factors including natural conditions and other air quality impacts from any existing or foreseeable source.
    • Adding these additional items:
    • Compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Oil and gas facilities and operations will not compromise the attainment of ozone standards of the Denver Metro/North Front Range ozone nonattainment area as established by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Oil and gas facilities and operations will not contribute particulate matter to the air in a manner that fails to protect public health.
    •  To protect air quality and public health, emissions control measures may be required, including, but not limited to, one or more of the following:
      • Compliance with the current, most protective air quality regulations and health-based standards, which may include regulations and standards set by the EPA, CDPHE, COGCC, Centers for Disease Control, or other relevant authorities.
    • Operators will maintain a daily log documenting reduced emission completions, available for inspection upon request.
    • Operator participation in the Natural Gas STAR Program or other voluntary programs to promote innovation in pollution control.
    • Tier 4 fracturing pumps and either electric or Tier 4 diesel engines.  These requirements will result in significant reductions of emissions and noise.
    • J. Air quality requirements for both new and existing facilities – Add the following language to the County’s 5/12/21 draft:
      • Within thirty days following the conclusion of each Air Quality Action Advisory Day, operators shall submit a report to the County that details which measures it implemented during that Air Quality Action Advisory Day.

We would urge that any documents (emissions inventories, modeling studies, reports, and daily logs of reduced emissions) produced for or by the operator, along with the documentation required and produced by the Operators to alleviate the increased air quality dangers associated with Air Quality Action Advisory Days be considered public so they can be posted on the County’s website or disseminated to the public upon request.

Thank you for improving the Air Quality section.   We appreciate the magnitude of work that has been put in thus far.

Sincerely,

Tim Gosar & Gayla Martinez

for the Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety & the Environment.

www.larimeralliance.org

LARIMER ALLIANCE CRITIQUE OF APRIL 5 DRAFT O&G REGULATIONS

 

April 29, 2021

Dear Commissioners,

The Larimer Alliance appreciates the review and revision of the County’s oil and gas regulations currently underway. We also appreciate your action to expand and extend the policy-making process, to provide greater scope for public participation than initially planned.

The Larimer Alliance wishes to provide comments on the proposed revisions to the County’s oil and gas regulations in the Discussion Draft released April 5, 2021.

General comment

In general, we are disappointed by the proposed revisions in the Discussion Draft. The proposed revisions (including proposed specific standards) would provide only weak and minimal protections for public health, safety, and the environment from dangers and harms of oil and gas development. The proposed revisions are well below the recommendations and standards advocated consistently by the Larimer Alliance, LOGIC, and other public advocates over the past two years.

The previous policy-making process for establishing the County’s oil and gas regulations in 2019-2020 was deeply flawed, biased heavily to cater to oil and gas developers, and resulted in weak regulations that set a very low bar for protecting the County’s residents, economy, and environment.

The proposed revisions in the Discussion Draft seem aimed to maintain the low bar, with minimal protection for residents and neighborhoods, public health, safety, and the environment. We find this puzzling and wonder whether the staff responsible for drafting the proposed revisions have recognized the fundamental reform expressed in SB19-181, which clearly prioritizes protection of public health, safety, and the environment, as well as voters’ expressed desire in the last election for significant re-orientation in County policies.

Going forward in revising the County’s regulations, the aim should be to set high standards and provide strong protections for public health, safety, and the environment in Larimer County, which is possible under reforms enacted in SB19-181, and in line with County residents’ preferences as expressed in last November’s election.

Specific comments

  • Article 11 has been revised in some sections, but Article 11.1.1. The intent has not yet been modified, yet this initial statement conditions all subsequent subsections. Substantive issues with the existing Intent language have been raised to County’s attention many times, including comments from the Larimer Alliance, LOGIC, and several other stakeholders. The inclusion of potentially conflicting objectives in the Intent statement without subsequent clarification poses a legal risk for the County. The County should acknowledge these issues and revise Article 11.1.1. Intent

Article 11.1.3. The purpose has not been revised. The problem is the same as for Article 11.1.1. discussed in comment 1 above.

  • 2. Review Procedures and Required Permits should be revised to include a simple, clear statement that the County has authority to deny applications that do not protect the public health, safety, welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources. To avoid potential legal risk for the County, the regulations should expressly state that applicants have no guarantee of permit approval.
  • Article 2.9.4 Setbacks address what is generally referred to as reverse To improve clarity, it would be helpful to title Article 2.9.4 as Reverse Setbacks.

The reverse setback distances in Article 2.9.4 are grossly inadequate to provide reasonable protection of public health, safety, and environment. The proposed reverse setbacks appear to be arbitrary (50’, 200’, etc.), inconsistent with proposed setback distances in Article 11.3. for the same proximities, and weaker than Weld County’s “low bar” regulations.

Setback distances and reverse setback distances should be based on science and evidence related to protection of public health, safety, and environment. The County needs to provide relevant evidence to support the proposed reverse setback distances. Setback distances and reverse setback distances should not be arbitrary.

The need to protect public health and safety from O&G sites and facilities is the same regardless of whether O&G development or occupied buildings come first. Distances for reverse setbacks and setbacks should be consistent to ensure public health and safety from O&G sites and facilities.

  • Article 11.3.2. Location Restrictions allows O&G well sites and production facilities throughout the County, in many zones that do not usually allow for major industrial facilities and operations. This is illogical and inconsistent with the purpose of zoning.

Nearly all contemporary O&G development involves large-scale industrial activities, facilities, and equipment. Current O&G sites typically have dozens of wells, each extending thousands of feet, with development and production involving large volumes of supplies, products, emissions, and wastes, including flammable and toxic materials, all requiring storage and transportation. Modern O&G operations bear no similarity to the small pump-jacks of the last century and should be treated as major industrial facilities and operations.

The County should apply zoning principles to O&G development, especially to large-scale and multi-well sites, by requiring such development be limited to  IH – Heavy Industrial. Allowing extensive industrial-type O&G facilities and operations in zones Natural Resources, Forestry, Agriculture, Agricultural Commercial Enterprise, Open; Airport, Planned Development and Rural Planned Development makes a mockery of the County’s zoning “system.”

  • Setbacks in Article 11.3.2. Location Restrictions are inadequate to provide reasonable protection of public health, safety, and environment. Setback distances must be based on science and evidence related to protecting public health, safety, and environment.

A substantial body of scientific evidence supports 2500’ setback for all occupied buildings to protect public health and safety; the Larimer Alliance, LOGIC, and several other stakeholders have provided evidence to the County for this and can do so again. Setbacks for protecting public health, safety, and environment should be firm and, without exception, to ensure adequate protection over time.

Setbacks for public playgrounds, parks, and other public use areas should be consistent with setbacks for occupied buildings, as the need to protect users’ health and safety is the same.

Some setbacks in Article 11.3.2 do not appear to comply with state rules, such as setbacks to certain water resources for which state rules require a half-mile setback.

Article 11.3.2.C.5. allows locating O&GFs within a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) designated 100-year floodplain if no other location is feasible. Locating O&GFs within a 100-year floodplain poses serious public health and environmental risk, especially at a time of flood emergency when action(s) to prevent harm from O&GFs to public health, safety, and environment are least likely to be feasible or successful. To protect public health, safety, and environment, O&GFs should NOT be allowed within a 100-year floodplain, with no exceptions.

The Larimer Alliance encourages Larimer County to set high standards to protect all its residents, businesses, finances, and the environment from the dangers and harms of oil and gas development. Larimer County should join with other local governments in Colorado to set a high bar for protecting public health, safety, and the environment.

Respectfully,

Doug Henderson

Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety, and Environment

 

Comment by Susan Quinnell to County Commissioners before 5/18/21 Planning Dept. Meeting

Dear County Commissioners,

As a resident of Larimer County, I applaud revised Section 11.1 dealing with Intent, Purpose, and Applicability, which make the protection of public health, safety, and welfare, and the environment and wildlife the first priority. To continue this theme in today’s subject of financial assurance, please support the following:

Under Section 11.3.26 A.2 regarding Fees, the County should charge a minimum $5,000 application fee plus Operator and Inspection fees.
The County should require annual proof of surety bond status and solvency of the Insurer.
Operators should cover a surety bond tied to the actual cost of reclamation.  The $90,000 per oil and gas well surety bond in the current draft is a good step, but the average cost of site reclamation is disputed, and the Commission should consider doubling the bond amount to $180,000 as reclamation costs will only rise, and this specific amount is currently used in North Dakota.

Regulations are only as good as the penalties and enforcements included. I implore the Commission to include robust penalties and enforcements as specifically detailed below, taken from Boulder County’s recently revised regulations: https://assets.bouldercounty.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Resolution-2020-95.pdf  pages 39-40.

2-1500 Fines and Penalties

A. Fines for Violations. An Operator who violates any condition of approval imposed for the oil and gas facility or
operation or any provision of Section 12-400, 12-500, 12-600, or 12-700 will be subject to a civil penalty assessed by the Director.

B. Process.

  1. Identification of Violation. If the Director has reasonable cause to believe that a violation has occurred, the
    Director will issue a Notice of Violation to the Operator. Each violation of an individual condition or Code
    provision will be considered a separate infraction. Each day that a violation remains will be considered a
    separate infraction.

a. Contents of Notice of Violation:

i. Provisions of this Article or conditions imposed on a permit that are violated;
ii. Short and plain statement of the facts alleged to constitute each violation;
12-37
iii. A statement that the Operator will be subject to fines as specified in this section; and
iv. A demand that the violation be remedied

2.  Response. The Operator will have the time specified by the Director in the notice to respond to the Notice of Violation, unless an extension is requested in writing and granted by the Director. The Response mustaddress each violation, including the cause of the violation and any corrective actions taken, and identify
any other relevant facts.

3.  Assessment of Fine

a. Based on the Operator’s response, if any is provided, and any other competent evidence, the Director
will determine if a violation has occurred and, if so, the appropriate penalty to assess. Any fine
imposed after consideration of the response will be measured with respect to the first date of
discovery of the violation or the date the violation first occurred and continues until the violation has
been remedied to the satisfaction of the Director.
b. If the Operator disputes the Director’s determination that a violation occurred or the amount of any
fine assessed, an appeal as specified in Section 12-1500(D) must be made within 14 days of the
determination. Any requirement to remedy the violation will not be stayed during the appeal period.

C. Penalty Calculation. The Director has discretion to assess a civil penalty between $300 and $15,000 per
violation per day, depending on the nature and severity of the violation, statutory authority, and application
of the additional factors listed in subsection (b) below.

1. To evaluate the severity of the violation, the Director will consider the following:

a. Degree of threatened or actual impact to public health, safety, welfare, the environment or wildlife;
b. Existence, size, and proximity of potentially impacted livestock, wildlife, fish, soil, crops, water, and all
other environmental resources;
c. Degree of threatened or actual damage to agricultural lands, public lands, private property,
freshwater sources, public drinking water, natural resources, environmental features, or wildlife;
d. The size of the leak, release, or spill;
e. The violation resulted in a significant waste of oil and gas resources;
f. Toxicity of leak or spill;
g. Violation led to death or serious injury; and
h. Duration of the violation.

2. In addition to considering the severity of the violation, the Director will consider the following:

a. Whether the same or similar violations have occurred at the location;
b. Whether other violations have occurred at the location in the previous 12 months;
c. The Operator’s history of violations of any applicable rules, of similar or different types, at the
location or others;
d. The timeliness and adequacy of the Operator’s corrective actions;
e. The degree the violation was outside of the violator’s reasonable control and responsibility;
f. Whether the violator acted with gross negligence, or knowing and willful misconduct;
g. Whether the violator self-reported; and
h. Whether violator was cooperative with all agencies involved in working to mitigate the impacts of the violation.

With best regards,

Susan Quinnell

Comments made to County Commissioners 5/11/21

Copy of written version of my comments to Larimer County Commissioners on May 11, 2021:

Dear Commissioners and Staff:

I opened my spoken remarks with a bit of humor about a needle stuck in a vinyl record’s groove. But like the famous broken record I will once more address the issue of air quality, and how it is affected by oil and gas development in Northern Colorado. The industry, particularly where it is based in Weld County, would have us believe they run a tight act, and really the air quality around Greeley is just fine. . . 

And that is possibly so, although I wouldn’t accept at face value that it is because all the operators are doing everything they can to control emissions from their drilling pads, well sites, and storage facilities. The sad truth is that our general weather conditions may see our storm systems move from West to East, but our daytime prevailing winds blow upslope from East to West. The worst effects will frequently stack our bad air quality right against the foothills. 

I want to strongly urge the need for comprehensive, real time continuous regional air quality monitoring. The canister sensors proposed in the revised County oil and gas regulations may help home in on incidents and problems at particular sites. But to understand the chronic issue, the most effective and detailed monitoring available is of the type utilized by Detlev Helmig’s Boulder Air. This outfit can pick out the specific chemical signatures to differentiate what pollution comes from vehicles and other industrial sources, and what comes off a faulty drilling rig or processing unit. 

I have sent email versions of this message to you and County staff including links to a webinar coming up on May 19 entitled What Is In Our Air? Dr. Helmig will speak about his research and continued monitoring done for Boulder County, the City of Longmont, City and County of Broomfield, and other entities. Andrew Klooster of Earthworks will also present his fieldwork using optical gas imaging to track the emissions from oil and gas facilities. They can highlight the value of this sort of monitoring. It is expensive, but it is the sort of thing Larimer County could do in collaboration with its cities, state agencies, and research institutions. I understand Matt Sura, your consulting attorney on oil and gas rules revision, will be touring one of Boulder Air’s facilities, which I think is a positive sign. This is all critical information to have. . . and to act upon. Thank you. 

What Is In Our Air?

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeHr9sYv-7OdKafxP41kW0GJVSFf2GL7Iq7LlPnrg-8i_EFdA/viewform?gxids=7628 

This event will be put on by the Longmont Climate Community

[email protected]  

https://bouldair.com/