Versions of these comments were delivered to the Board of County Commissioners and the Planning Department’s Virtual Open House on the Consolidated Draft Regulations for oil and gas development.
I am repeating information I have previously shared with you all by email, but I want these remarks to be part of the public record. I know as one of the spokespeople for the Larimer Alliance I have repeatedly raised concerns about air quality in the context of the pending revision of the County’s oil and gas regulations. I know that regional monitoring technology is not necessarily something that would be established by regulation in the land use code, although that remains a critical issue to be addressed if for no other reason than we are downwind from Weld County.
But the issue of monitoring on the individual well pads and other facilities is something that is being dealt with in the draft regulations. I know that canister monitoring systems have been designated as required in the revised air quality segment of the rules. One concern is those canister systems may monitor continually, but their intake is only checked periodically. . . a period of a week or once a month. The problem with that sort of system is that something that needs to be dealt with may be happening, but unless crew happens to be onsite, it may not be caught. This could include leaks that affect air quality or something possibly indicative of a potential catastrophic failure.
I was recently made aware of a Colorado based company named Project Canary. They provide technology and systems for continuous air quality monitoring with fenceline sensors that are connected to a network so alarms might be received and responded to 24/7. One would think this would be in the interest of the operator as well as the first responders who may have to come online in the event of any serious failure. This company apparently works with a range of energy developers, utilities, and regulatory entities.
I will place a link in the question section of tonight’s Zoom to the YouTube video of a presentation at an air quality symposium at the University of California Davis by a co-founder of Project Canary. If I am understanding her discussion correctly, the company has also worked in conjunction with CSU and the CDPHE. I will include a link to the company’s website as well.
I am not suggesting this is the only technology of this type available, but it is the first serious leap I have seen for site specific monitors beyond the periodically checked canister systems. I hope you all will make appropriate inquiries and consider this as a standard for required monitoring by oil and gas developers operating in Larimer County. Thank you for your continued dedicated work on the County’s oil and gas regulations, and for your attention in this matter.
Submitted on June 4 to Larimer County Commissioners and Staff:
June 4, 2021
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.
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.
Tim Gosar & Gayla Martinez
for the Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety & the Environment.
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.
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.
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.
Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety, and Environment
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.
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.
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.