Category Archives: BOCC Testimonies

COMMENTS TO BOCC ON O&G EMISSIONS NORTHEAST OF FORT COLLINS

On Tuesday, September 28, Doug Henderson delivered these remarks in the Administrative Matters meeting of the Larimer Board of County Commissioners. Tim Gosar, Gayla Martinez, Cory Caroll, and Jonathan Singer (LOGIC’s new executive director) also made comments to the Board:

Good morning Commissioners,

In a Tues morning BoCC meeting in June, we addressed the problem of
harmful, often illegal, emissions from oil & gas facilities – emissions
that damage people’s health, degrade air quality, and gravely harm our
planet’s climate.

We presented evidence about such emissions from a Prospect Energy
facility northeast of Fort Collins, including imaging of the emissions
taken by Earthworks in January and March 2021. A local resident also
told of his experience, health impacts, and harm suffered for years from
toxic emissions from this facility.

After the January investigation by Earthworks, a complaint was submitted
to the state, and Prospect subsequently said it had stopped the leaks
and emissions.

The next investigation in March showed that the facility was still
leaking, and another complaint was submitted to the state.

Prospect then actually made some repairs, and the leaks and emissions
stopped. At least temporarily.

But before long, local residents again were suffering from emissions
from this facility. So in early September, Earthworks investigated
again. Here is video from that investigation – which shows the facility
was leaking again
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAWHJ8CzY5E

The illegal emissions documented in January, March, and September this
year are not the first. CDPHE cited Prospect last November for
regulatory non-compliance and illegal emissions at this facility – for
violations documented in November 2018, June 2019, and October 2019.

(A copy of the letter from CDPHE to Prospect Energy is attached.)

Only 2 months after CDPHE’s warning letter to Prospect, Earthworks
documented the January 2021 violation. Then came more documented
violations – in March and again earlier this month.

A few weeks ago, Earthworks also documented illegal emissions from
another Prospect facility in the Hearthfire neighborhood
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gC1anPkau_E

Unfortunately these emissions happen at O&G sites all the time. This is
oil & gas business as usual, how the industry has operated for decades.

Colorado law is clear: protection of public health holds priority in oil
& gas development. Larimer County’s oil & gas regulations uphold this law.

It is time to protect public health and the environment from these
harmful and illegal emissions.

It is also time to hold Prospect Energy fully accountable for its record
as a repeat violator.

Thank you for your attention to this.

Doug Henderson

Doug, along with our colleagues in Earthworks, has also been maintaining communication with Cassie Archuleta, Air Quality Program Manager for the City of Fort Collins, bringing attention to these sites Northeast of Fort Collins. Particular attention has been paid to one located near the Hearthfire neighborhood.

Comments by Doug Henderson presented on behalf of Larimer Alliance July 26, 2021

Comments made by Doug Henderson to the special hearing of the Larimer Board of County Commissioners on July 26, 2021:

Good evening Commissioners,

Colorado state law is clear:  protection of health, safety, welfare and environment has priority in matters of oil and gas development. It is no longer a matter of balancing between competing objectives – between enabling oil & gas development versus protecting people, communities, and the environment.

We have engaged substantially in this policy-making process since its inception. We have identified concerns and put forward recommendations for regulations that will provide reasonable protection related to oil & gas development, in accord with Colorado law. We have provided reasons and evidence to support our concerns and recommendations.

However, many of our recommendations have been rejected by County staff, without explanation or evidence to support these decisions.

So again at this hearing, in coalition with LOGIC and others, we are urging that the draft County regulations be revised in a number of critical areas. Our specific recommendations have been detailed by other speakers and in our written submissions.

In last weeks’ Planning Commission hearing, we heard clearly the rationale that underlies many important provisions and standards in the proposed draft regulations. The proposed provisions and standards are based on staff’s view of an acceptable balance between competing aims: protecting public health, safety, and the environment versus enabling oil and gas development. Presentations and explanations were framed repeatedly in terms of balancing – or as legal counsel said, weighing – between competing objectives and interests.

Notably absent from presentations and discussion was concern for ensuring reasonable protection of health, safety, and environment, even though such protection holds clear primacy under Colorado law.

For example, all rationale given for the proposed setbacks and reverse setbacks was based on balancing enabling oil and gas development versus protection. Staff presented maps showing special effects of setback distances, ensuing discussion revolved around these maps, especially concern that larger setbacks would preclude O&GFs in more areas. Absent was consideration or evidence regarding what setback distances are needed to achieve reasonable protection.

County staff justified the proposed regulation to allow surface use of public conservation lands for oil and gas development for reason that doing so could avoid oil and gas development on adjacent high-value agriculture land – the rationale being that protecting ag land would justify oil & gas development on conservation lands. Absent was consideration that protecting public conservation lands is the priority, and without compromise by necessity to enable oil and gas development.

We could cite other examples that illustrate a pre-SB181 ‘balancing’rationale for the proposed regulations, a rationale that is now at odds with Colorado law.

When the Planning Commissioners asked questions of staff, almost all the questions revolved around concern for enabling oil and gas development in the County, and there was essentially no attention to ensuring reasonable protection of health, safety, and the environment.

Frankly, it was astonishing to listen to questions, answers, and discussion that were unconcerned about whether the proposed regulations will provide reasonable protection, and without reference to the priority mandated by Colorado law for protection of health, safety, welfare and environment.

The final conclusion by the Planning Commission Chair was also noteworthy. In his view, an acceptable balance had been achieved because proponents of oil and gas development and advocates for health, safety, and environment all expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed regulations.

From this perspective, the rationale provided by staff – and the Planning Commission approval – of the proposed regulations is based on pre-181 rationale for policy, and fails a most basic test and requirement: that set by Colorado law.

We urge you to consider the recommendations we and others have put forward, and ensure that the County’s regulations will provide reasonable protection against known and foreseeable dangers, nuisance impacts, and harm that often result from O&G development.

Respectfully,

Doug Henderson
Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety, & the Environment

Main Points of Consideration for Revised Larimer County O&G Regulations

 (Note: please scroll down to see additional pages:

Also: we have seen that a loading error occurring with the PDF embedded below on some browsers, which is a bug we are working on. Try using the Chrome browser if you get this error.)

Important points of emphasis regarding Larimer County’s Oil and Gas regulations:

  • Leak detection and repair inspections and reports should be required monthly, to catch and fix problems reasonably quickly. Annual inspections, as required in the draft regulations, are of very limited use.
  • Air quality – Larimer County’s air quality is often poor, due in major part to oil and gas industry emissions, and improving air quality is an immediate priority for public health and quality of life:
    • All oil and gas sites should have continuous emissions monitoring and real-time reporting that informs about harmful emissions when they occur, not long after they occurred.
    • On Air Quality Alert days, operators should be required to significantly reduce emissions and dust, and to report on actions taken. This should not be voluntary based on operators’ convenience.
    • All venting and routine flaring should be prohibited. Venting and flaring is damaging to health, environment and climate, wasteful, and enables operators to escape paying taxes and royalties.
    • While our air remains in non-attainment of EPA ozone standards, there should be no net increase in oil and gas emissions; emissions from new oil and gas development need to be offset by reduced emissions at other oil and gas facilities within the non-attainment zone.
  • Setbacks and reverse setbacks need to truly protect people’s health and safety. Setbacks of 1,000 feet and less in the draft regulations would not protect public health safety, and against nuisance impacts from oil and gas operations. Reasonably protective setbacks and reverse setbacks include:
    • 2,500 feet from all occupied buildings, recreation areas and conservation areas, with variance allowable to 2,000 feet minimum.
    • 2,500 feet for schools, playgrounds, and facilities for older people, with no exceptions.
    • 1,000 feet from any properly plugged and abandoned oil & gas well.
  • To protect our water resources:
    • 1,000 feet buffer from rivers and streams, water facilities, and ditches.
    • 2,500 feet buffer for drinking water sources.
    • No oil & gas facilities within a 100-year floodplain.
    • No more Class II water disposal wells in the County.
  • Public Conservation Lands should be for conservation – and fully protected from surface use and inevitable degradation by oil and gas development. The draft regulations would allow surface access and use of County and municipal-owned conserved lands for oil and gas development.
  • Prior to initiation of oil and gas facility site development, all top soil will be removed to a safe location to be reapplied to the site during reclamation.
  • Financial Assurance is needed to protect governments and taxpayers from costs arising from oil and gas developments such as major accidents, emergency response, operator bankruptcy, and failure to clean up from oil and gas operations and properly plug old wells. Uncovered costs and liabilities will financially impact all County residents/taxpayers and local governments.
    • Operators must carry adequate insurance to cover all costs arising from their activities, operations, and facilities
    • Full cost bonding for all wells.
    • All conditions of approval survive a change of ownership.

A comprehensive detailing of our critiques and suggested changes to the draft regulations can be found in this letter to the County Commissioners and Planning Department staff: Larimer Alliance comments on public hearing draft Oil and Gas Regulations Revised