Category Archives: BOCC Testimonies

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/

 

 

TESTIMONY TO BOCC APRIL 20, 2021, ON GATHERING LINES

 

Good morning, commissioners, and welcome back to the Winter Wonderland that is Springtime on the Front Range. My name is Ed Behan, with the Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety, and the Environment, and I live in Fort Collins. 

First, I would like to acknowledge a change that has been made in the release dates for the next two segments of draft oil and gas regulations, and the subsequent public meetings for citizen input. The dates for draft release have been pushed back a few days, and more generous study periods before the Planning Department’s Virtual Public Meetings on those drafts have been scheduled. Knowing the complicated nature of establishing these timelines, let me state my own gratitude for expanding that framework to allow sufficient time for study and preparation of discussion points as part of the County’s rules revision process. It does help, and it builds a good deal more confidence in the transparency of the proceedings. 

Secondly, let me address a relevant topic for the upcoming draft regulations dealing with public health, welfare, and environmental standards. Section 17.3/T of the current county regulations touch lightly on the subject of gathering lines. I am aware we helped facilitate a presentation on this matter last Spring by Josh Joswick, a former La Plata County Commissioner. You may recall, John, specifically asking him to speak to the Board of County Commissioners last March. 

Gathering lines are sort of the orphaned children of our oil and gas distribution network. Flowlines take produced oil and gas from a regional storage point, feeding them to Transmission lines that ultimately get the product to refinery and market. Flowlines are regulated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and Transmission lines by a Federal agency. But gathering lines are very local, drawing the product from individual well sites to feed it into the production line network. They actually fall between the other two in size and pressure, and at present, there is no state or federal oversight of gathering lines. It behooves the County to look carefully at their location, maintenance, and potential for failure, both during production, and following any intended end of a well’s active operation. As a reminder, the tragedy that took two lives in Firestone just a few short years ago, involved a supposedly capped gathering line on a recently reactivated well. Even the industry would be quick to admit this should never have happened. 

It is critical to establish clear standards in the county for locating, monitoring, and properly shutting down such lines. This would also include protocols for collaboration with the industry to hopefully prevent such an accident in the future, and to have quick and effective responses if, God forbid, something should go wrong. We will be gathering more material on this to share with you and County staff, but I would refer you to the excellent presentation Mr. Joswick made to you last spring. Thank you.

Comment to BOCC, March 16, 2021

Statement to County Commissioners, March 16, 2021

 

Good morning, Commissioners. My name is Ed Behan, resident and retired in Fort Collins. I’m glad to see you all have managed to dig out from one of our famous “upslop” storms.  While we won’t exactly be out in shirtsleeves right away, at least we do know Spring will be here soon.

In returning to Colorado a few years ago, and finding the issue of oil and gas was bubbling up in the land I love so well, I was reminded of stories I had seen in Westword back in the nineties. Hydraulic fracturing, which had been toyed with in modern times dating back until at least the forties, was beginning to be utilized with more frequency and success in Colorado. The reports I was reading then, however, focused on ranchers and other residents on the Western Slope finding their groundwater being contaminated with the onset of “unconventional” drilling processes, as fracking was labelled at the time.

Fast forward a few decades. Fracking has taken hold in numerous oil fields around the country, extracting new oil and gas products out of previously depleted sources, from the Marcellus shale of Pennsylvania to the Permian Basin of Texas. . . and including the Wattenberg field of the Denver Basin, located largely to the East in Weld County.

I will provide you all with a reference page for your consideration, with links to articles highlighting some of the concerns about oil and gas development’s impact on water resources.

The issue, of course, is that the problems associated with potential contamination of both surface and ground water resources remain dire and salient. Both processing and disposal of waste water, and the infiltration of aquifers by petrochemicals and fracking fluids, are serious issues.  Beyond that, the massive amount of water required to be injected with proprietary chemicals to execute the hydraulic fracturing has to come from somewhere.  As evidenced by other water related issues perking in our region, we live in an arid climate, and it’s not getting wetter any time soon. Among other concerns, industry claims about the reprocessing of “produced water” from fracking sites are not necessarily to be taken at face value.

I also find it particularly interesting that the Delaware River Basin Commission recently made permanent what had been a moratorium on fracking in that entire Eastern watershed. You don’t suppose they know something we don’t, do you?

Thank you for your continued attention to these questions as you move forward with the revision of oil and gas regulations in Larimer County. You all have a good day.

(Provided a copy of this blog post page: https://www.larimerallianceblog.org/category/general-environmental-reference/ )

Testimony from Larimer Alliance, March 2, 2021

The following is testimony given by Ed Behan, Larimer Alliance member, to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), during their General Administrative public meeting, Tuesday, March 2, 2021:

Good morning, Commissioners. . . My name is Ed Behan and I live in Fort Collins. I’m speaking today to ask you to take care that Larimer County’s revised Oil & Gas regulations include adequate financial protections, ensuring that bankrupt Oil & Gas companies don’t leave county taxpayers on the hook for abandoned wells.

The oil and gas industry is chronically subject to boom and bust cycles, as I noted living for fifteen years in Texas and Louisiana. This predates the pandemic with the effect it had on the economy, but that certainly didn’t improve the situation. As reported by the New York Times last summer, numerous companies declared bankruptcy within a few months last spring, including Extraction Oil & Gas, which operates wells here in Larimer County. It’s worth noting that Extraction paid its executives a whopping $6.7 million dollars in “retention agreements” last summer, just three days before declaring bankruptcy. I don’t believe these companies have concern for the health, safety or the environment of Larimer County at heart.

Companies paying their executives millions before filing as bankrupt are at risk of abandoning their responsibility for the safety of their wells, or to clean up and restore the environment after shutting down. In fact, the New York Times cites an estimated cost of $300,000 to plug a typical well after it is abandoned or “orphaned.” I will note as well at least one oil “investment” firm in Texas has eyes on developing a major project here in Larimer County under a strategy they call “Acquire, Develop, Divest,” which does not sound like a long term commitment to responsible operation.

The handout I will give you has a link to their website’s specific page on their Larimer County proposal. I will also provide for you the lead page of that New York Times reporting, with a link to the whole article at the bottom. In revising Larimer County’s Oil & Gas regulations, I urge you to mandate that any new wells have a bond of at least $300,000 to ensure that Larimer County residents like you and me
don’t end up paying for the damage caused when Oil & Gas operators go bankrupt.

Thank you.

https://kingoperating.com/offerings/

Fracking Firms Fail, Rewarding Executives and Raising Climate Fears