Financial Assurance Hearings at the COGCC – A CRUCIAL STEP

The Financial Assurances rulings coming up in January and February of 2022 represent a crucial crossroads in statewide efforts to require responsible behavior from oil and gas operators. It’s not really too complex. What we are asking of the industry is the same basic life lesson that we all learned as children: if you make a mess, you clean it up! Unfortunately, the draft proposal, provided by COGCC staff to the commissioners, takes this simple idea and twists into a byzantine labyrinth that will provide O&G operators multiple options for gaming the system, leaving clean-up to the tax-payer.

Therefore, we are asking the COGCC to approve regulations that would require full cost bonding on all new wells, all transferred wells, and on all existing wells over a reasonable timeline. Wells on BLM land should be included in all of the above. And bonding should cover both plugging and reclamation costs.

UP-COMING OPPORTUNITIES

January 20-21
1. Financial Assurance Rulemaking, Docket No. 210600097
1. Staff Presentation
2. Public Comment

January 25-28
1. Party Presentations Financial Assurance Rulemaking, Docket No. 210600097
2. Consent Agenda will be heard on 1/26

February 2-3
1. Party Final Presentations Financial Assurance Rulemaking, Docket No. 210600097
2. Consent Agenda will be heard on 2/2

February 7
1. Commissioner Deliberations Financial Assurance Rulemaking, Docket No. 210600097

February 9
1. Commissioner Comments
2. Public Comment
3. Consent Agenda

February 16 – Evening Hearing, starts at 6pm
1. Commissioner Comments
2. Public Comment

February 23
1. Commissioner Comments
2. Public Comment
(From the COGCC website under Tentative Commission Hearing Agendas. https://cogcc.state.co.us/hearings.html#/overview)

PREPARE YOUR COMMENT

Sign-up forms for the February meetings are not yet active, but there is plenty of time to begin preparing a statement. Remember, the outcome of this ruling will have significant consequences for Colorado into the foreseeable future. Our current system encourages operators to leave low producing wells sitting in the fields where they continue to emit methane and other toxins into the air. According to a Nov. 26 article in the Colorado Sun, “out of the approximately 52,000 wells on the books at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, 36,930 produce less than the equivalent of 15 barrels of oil a day. Of those, 17,285 produce less than 1 barrel.” These low producing wells amount to 71% of the wells in Colorado. All wells will eventually have to be plugged abandoned. If the operators don’t pay for it, then those costs will be left to the state.

Below is an excerpt from the comment I made in the Nov. 9, 2021 meeting of the COGCC:


I would like to begin by reading a quote from a previous COGCC meeting in which the following statement was made by a commissioner:


“We should not be held hostage to operators who can’t afford to do business in the state. If they can’t discharge their responsibilities to maintain their wells, they shouldn’t be approved to operate here. There should be some element of financial responsibility that’s required.”


I couldn’t agree more.
That meeting took place on March 19, 2018. Three and a half years ago. Three and a half years have gone by, and although SB-181 has given us a new legal framework which was not available to commissioners at that time, we’re still being “held hostage to operators who can’t afford to do business in the state.” Meanwhile, the COGCC continues to approve applications for more wells…and more and more operators — who have no financial incentive to do otherwise — and allow wells that should be properly plugged to spew emissions into the atmosphere. We’re talking about tens of thousands of low-producing wells–with little to no profitability…little to no contribution to energy demand — adding nitrous oxides, methane and other pollutants to the atmosphere…day after day after day.


Three and a half years have passed and we are still being held hostage.
All this within the context of a global climate emergency, in which Colorado plays a significant role. A climate emergency in which we have very little time to make the bold changes that are needed.

I ask that you require full cost bonding—full cost bonding on all new wells, all transferred wells, and on all existing wells over a reasonable timeline—if you will do that, then three and a half years from now we’ll be in a much better place.

AIR QUALITY MONITORING ACTION IS NEEDED…NOW!

The following is an email I sent on 12/14/2021 in response to an EPA Grant Competition offered to local communities to improve their air quality monitoring capabilities; I found out about it on the listserv for CCLC ( Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate). Ms Archuleta is Cassie Archuleta, the head of the Air Quality Department in Fort Collins:

Dear Larimer County Commissioners and Ms. Archuleta: 


I would like to bring to your attention, if you were not already aware,  of this EPA Notification of a grant competition for $20 million for Community Air Pollution Monitoring; please find attached. The public meeting for it will be on January 11, 2022. It is targeted at “communities with health outcome disparities.” 


I think if the data on respiratory illnesses in Larimer County were summarized, I believe it would have communities that qualify. The bad ozone conditions here in the summer must certainly be having its effect. Just publishing that data would be useful in and of itself.


If the state air quality regulators were serious about discovering the sources of what’s causing all this ozone — instead of just installing ozone monitors to tell us how bad it is, and what days to stay indoors — they would have installed an array of BoulderAIR monitors from Wellington to Pueblo by now. Instead, the cities and counties have had to take on this job in piecemeal fashion, as you well know. It is no way to manage a regional air pollution issue.


If Larimer County were to coordinate with the five other BoulderAIR monitoring stations from Boulder to Erie, we would be able to find the real causes of our air pollution. And then, and only then, will we be able to start to managing this pollution problem with data driven results. 
I hope some staff can be directed to evaluate this opportunity; and hopefully take advantage of it. 


Best regards,
Rick Casey 

PS — This is the positive response from Commissioners Kefalas and Stephens in reply:

northeRn larimer county gets noticed…FINALLY

The residents who live in the vicinity of the oil and gas wells in northern Larimer County — such as the Hearthfire neighborhood and County Road 13 — know all too well all about leaking tanks, foul odors and unsafe air pollution; and finally this attracted some media attention. The Larimer Alliance is thankful for this story in the Coloradodoan that was published December 6, 2021:

Oil company hasn’t replaced leaking tanks near Fort Collins despite months of complaints

It was certainly a great effort by the reporter Jacy Marmaduke, the people she interviewed, and especially the videographic work by Earthworks’ Andrew Klooster.

As Ms Marmaduke accurately described, existing oil and gas wells and transmission facilities have fallen through the cracks of industry regulations. Even though SB-181, the 2019 law that dramatically reformed how oil and gas is regulated, and empowered local city and county authorities, in theory, to write their own regulations about oil and gas operations, these have only applied to new wells — leaving existing operations to continue to be regulated by the state. This has come as quite the disappointment of local residents who were hoping for some help and relief from the continuing air pollution.

As we’ve come to find out, when existing tanks start leaking, the state regulators have been slow to react; as the hapless residents having to endure the foul air have found out. It has taken months of effort by local residents complaining to the authorities responsible, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, to get them to inspect the sites.

Unfortunately, it will likely take many more months of efforts by citizens calling out for redress to fix the problem. Please show your support by either commenting here, sending your thanks to the Coloradoan for the above story, or contacting your city and county offices to express your concerns.

larimer county climate smart initiative

We have received the following message from Heidi Pruess, who is the Program Manager for Larimer County’s Climate Smart Initiative. They have established a task force to formulate processes and programs, and are organizing a series of workshops to get community input on just what sort of climate projects the County should take on. A questionaire is included in the message. Note: from the introductory page of that questionaire, advance using the Back/Next/Arrow to advance the pages:

Please help us Spread the Word!

Larimer County has launched the Climate Smart Initiative and we want your feedback!

This initiative is in the information gathering and community feedback phase.  This means that we want your feedback as well as feedback from your friends and family.  

This questionnaire aims to introduce the initiative to the community, to understand where we all stand on climate, and to recruit participants for workshops in February 2022. Community feedback will inform the development of the County’s first Climate Smart Plan.  

Take a look at our new website here and please take this short, 10-minute questionnaire. Please help us in spreading the word about this important initiative; forward any email and social media notices to your networks. 

Contact me should you have any questions or you can sign-up for an in-person meeting or an on-line workshop on our website,

Heidi Pruess, CEP

Climate Smart and Sustainability Program Manager

200 W. Oak, Suite 2000

Fort Collins, CO 80521

W: (970-498-7138)

[email protected]

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