A Summary of the Fort Collins City Council deliberations over draft Oil & Gas Regulations

The following summary was prepared by Rick Casey with input from others who attended the Fort Collins City Council meeting on December 20, when the first reading of revised draft oil and gas regulations took place. I will let Rick’s excellent account speak for itself:

This is a quick summary of the city council meeting I attended,  where the first reading of the proposed O&G regulations was discussed. Kevin Cross asked if I could write this up, so I did.

Two other members of the Larimer Alliance (LA) attended (Ed Behan and John McDonagh), as well as Kevin Cross (KC), who presented on behalf of the FCSG. Another woman, Barbara Goldman, also spoke to the regulations on her own behalf. She urged the Council to simply ban all O&G activity within city limits.

After waiting for the agenda item to come up at around 7pm, the three Larimer Alliance members all spoke against it, mostly on the basis of the approval process being too compressed for meaningful public participation. On behalf of the FCSG, KC said much the same, and also mentioned the lack of financial assurance in them, in order to guarantee the O&G operator will be able to properly plug and abandon the well at its end of life. Lamentably, public commenters were limited to two minutes each, hardly enough time to make a meaningful comment. 

Once public comment was done, two city staff members who have worked on the issue briefed the Council. They showed a map that illustrated how much land will be “drillable” under the new regs (which is quite limited), and reviewed, in fair detail but quickly, the work that staff had done on this issue up to this point. Council members then commented on the proceedings. 

The Council approved the first reading, but delayed the second reading until April 4, 2023. I assume this means that revisions to the regulations can still be made, but I don’t know how much public input will be possible.

In hindsight, the LA felt satisfied that their detailed critique of the first draft of the regulations had been well considered by city staff, which resulted in the second draft, published prior the meeting. 

The video recording can be seen here: 

Fort Collins City Council Meeting 12/20/22

The LA Steering Committee will be considering its options in the meantime. 

— Rick

(Footnote: the comments made by representatives of the Larimer Alliance, Fort Collins Sustainability Group, and other community members appear around 1:56:35 in the recording)

THIS STATE ACTS LIKE IT COULD CARE LESS ABOUT OUR AIR POLLUTION

I know that being in charge of fixing our air pollution problem here in the must be a difficult job. And I know that the oil and gas industry has long been a strong political force in Colorado. I get that.

But when I learned that the Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) has had a backlog of air permits dating to back over a decade ago, I was incredulous. Applications that have not been processed since they were made over ten years ago? How is that even possible? And does this mean that the original polluters have simply been allowed to continue polluting without a permit?

However incredulous this may seem, it was nonetheless reported on in this recent story in the Colorado Sun on December 16, 2022:

Colorado falls further behind on air pollution permits while losing court cases brought by environmental groups

This lapse by a critical regulatory agency to perform its crucial role in protecting our air quality has not gone unnoticed — and has been a serious enough lapse to get them sued. And to then lose the lawsuit, since the Adams county judge agreed with the plaintiff, the Wildearth Guardians. As the director, Jeremy Nichols, noted, the APCD seems to “just let polluters run the roost and systematically it doesn’t seem like things are changing.” This does not inspire confidence that the agency’s staff is acting in the public’s interest — and that it has not been doing so for quite a while.

But the APCD is not the only culprit. In fact, the entire O&G regulatory framework under the Polis administration has a “light touch”, shall we say, when it comes to making industry comply with environmental law. This has been described in gruesome detail in this article by longtime activist and knowledgeable commentator Phil Doe, published in CounterPunch on December 9, 2022:

A History of Malignancy: Governor Polis and the Oil Industry in Colorado

As the article makes clear, the other major regulatory body, the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), more or less opens the door to industry “bottom feeders” to invade our neighborhoods and poison us. And this will continue until we, the people, start speaking up, making our voices heard, and demanding real regulatory enforcement.

BROOMFIELD STAFF WANTS TO REDUCE MONITORING — WHY?

It has come to my attention that the city staff for Broomfield City and County Council is going to be proposing a dramatic cutback in their real-time air quality monitoring station, the Soaring Eagle station. This would be a big mistake, in my opinion, and deserves more public input. This is going to be discussed at the 6pm meeting on Tuesday, December 13, 2022.

I attended a tour this state-of-the art monitoring station on September 23, 2021, given by Detlev Helmig, and wrote this blog post about it: THE BOULDERAIR TOUR ROCKED! The tour was organized by Broomfield Councilperson Laurie Anderson, and was attended other members of the Larimer Alliance, LOGIC, and other local activists and volunteers. It was an in-depth explanation of the sophisticated technology employed, and how it provides vastly better data than other comparable monitoring stations because 1) it is continuous, real-time data, recorded and published literally within minutes of measurement, and 2) it can simultaneously monitor a panel of targeted chemicals at levels far more sensitive than other comparable monitoring technology.

Other canister-based monitors are not real-time, and rely on periodic manual collection — like your neighborhood garbage trucks — to come by and pick up the canisters…which then get shipped to a lab…which then get sampled and processed…and eventually the results are sent back. This means the measurements can be DAYS OLD before they are analyzed; besides which, a canister grabs one, brief, isolated sniff of air out of the constantly blowing and shifting wind. How reliable is such an approach to air quality monitoring? Answer: Not much!

What the Front Range really needs is to have the state offices of CDPHE and its subdepartment, the AQCD, (see their website here) to create an entire array of such monitoring stations for the Front Range, from Fort Collins down to Pueblo, so that we can really know what is in our air. For without precise measurements, we are just flying blind — and policy makers cannot know what air quality policies should be developed and enforced, and where.

What percentage of our ozone precursors are due to vehicles and what percentage are due to O&G operations? Our current knowledge of this is scant; try and find it on the CDPHE/AQCD website….good luck with that! The closest I think you will find are these “air quality index reports”, which are useless for answering these burning questions needed for an accurate policy response.

I urge you to express your opinions about this to the Broomfield City and County Council prior to their meeting on 12/13/22.

To send your comments to the Council, use this email address: council@broomfieldcitycouncil.org

To watch the Broomfield Council meeting, see here.

LA bans O&G!

On December 2, 2022, the Los Angeles city council voted unanimously to ban all future oil and gas (O&G) drilling inside the city, and to retire all active O&G wells within 20 years. This is huge!

The details can be read in the following AP article:

Los Angeles City Council votes to ban oil and gas drilling

Compared to what residents in the Front Range have been going through, the afflicted communities in LA like Wilmington, Jefferson Park and University Park have been enduring in closer proximity and in far greater numbers, for decades. So this dramatic reversal by the city council must come as a much welcomed result; and surely there must be more of a story behind it?

Indeed there is, and it’s called community activism! See this website for STAND-LA, the main activist group that seems responsible for getting the city council to make their decision. This was no overnight success story; they have been fighting city hall, and the O&G industry, for the last decade.

If you go to their website, there is a brief but informative video that shows the shocking proximity of active wells: literally right next door to residences, schools and churches. It is no wonder they have made so many people to suffer from chronic health conditions for much of their lives:

There is a similar struggle to get the county to do the same. Let’s hope they can do so soon!

The city also published an Oil Ordinance Fact Sheet which can be read here.

Or view here:

LA-Oil-Ordinance-Fact-Sheet

Here in Larimer County, the Larimer Alliance has been working hard to get our county commissioners and city council to recognize the risks of O&G operations, and to use the legal power which they now possess, to take matters into their own hands, and pass meaningful regulations on O&G industry in their jurisdictions — or, better yet, do what LA has done: ban it outright and retire existing wells as soon as reasonably possible.

Larimer Alliance Blog