Local Governments Defend Authority to Manage Oil & Gas Development
Governor John Hickenlooper
136 State Capitol
Denver, CO 80203-1792
September 19, 2012
Dear Governor Hickenlooper:
As representatives of local governments across the State of Colorado, we are surprised and disappointed by your administration’s decision to sue the City of Longmont for adopting rules to protect its residents from the risks and potential adverse impacts of oil and gas drilling within its geographic jurisdiction.
Local governments have both the right and responsibility to take action to protect the public heath and well being of our citizens as well as the environment. To that end, we regularly use our well-established land use authorities to manage and tailor various activities within our borders to ensure public health, safety and welfare, and to protect the environment. This approach has worked well for a range of land use activities, including all types of commercial and residential development, and many industries that also are subject to state regulations such as gravel extraction and mining. In our opinion, it is similarly appropriate for local governments to help manage impacts of oil and gas activities within our borders. Courts have upheld local regulatory authority over the impacts of oil and gas development for over 20 years.
We are also troubled that the State would choose to spend valuable tax dollars to bring litigation against one of its own communities. We believe there are much greater needs for these limited dollars during such fiscally constrained times.
We support responsible oil and gas development when pursued in appropriate locations and in a manner that limits environmental, public health, and socio-economic impacts. However, oil and gas drilling is of increasing concern to Coloradans in rural, urban, and suburban jurisdictions across the state. The cumulative risks from oil and gas drilling—including potential damage to air and water quality, scenic values, property values, public infrastructure, and public health—can significantly affect local quality of life and economic prosperity.
Further, we appreciate your recognition at the recent Colorado Oil & Gas Association annual meeting that additional state regulations are needed—e.g., for enhanced well-bore testing, pre-drilling water sampling, controlling fugitive methane emissions, and developing setbacks for wells in densely populated areas. However, such improvements are long overdue and it is uncertain when any new regulations will be promulgated. Meanwhile, our communities are already facing real impacts from increasing oil and gas activity. In addition, the State lacks the capacity to adequately monitor and enforce existing regulations, let alone much-needed improvements.
Regardless of the outcome of legislative or regulatory reform, local elected officials have a long history of successfully regulating oil and gas operations to minimize impacts in a manner that has complemented rather than conflicted with Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission efforts. The accessible public process afforded by local governments is essential to addressing our public’s concern about oil and gas; such a process simply is not available at the state level. The calls for increased local restrictions on oil and gas activities reflect that history of successful local regulation. And efforts by the State to shut out such local process only further fuel fears about the adequacy of state regulations, and the impacts of the oil and gas industry.
In addition, one-size-fits-all statewide rules alone often fail to adequately mitigate local concerns or address important site-specific or local conditions. We wholeheartedly support the State setting minimum standards and best management practices for the oil and gas industry, but also believe that local jurisdictions must be allowed to tailor or strengthen rules, as needed, to address local concerns and conditions.
You have previously stated your desire and intention to work with local governments to address our oil and gas concerns and we are aware that some counties already have established cooperative efforts with the COGCC through intergovernmental agreements. We would greatly welcome increasing such partnerships. We fully expect and want the State to be a collaborator with us in responding to local needs—not an impediment, and certainly not an adversary.
To that end, we respectfully ask that you withdraw your lawsuit against the City of Longmont, and instead work with us to craft and support regulatory solutions that address local concerns and ensure comprehensive management of potentially damaging and risky industrial activities within our jurisdictions.
Boulder County: Entire Commission
Clear Creek County
Grand County: Entire Commission
La Plata County
Park County: Entire Commission
Summit County: Entire Commission
City of Arvada
City of Aspen
Town of Avon
Town of Bennett: Board of Trustees
City of Boulder: Entire City Council
Town of Carbondale: Entire Board
Town of Crested Butte: Entire Town Council
City of Denver
Town of Erie
City of Golden
City of Lafayette
City of Louisville
City of Longmont
Town of Lyons: Entire Board of Trustees
Town of Nederland
City of Westminster: Entire City Council
23011 County Road 150
Agate, CO 80101
August 3, 2011
Governor John Hickenlooper
136 State Capitol
Denver, CO 80203
We appreciate the effort you are doing requiring oil and gas companies to disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. We would like you to consider implementing additional rules to protect the citizenry from other potential hazards. My wife and I live in central Elbert County and are anticipating the oil development in the near future and are very concerned about the effects on our health, the environment and our property values.
One doesn’t have to look too hard to find numerous incidences of the consequences of living in an industrial site. We have worked and lived in Elbert County for 30 years and have looked forward to retiring on our ranch where we grow organic vegetables, raise dairy goats, chickens and a few steers. (By the way, we met you at the Elbert County Democratic party last year and voted for you.) We consider ourselves lucky to watch the constellations move through the night sky. We can hear the coyotes call, the songbirds sing and the wind blow through the Ponderosa Pines. Our well water is ample and good. We know that when the ten story, 150’, oilrigs move in with generators running 24/7, lights lighting up the sky at night, non stop truck traffic and the smell of spent diesel fuel and open hydraulic fracking fluid pits, that will all change. With the mortgage debacle, our property is now worth less than what we owe on it; to make matters even more dismal, property values around oil fields typically depreciate 25% to 75%. And, because of President Lincoln’s 1862, grant of mineral rights to the railroad (and subsequent purchase by them by Anadarko) we’ll get nothing in royalties.
It is obvious that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, after attending numerous meetings hosted by them, don’t care about the results of hydraulic fracturing on the public. It is fruitless to talk to them. We have petitioned the county commissioners to install regulations to protect the county but apparently the State regulations preempt the counties’. The Colorado Supreme Court has given the oil companies the right to drill on anyone’s land to get to their minerals. Surface owners have no rights.
Clearly this is not a government by the people or for the people because the laws do not protect the people. Clearly the government is for large corporations by large corporations, who, by the way, have grossed billions of dollars in the first two quarters of this year and have been subsidized by the taxpayers.
I am not a petroleum engineer or a geologist or an attorney (I’m a retired public school teacher who can’t afford an attorney) so don’t have a good grasp of what to ask specifically but have watched numerous on line videos, read as much as I can, and, like I’ve stated, gone to as many meetings and discussions as I physically could. I have watched the documentaries ‘Gasland’ and ‘Split Estate’. I’ve read ‘Collateral Damage’ by Tara Meixsell. I’ve talked to geologists and people who work for Encana, Chesapeake, and Anadarko. I’ve driven through Garfield and Weld counties. I feel that my list below is reasonable to protect public safety and health.
1. The set back for distance to residences or existing water wells should be changed to at least 1320’, a quarter mile. Three hundred fifty feet is totally inadequate.
2. The EPA is currently evaluating stricter air pollution regulations. I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask for a moratorium on drilling until the EPA completes its evaluation in early 2012.
3. I don’t believe that it is unreasonable to ask the oil companies to purchase infrared cameras for the county so that property owners can capture air quality emissions on film as evidence.
4. Counties should have the oil companies pay an impact fee to have an independent company test all wells for aquifer depth and water quality before, during and for a minimum of five years after the well has been fracked.
5. Oil companies should have to maintain the road and bridge infrastructure.
6. Counties need deputies to monitor the truck traffic and to help monitor the behavior of transient workers.
7. Our local fire departments need equipment and personnel to fight potential fires quickly. Special foam is needed to fight toxic chemical fires. Our local stations are ill equipped.
8. Counties need their own inspectors to monitor the drilling. There are only 17 inspectors from the COGCC for the 40,000+ wells in the State.
9. Bonds need to be collected to compensate for lost property values especially for those of us who have our mineral rights severed.
10. All fluids used in hydraulic fracturing should be contained in closed loop systems. There should be no open pits allowed.
11. Toxic chemicals should be banned from fracking fluids.
12. Regulations need to be in place to control the disposal of used liquids.
13. Night lights need to be modified.
For the sake of Laura Amos, Chris Mobaldi and the countless others who have become sick, died or have had their lives needlessly disrupted, thank you for considering the above. I look forward to hearing/reading your response,