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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirOctober 11, 20173min10370

You know the war over Broomfield’s anti-fracking proposal — or any pending ballot issue, for that matter — is heating up when a former governor steps into the fray. Republican Bill Owens, who served as Colorado’s chief exec until 2007, took to the airwaves and digital media this week with a video denouncing Question 301 on Broomfield’s November ballot.

In the video, Owens calls 301 “a deceiving measure” and a “cynical power play focused on blocking energy development.” The former two-term guv also assures viewers “Colorado already has the toughest oil and gas regulations in the U.S.”

The proposal would grant the combined city-county municipality “plenary authority to regulate all aspects of oil and gas development, including land use and all necessary police powers.” Plenary means absolute (we had to look it up), and there’s a problem with that: It’s a power that the state government contends local governments don’t have.

If it passes, the ballot measure probably would set Broomfield on a collision course with the state as the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled the state government, via the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, holds ultimate authority over oil and gas exploration.

That likely showdown prompted some residents to band together under the slogan, “Don’t let them divide Broomfield” in opposition to 301. They say they’re tired of their community serving as a jousting green over oil and gas politics.  In 2013, voters there OK’d a five-year drilling moratorium, but it was mooted by the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling. Earlier this year, voters turned back an attempt by anti-drilling resident-activists to recall a city council member perceived to be too soft on oil and gas exploration.

In siding with the No on 301 campaign, Owens — who before his time in elective office ran the Colorado Petroleum Association — appeals to war-weary Broomfielders in his video:

“National outside groups are trying to turn Broomfield into a political battleground over oil and gas development — again,” he says as the video opens. “Well enough is enough.”


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 27, 20173min1634
The perennial face-off over fracking is of course a four-way fight: While the oil and gas industry has been duking it out with activists opposed to drilling, the state of Colorado has been going toe-to-toe with local governments over who has the power to regulate drilling in the first place. It is the latter clash […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 7, 20177min2720

Before the state raises taxes and fees on an industry, two top legislative Republicans want to know more about the problem with abandoned oil and gas wells in Colorado.

In a Aug. 22 story in the Denver Post by Christopher N. Osher, Gov. John Hickenlooper said he would ask oil and gas companies to help cover the cost of capping 700 to 800 “orphan wells,” whose owners have moved on and refuse to pay. The industry also might be asked to provide in-home methane monitors for nearby homeowners.

The governor laid out a raft of proposals for public safety that day, as the state’s response to a house explosion that killed two people in Firestone in April.

The state’s available budget to cap the hundreds wells would cover about 10 a year, Osher reported.

Sen. Ray Scott of Grand Junction, chairman of a state Senate Select Committee on Energy, and Rep. Bob Rankin, who sits on the Hoint Budget Committee, said they weren’t aware of the size and scope of the problem in a letter to Matt Lepore, the director Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Wednesday.

“As members of the General Assembly and the Joint Budget Committee, this characterization is concerning to us,” the letter states. “We are not aware of this matter being raised or discussed in the context of submittals from the Governor’s office or the COGCC in recent budget cycles. Moreover, it is our understanding that existing statutory provisions referenced below are designed to provide the COGCC with the resources necessary to address the problem on a continuous basis.”

Asked about the letter, Scott told Colorado Politics, “It’s imperative that COGCC explain in detail why they ask for more funding when they already have existing funding and laws in place to guide their operations. In these days of tight budgets taxpayers want to know.”

Here is the full text of what Scott and Rankin sent Lepore:

Dear Director Lepore:

We are writing to request your assistance with an informational request regarding the size and scope of the abandoned well situation in Colorado. Recently Governor Hickenlooper suggested the abandoned well problem is so vast in scope that new taxes and fees are necessary to stand up a new organization to address the problem.

As members of the General Assembly and the Joint Budget Committee, this characterization is concerning to us. We are not aware of this matter being raised or discussed in the context of submittals from the Governor’s office or the COGCC in recent budget cycles. Moreover, it is our understanding that existing statutory provisions referenced below are designed to provide the COGCC with the resources necessary to address the problem on a continuous basis.

  1. We would appreciate your prompt response to the following questions:
  2. What is the most accurate, current inventory (number) of abandoned wells or locations that the COGCC is aware of and tracking? In which basin(s) are these wells or facilities located?
  3. What is the most accurate, current forecast (number) of wells the COGCC anticipates are or may soon be in financial distress and have the potential to become abandoned? What is the COGCC’s timeline for this forecast? In which basin(s) are these wells or facilities located?
  4. How many wells or locations has the COGCC remediated in each of the past five calendar years and in what basin(s) are these wells or facilities located? What is the aggregate and per project cost for the plugging and abandonment of these wells or facilities?
  5. How many wells or locations is the COGCC is presently remediating and what are the projected costs for each of these ongoing projects in 2018 fiscal year?
  6. To what extent has the COGCC utilized the required operator bonding as a funding mechanism to offset the costs of plugging and abandonment? Does the COGCC consider this funding mechanism to be inadequate? If so, does this suggest a need to consider adjustments to current bonding requirements?
  7. To what extent is the COGCC using existing statutory funding mechanisms necessary to address the abandoned well situation, e.g. §34-60-122 C.R.S.? It would appear this existing statute gives the COGCC with the necessary funding, provided the fund balance is replenished via its share of severance taxes. Furthermore, other existing law makes clear that plugging abandoned wells is well within the ambit of “preventing or mitigating a condition that might result in significant adverse environmental impact”, §34-60-124 C.R.S.
  8. Finally, has the COGCC examined its internal systems, policies and protocols to determine what, if any, impact staff review times, enforcement activities or other processes may be contributing to operator’s financial distress?

We appreciate your prompt attention to this request and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Ray Scott
State Senator

Bob Rankin
State Representative

Cc: Henry Sobanet, Office of State Planning and Budgeting


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Ernest LuningErnest LuningJune 22, 201710min3210

Democratic candidates for Colorado attorney general this week tore into Republican incumbent Cynthia Coffman’s month-old decision to appeal a court ruling critics say could bring a halt to oil and gas production in the state, with two of the Democrats vowing to scrap the appeal if elected and one of them lashing his primary opponents for not weighing in sooner.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchJune 7, 20174min2240
Broomfield fracking fight
(AP file photo/Brennan Linsley)

 

Anti-drilling activists said Wednesday morning they will try to amend the Broomfield city charter to add more consideration for public health and safety — the same kind of statewide proposal that’s tied up with the courts and in politics.

The group of nine filed paperwork with the city to start collected the necessary 2,500 petitions to get on the November ballot. The amendment is similar to the pending lawsuit brought by teenagers, backed by major environmental groups. The suit would force the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to use a clear “balancing test” to ensure the public and environment get the same consideration as drillers in the permitting process.

Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican and potential candidate for governor next year, said she would appeal a decision by the state Court of Appeals in March that instructs the state regulatory commission to consider the teens’ request. Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, says the commission, which he appoints, already does that, so there’s no need for an appeal.

“It is time for the city and county of Broomfield to put public health and safety first,” activist Cristen Logan of Anthem Highlands said in a statement to Colorado Politics Wednesday morning. “Adding this language to our town charter will allow us to make sure that our representatives take our health, safety, and welfare into account when considering oil and gas development in Broomfield.”

Broomfield is one of the areas of the northeast metro region where expanding residential growth and the region’s fossil fuel energy development have clashed the hardest.

Fracking opponents haven’t been able to get the city to impose a moratorium,, If the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commissions rewrites its rules to include a more clear test for the balance fo safety and industry, operations would halt in the interim, which could be months or longer.

The city and county of Broomfield is updating its regulations, as the industry expands amid questions of its safety, after two recent explosions, including one that killed two people.

“By adding this language to our town charter, we’re ensuring that the guiding principals driving our future will put our children and our community first while encouraging businesses to operate at a higher standard in Broomfield,” Bill Young, another resident seeking the amendment, said in a statement.”

Colorado Politics e-mailed several oil and gas industry groups for reaction to the early-morning news of the intended Broomfield ballot issue. This story will be updated as reaction comes in.


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Paula NoonanPaula NoonanMay 31, 20175min990

Both “sides” in the arguments over oil and gas development say the other is “taking advantage” of the explosions in Firestone and Mead. This should not be a time for sides. This should be a time for serious analysis. It can also provide an opening that should, for the sake of everyone in the state, cut through sides to allow common sense to function. Both accidents caused violent fire and explosions leading to death and serious injuries in non-industrial environments. The Mead accident occurred 1,000 feet from other buildings, according to reports. The Firestone explosion blew up a house as a pipe leaked gas that followed French drains into the Martinez’s basement.



Joey BunchJoey BunchMay 24, 20174min900

Environmentalists are asking the heads of the state health department and Department of Natural Resources to pressure the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to reconsider its vote to appeal a court decision on drilling permits.

The commission voted on May 1 to appeal a court decision that says they need to balance public health and safety against requests for permits by oil and gas operators. That decision was part of Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s rationale to file an appeal in the case brought by teenagers and backed by environmental groups.

The way they read the law, the attorney general needs the commission’s approval to appeal its rules to the state Supreme Court. Getting the commission to withdraw its May 1 vote, then, would be a strategic advantage.

The lawsuit was filed in 2013 by six Colorado teenagers asking that the oil and gas regulators to use a “balancing test” to measure public health and safety against the wishes of industry. In March the state Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to have the board reconsider the environmentalists’ request.

By doing so, they would suspend fracking operations while the teens, or the environmental groups backing them, make a case for how such a rule might be applied.

After Coffman said she would press ahead with an appeal, Earthjustice and Conservation Colorado sent a letter Friday asking for an intervention from the commission’s ex-officio members, Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Bob Randall, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

Neither responded to a personal e-mail from Colorado Politics to see if they would ask the commission to reconsider.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has somewhat agreed with the environmentalists, saying last week he didn’t think the commission should appeal, because it already substantially does what the lawsuit requests.

His office isn’t onboard with the request by environmentalists to apply pressure on the commission via his state agency leaders, however.

“We have made our position in this matter well-known and believe that it would be inappropriate to apply pressure on this commission to take further action,” said Hickenlooper’s spokeswoman, Jacque Montgomery. “We ask respected civic leaders to serve on our boards and commissions to exercise their independent judgment, and we value and respect their service.”

The governor also said last week that the commission’s vote didn’t constitute seeking the authority for an appeal.

We are frankly perplexed as to why the Governor’s administration has not already taken such a step instead of pursuing the unusual approach of asking the Attorney General to disregard the COGCC’s May 1 decision,” wrote Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado, and Earthjustice lawyer Michael Freeman.

“If the Governor is serious in stating that ‘the court of appeals’ decision does not represent a significant departure from the commission’s current approach,’ it would have been straightforward to simply call for another COGCC vote to reconsider the appeal.”