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Frequently Asked Questions About Oil & Gas

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These questions were submitted by a Longmont advocacy group prior to their community open house in the Spring of 2017. Longmont City staff provided these answers to the group and posted them to this web page. Some information has changed over time but the original answers are being preserved for reference sake.

Air Pollution

What are your plans for air monitoring?

In 2016 the City of Longmont began partnering with Boulder County Public Health to monitor well sites and facilities using an infrared camera. This camera detects gas leaks at the wellhead and associated facilities. While it does not identify the type or quantity of gas, the presence of any fugitive gas triggers the need for repair within 5 days. The City and the County will continue to coordinate air monitoring.

In addition to the City and County's efforts, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment may also monitor wells. The City will request any results regarding air quality sampling on City well sites.

Will you conduct independent air quality tests prior to any fracking activities in order to have a base line with follow up tests during and after the actual fracking to quantify any potential air quality degradation?

At this time we do not conduct site specific air quality testing prior to oil and gas development activities; however, through the City's adopted Sustainability Plan, we have a couple of strategies focused on air quality monitoring. We are planning to install an ozone monitor in Longmont to provide a baseline for local conditions and ongoing monitoring. In addition, we are looking to work with either CU or CSU on installing some mobile monitoring devices to provide real-time VOC data. We will be working with the City's Natural Resources Division and Boulder County Public Health to make sure we’re coordinating efforts, but we are just in the preliminary stages of determining details of these strategies.

In addition to the City's monitoring program, regional air quality is monitored by a variety of agencies including the CDPHE.

Will you monitor if people living near report odors?

We will investigate based on complaints and alert the appropriate health department agencies. Residents are encouraged to do the same.

How will you notify residents if the air quality has decreased?

Any available air and water quality test results are posted on our website and we will continue this practice. https://www.longmontcolorado.gov/departments/departments-n-z/public-information/oil-and-gas-information/oil-and-gas-regulations-in-longmont. Additional notification may be warranted based upon test results.

Will the monitoring be done by· the city so we can be assured that the results are valid?

The city intends to continue to partner with Boulder County Health to conduct air quality monitoring. In addition we are planning to install an ozone monitor in Longmont to provide a baseline for local conditions and ongoing monitoring. In addition, we are looking to work with either CU or CSU on installing some mobile monitoring devices to provide real-time VOC data. We will be working with the City's Natural Resources Division and Boulder County Public Health to make sure we’re coordinating efforts, but we are just in the preliminary stages of determining details of these strategies.


Water Pollution

What are your plans for water monitoring?

The City’s Master Contract & Operator Agreement requires the operator to fund and implement a water quality monitoring, sampling and reporting program acceptable to the City. The program is to include a minimum of three water quality monitoring sites testing sites with each drilling pad or tank location with quarterly reporting to the City. If violations are found the operator is required to remediate the problem.

Will you conduct independent water tests prior to any fracking activities in order to have a base line with follow up tests during and after the actual fracking to quantify any potential water quality degradation?

The City’s oil and gas regulations and Master Contract & Operator Agreement requires the operator to implement the water quality monitoring program prior to use of any heavy equipment to begin oil and gas operations.

Will you monitor ground water if there is a spill?

The City’s oil and gas regulations and Master Contract & Operator Agreement requires the operator to prepare and implement an emergency response plan acceptable to the City prior to commencing with oil and gas development activities. The plan will include spill response actions and remedial work including testing.

What are the requirements for reporting a spill?

From COGCC Regulations:

SECTION 906. SPILLS AND RELEASES

a. General. Spills/releases of E&P waste, including produced fluids, shall be controlled and contained immediately upon discovery to protect the environment, public health, safety, and welfare, and wildlife resources. Impacts resulting from spills/releases shall be investigated and cleaned up as soon as practicable. The Director may require additional activities to prevent or mitigate threatened or actual significant adverse environmental impacts on any air, water, soil or biological resource, or to the extent necessary to ensure compliance with the concentration levels in Table 910-1, with consideration to WQCC ground water standards and classifications.

b. Reportable spills and reporting requirements for spills/releases.

(1) Spills/releases of E&P waste or produced fluid exceeding five (5) barrels, including those contained within lined or unlined berms, shall be reported on COGCC Spill/Release Report, Form 19.

(2) Spills/releases which exceed twenty (20) barrels of an E&P waste shall be reported on COGCC Spill/Release Report, Form 19, and shall also be verbally reported to the Director as soon as practicable, but not more than twenty-four (24) hours after discovery.

(3) Spills/releases of any size which impact or threaten to impact any waters of the state, residence or occupied structure, livestock, or public byway shall be reported on COGCC Spill/Release Report, Form 19, and shall also be verbally reported to the Director as soon as practicable, but not more than twenty-four (24) hours, after discovery.

(4) Spills/releases of any size which impact or threaten to impact any surface water supply area shall be reported to the Director and to the Environmental Release/Incident Report Hotline (1-877-518-5608). Spills and releases that impact or threaten a surface water intake shall be verbally reported to the emergency contact for that facility immediately after discovery.

(5) For all reportable spills, operators shall submit a Spill/Release Report, Form 19, within ten (10) days after discovery. An 8 1/2 x 11 inch topographic map showing the governmental section and location of the spill shall be included. Such report shall also include information relating to initial mitigation, site investigation, and remediation. The Director may require additional information.

(6) Chemical spills and releases shall be reported in accordance with applicable state and federal laws, including the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and the Clean Water Act, as applicable.

c. Surface owner notification and consultation. The operator shall notify the affected surface owner or the surface owner’s appointed tenant of reportable spills as soon as practicable, but not more than twenty-four (24) hours, after discovery. The operator also shall make good faith efforts to notify and consult with the affected surface owner, or the surface owner’s appointed tenant, prior to commencing operations to remediate E&P waste from a spill/release in an area not being utilized for oil and gas operations.

d. Remediation of spills/releases. When threatened or actual significant adverse environmental impacts on any air, water, soil or other environmental resource from a spill/release exists or when necessary to ensure compliance with the concentration levels in Table 910-1, with consideration to WQCC ground water standards and classifications, the Director may require operators to submit a Site Investigation and Remediation Workplan, Form 27. Such spills/releases shall be remediated in accordance with Rules 909. and 910.

Will you do this so they can have a baseline check, then let them monitor after every frack?

If “this” refers to ground water monitoring, the City’s oil and gas regulations and Master Contract & Operator Agreement requires the operator to implement the water quality monitoring program prior to use of any heavy equipment to begin oil and gas operations.

Will you let us know of every frack?

The City’s oil and gas regulations Master Contract & Operator Agreement requires the operator to provide the City with advance notice of its initial drilling operations and of all subsequent well operations in accordance with COGCC rules and regulations. The City will in turn post the information on the City’s website.

Who will be responsible for costs associated with radon abatement if the monitoring shows it is related to the timing of the fracking, the city or the operator?

This issue is not addressed in the Master Contract.


Threats from fracking infrastructure

How many wells are approved and/or pending in Longmont and for which operators?

There are nine existing producing wells in the City, managed by TOP Operating. There have been no applications submitted to the City seeking a local permit for new wells. A number of well and pad site applications have been filed by Cub Creek Energy with the COGCC near the south side of Union Reservoir.

What pipelines have been approved?

The City’s Master Contract & Operator Agreement recognizes the potential for the installation of pipelines, which if located within the City are to be agreed to by the City before they are installed.  Such pipelines could be reviewed and approved concurrent with the permitting of oil and gas development activities in the City.

Are they all on public land?

No.

Have you notified nearby residents that they don't have to allow pipelines to cross their land?

No.

Are there any plans to have compressor stations in Longmont?

Although allowed by the Master Contract and Operator Agreement, staff is not aware of any plan to have compressor equipment installed in the City.


Threats to agriculture and soil quality

Are there going to be wells near organic farms and if so, what conversations will be held with those farms to ensure they can continue to operate as organic?

None are planned at this time. Organic farmers would need to work with their certifier to make sure they are in compliance with USDA standards.

What plans are there for long term clean up related to any spill?

Plans would be developed in accordance with the emergency response plan and depend upon the particular circumstances of any spill.

Knowing that TOP Operating and Cub Creek are subject to the master agreement and thus our regulations, if any other operator comes into the city will they be subject to our regulations, or can they completely circumvent our entire regulations and becoming subject only to COGCC regs?

The City’s oil and gas regulations apply to any oil and gas operations or facilities within the municipal boundaries.

Could a company apply to the COGCC and be granted a permit for a Class 2 Injection well (or any other injection well) within Longmont city limits?

This is a question that should be directed to the COGCC. The City’s municipal code allows Class 2 injection wells in general industrial zoning districts.

Who is liable for any spill or cleanup?

Any party responsible under state or federal environmental laws, although those laws are complicated and the City Attorney's Office is not an authority on the law of environmental liability among private parties. Oil and gas operations must be insured, and the state also runs an environmental response fund.

Explain how the toxic contamination (including the benzene spill) at Trail Ridge was handled – who paid for it and how much?

Assuming this question is in reference to the elevated benzene levels at the Rider Well, that contamination was the subject of a COGCC compliance order established in situ attenuation as the primary remediation strategy. Subsequent groundwater testing paid for by Top Operating confirmed benzene levels below state regulatory standards on July 30, 2014. Terracon Consultants, who are under contract with the City to conduct water quality testing, also confirmed that the benzene levels have been below State compliance levels and will continue to test the site.

The Children’s Trust lawsuit states that drilling is effecting our children’s’ future negatively and at least one court has agreed. Is there a legal leg for us to stand on that would allow us to take action to postpone all drilling in Longmont pending the outcome of that case?

That case is still active and the result is not necessarily final. The City Attorney's Office is monitoring it and considering how it might change the legal landscape. The Supreme Court has ruled that bans and long-term moratoria are preempted by state law, and the new case does not change that in any direct or obvious way. The City remains under contract to allow the drilling of wells on certain sites by TOP Operating Company. Dan Leftwich and Kevin Lynch are better equipped to discuss the case publicly and potential legal strategies it might present.

Are there Emergency Plans in place – ie. Potential fire, explosion, and toxic release that would include up to a 3 mile evacuation plan (for which there is precedent in prior incidents) / Does fire and rescue have additional training and equipment specific to this need including pipeline break and explosion?

Pursuant to the City’s regulations, an emergency plan for oil and gas facilities needs to be approved prior to a local permit being issued. In addition, the City takes an all hazard approach to emergency management, and has one of the most highly trained hazmat team in Boulder County. Finally, the City has an emergency response intergovernmental agreement with Mountain View Fire District.

Are you intending and/or planning, as a city, to proactively lease and develop our mineral rights to exploit them financially?

Absent further direction from City Council, the City does not intend to enter into new mineral leases.


Miscellaneous 

The City has returned the following questions to the submitters because the City lacks expertise in these subject areas.

Public health effects

  • How are you going to monitor the health of people who live in our city?
  • Will you facilitate voluntary blood testing before and after drilling operations for toxic compounds commonly associated with tracking and production operations?
  • Will you alert women who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy to be alert for signs and symptoms of high risk pregnancies?
  • Will you have a meeting· with area health care providers to watch for and report symptoms of health problems known to occur near tracking?
  • Will you alert the residents when there are reports of a public health concern from health care providers?
  • Who will bear the costs for increased medical care?

Earthquakes

  • Are there preparedness plans for earth quakes?
  • Who is going to be responsible for damage caused by quakes? 
  • Are you planning to alert residents that they need to check their homeowners insurance to determine if they have coverage should a quake occur? 
  • Are there plans to hold the operator accountable at least for the deductible?

Other

  • Are area residents being notified of any pipeline plans so they can prepare?
  • How will residents be notified if there is venting and-flaring so that they can protect themselves by staying indoors or retreating to an area away from the flaring?
  • Will you increase air monitoring during any flaring and notify residents of the results?
  • How and who will compensate local organic farmers if they lose their organic certification?

 

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