Adams County Request for Alternative Site Analysis on Extraction Pads Denied by COGCC and Extraction Permitting Process Moves Forward

Although the COGCC Commissioners complimented Adams County Staff and residents on how they raised their concerns, the COGCC Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the process that the COGCC staff had undertaken to review the drilling permits on the Northwest and Interchange Pads sited near Adams County residents on Broomfield Open Space.  The Commissioners also expressed doubts if Extraction and Broomfield had fully involved Adams County in the process before the final siting of the pads with the October 24 Operator Agreement, but the Commissioners felt that their hands were tied by the COGCC rules to do the alternative site analysis requested by Adams County.

The final drilling permits (Form 2 and 2As) for the Extraction project permits are now in the hands of COGCC Director Julie Murphy for final approval.  There has not been any change in status to the permits as of the end of the business day on Friday, August 3.  Please see the overview map of the proposed sites here, and detailed maps of the Northwest and Interchange Pads here.

In addition to this final COGCC stamp of approval on these permits for the Northwest, Interchange and United Pads, the other checkpoints for the Extraction project include the approval of the Comprehensive Drilling Plan (CDP) by the City and the forced pooling of any unleased mineral owners in the spacing units.  The planned approval of the CDP for August 2 was postponed after many Broomfield residents protested, pointing out CDP deficiencies and lack of a public hearing on the final version of the CDP.  Council will hold an Executive Session on August 7 to receive legal advice on the CDP.

PUBLIC COMMENTS AT THE AUGUST 1 COGCC HEARING

A special separate day of public comments just for the Broomfield Extraction Pads began at 9 am with Adams County Commissioners Eva Henry, Steve O’Dorisio and Charles Tedesco making statements.  Commissioner O’Dorisio claimed that Extraction had split the Northwest and Interchange Pads into two pads each in order to avoid triggering Large Urban Mitigation Area (LUMA) special conditions that would have had to be met as defined by COGCC rules.  This would have required alternative site analysis and siting the pads as far away from residences of either Broomfield or Adams County as possible.

Commissioner Henry protested that Adams County was completely blindsided by the late September change in pad sites moving from the United and Huron pad sites north of Northwest Parkway to the Northwest and Interchange pad sites south of it, closer to their residents.  Commissioner Tedesco stated that moving the pads south of Northwest Parkway was done despite viable technical and economically feasible options to the north.  He also argued that the splitting of the Northwest and Interchange Pads into two pads each disturbed more surface area than necessary, referencing a siting regulation of the COGCC.

Ten Adams County residents raised their concerns during public comments and the Commissioners later praised them for their specific, informed statements.  Jackie Kowalski repeated Commissioner O’Dorisio’s earlier claim in stating that Extraction “had tried to create a hole in the regulations big enough to fit a LUMA through.”  ACCDAN President Jennifer Gamble said that there had been no study of the Northwest and Interchange Pads through the Broomfield Task Force’s alternative site analysis before they were chosen as the new sites at the end of September, due to consideration for future development in Broomfield over current Adams County residents.  Barbara Binder and others pointed out that the new industrial haul road that would be built to service the Northwest and Interchange Pads would cause excessive noise, dust and truck traffic for nearby Adams County residents.  Residents also pointed out that the new industrial haul road was not included in the total disturbed area.

Broomfield residents Lizzie Lario, John Dulles and Jean Lim also spoke during public comments.  Lizzie Lario requested that the entire Extraction project be given a hearing to consider the health, safety and welfare impacts.  John Dulles asked the Commissioners to consider those who would be subject to this industrial experiment and he referred to his support of the letter to the COGCC written by many Front Range officials calling for an end to the “border wars.”

In written comments, there were 50 public comments submitted on the Northwest Pad and 91 comments on the Interchange Pads.

 

COGCC STAFF PRESENTATION BRINGS NEWLY NEGOTIATED ROAD MITIGATIONS

Oil and Gas Location Assessment Supervisor Greg Deranleau described in detail that that Northwest A and B and Interchange A and B Pads met the buffer requirements from residences along with other COGCC rule requirements.  He stated that the COGCC was “not here to second guess Operator Agreements,” referring to the site locations as set in the October 24 Operator Agreement between Extraction and Broomfield.  He stated that the “Staff review was not constrained by any jurisdictional boundaries.”  Addressing the question about the Best Management Practices (BMPs) which were in the Operator Agreement but were not attached to the COGCC permits, he stated they would have been “challenging for us to enforce.”

Then, relating mitigations just negotiated in the hallway between Extraction and the COGCC in response to public comments, Greg Deranleau announced the following regarding the industrial haul road that will service the Northwest and Interchange Pads:

  • The surface would be a compacted road base to reduce noise and dust.
  • Trucks would be restricted from idling and not allowed to park on the road during breaks.
  • There would be traffic control at Huron Road.
  • There would be berms and haybales put in place for light disturbance.

In response to questions from Commissioners, Greg Deranleau stated that he did not evaluate the original sites of United and Huron but that he did think they would have been suitable as well. Commissioner Ager asked, “At what point do we look at the fact that these pads were piecemealed to avoid LUMA status?”  Since the site did not qualify as a LUMA, the alternative site analysis was not required, according to Deranleau.  There was also a discussion of the limitations of the LUMA rules created in 2016 that did not require that the proximate local government be given standing if it was not the surface site jurisdiction.

 

ADAMS COUNTY ASKS FOR ALTERNATIVE SITE ANALYSIS

Adams County Local Government Designee (LGD) Christine Doughtery went over details which she said showed the lack of being invited to participate in the siting process with Extraction and Broomfield.  Adams County was never told why the sites were changed to south of Northwest Parkway five weeks before the October 24 Operator Agreement when they had been set elsewhere for almost a year before that.

Adams County Special Counsel Jeff Robbins asked the Commissioners to require that the COGCC do an alternative site analysis.  This was based on the inclusion of the industrial road as part of the disturbed area, which would make the sites qualify as LUMAs.  Then he also asked the Commissioners to expand the LUMA rules to require that proximate governments be given standing in the required alternative site analysis process.

Commissioner Boigon pointed out that the rules did not include any mechanism to do an alternative site analysis and that the COGCC would not have any power to make Extraction go back to the original sites if that was the determination of any alternative site analysis.

 

EXTRACTION PRESENTATION

Special Counsel Joseph Pierzchala immediately stated that Adams County was asking the COGCC to dictate the locations of oil and gas development which it did not have authority to do. He quoted a July 31 letter from Broomfield City Manager Charles Ozaki that he intended to approve the CDP on August 2, adding that “Broomfield has blessed this plan.”  He warned that operators would not do down the operator agreement path if the COGCC overruled the agreed to sites.

Extraction Project Manager Chandler Newhall went over a timeline of Extraction’s involvement with Broomfield and Adams County.  Extraction Attorney Eric Christ claimed that Extraction engaged in significant dialogue with Adams County in the five-week period after the pad sties were changed and before the Operator Agreement.  Adams County later disputed many of these participation claims, including an August 26 meeting which would have been on a Saturday.  Adams County also pointed out that the time pressure for approval of the Extraction Pads before the end of October was significant. (November 7 was Broomfield Council elections and the vote on Charter Amendment 301.)

Extraction attorneys stated that the former Huron and United Pads “could not be used at this time” because they never gained access to those surface areas owned by a private developer.  They added that they are still negotiating two pieces of right of way with that developer.

In response to Commissioner questions, Extraction claimed to be responsive to concerns of neighbors. (Note:  Read about the Triple Creek and Bella Romera School Extraction Pads to fact check this.)

 

COGCC VOTES TO ALLOW DIRECTOR TO CONSIDER PERMITS FOR APPROVAL

In remarks after closing the record, several Commissioners made ominous statements recognizing the unprecedented nature of the project. First, the Commissioners chastised Extraction for making condescending statements about Adams County not having the right to state their concerns for their residents.  Then, several commissioners recognized that this was an unprecedented multiwell project in a dense residential neighborhood, with Commissioner Ager looking at Extraction and stating, “There is no room for any Extraction error here.”  She added, “I hear you when you say that you’re being used as guinea pigs.”

Commissioner Boigon stated that he was encouraged by the process and felt that Extraction and Broomfield engagement in the Operator Agreement could become a model, recognizing that active, engaged citizens helped to shape it.   He praised the COGCC Staff for being responsive in addressing citizen comments in the process.  However, he added that it was a shortcoming that Adams County was not allowed more involvement in the process all along which “left a bad taste.”  Commissioner Jolley stated that the “rules don’t allow us to pick the site.”

The final vote was unanimous at 6 – 0, with Commissioner Randall abstaining due to late arrival, Commissioner Wolk leaving early and Commissioner Overturf absent the entire day.