CCOB Discusses Oil and Gas-Related Issues at 4/23/2019 Council Meeting

Several important topics were discussed at the April 23rd City Council meeting.  Discussion of the proposed Jefferson Parkway lasted over three hours with 24 speakers coming from communities outside Broomfield. The proposal for the Jefferson Parkway locates this highway on the eastern border of the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production facility. The general consensus from citizen speakers was that they do not want the Parkway to be constructed due to likelihood of plutonium particles being dispersed into the air when moving dirt to construct the road. Because there have been numerous cases of citizens with severe health issues, there is concern that living near Rocky Flats has brought on rare forms of cancers, including cancer of the heart. Residents have concluded that when plutonium particles are disrupted or blown in the wind, the inhalation of one particle can lead to cancer. An alternative route is an available option, but if Broomfield does not pay $2.5 million towards construction of the Jefferson Parkway, it will not be included in the process. It seems that for Broomfield to have a say in this already proposed plan, it must contribute this large sum of money.  Many residents are opposed to both the construction of the Jefferson Parkway and contributing the large amount of taxpayer dollars for a road opposed by residents of the area. Also at issue is the fact that the City of Westminster and the City of Arvada have already contributed to this project. There is now pressure on Broomfield to follow suit.

In a related issue: Council Member Mike Shelton and Council Member Kim Groom are both on the board of the Rocky Flats Stewardship Council. Mr. Shelton made a request for future action to oppose drilling on Rocky Flats although no vote was taken.  Everyone seems to agree it is a bad idea to drill on Rocky Flats. Previously, a development company from the United Kingdom had proposed drilling on Rocky Flats, but quick citizen and governmental opposition convinced them to withdraw their proposal. Now, people such as Sheldon and Groom want to make certain this area is off limits to anyone else who might want to drill on the land, which is now a Superfund site and once home to the government agency which made triggers for nuclear bombs. 

Council Member Kevin Kreeger then made a request for City Council to call for a moratorium on new oil and gas operations in Broomfield while the City staff works on new ordinances to align the City’s rules and regulations with the newly enacted Senate Bill 181. There was much discussion of the City’s timeline and when first and second readings of the new ordinances can be done. Council Member Kreeger and Council Member Shaff would like the process to go as quickly as possible.  Council Member Kreeger asked for feedback from other Council Members. Council Member Law-Evans said she is OK with a brief moratorium as long as it is relevant to Senate Bill 181. Council Member Erickson supports a six month moratorium.  Council Member Beacom said they need a study session and doesn’t want to create another lawsuit. Council Member Castriotta supports a moratorium.  Council Member Groom supports a study session and is not sure a moratorium is needed. She said she “wants to understand the timeline and what is needed legally.”

City Manager Charles Ozaki said they could schedule a study session at the next Council meeting and also said an executive session with the City Attorney is recommended to discuss “some issues.”  Clearly, as evidenced by vague comments during the evening, something sensitive is underlying all of the current discussion.

Mayor Ahrens then said that COGCC Director Jeff Robbins will be in Broomfield to discuss Senate Bill 181 and local control on May 15, 2019. Mayor Ahrens noted that a study for making the Broomfield Commons a Designated Outdoor Activity Area cost the city $75,000. With SB181, paying fees for future DOAA studies may no longer be necessary as the City will be able to use local control to keep these areas free of wells. 

Council Member Mike Shelton was in favor of moving quickly in order to be fair to residents and also to not allow the industry to be mislead. Council Member Kreeger does not want to see operators moving ahead with their plans while the City mulls this over for two months or more.  Council Member Kreeger prefers to move quickly so Broomfield can act on its new ordinances.

There was much back and forth discussion of when to schedule the next sessions to discuss adoption of new ordinances brought about by SB181. Mr. Ozaki wanted to know how many Councilmembers were in favor of a moratorium so  they could determine which type of meeting to hold. The vote was 8-2 by a show of hands. Based on comments from Council, it appears that everyone except Council Member Groom and Council Member Beacom favored at least a short moratorium. Some favor a 6 month moratorium. It was left undecided as to when the City Council will take this up again. 

The City Council pushed back the Oil and Gas Update but took two public comments.  Laurie Anderson spoke about the Wild Earth Guardians letter to Governor Polis, Attorney General Phil Weiser and the Director of the CDPHE.  Ms. Anderson is concerned that Extraction Oil and Gas has gone ahead with construction of drilling pads and drilling yet they have not filed for permits related to Air Quality along with the fact that this area is in an ozone non-attainment area. Data and analysis shows that Extraction’s operations create more than the maximum allowed VOC emissions. 

Adams County resident Barb Binder spoke about her concerns that Extraction is not following the Best Management Practices which were agreed upon in the MOU. She believes there is a lack of communication between Extraction Oil and Gas and their sub-contractors, which is causing multiple issues on and near the Interchange Pad B.  Trucks have not followed approved routes. Broomfield Police seem to not understand the issues residents are having and have asked residents to provide descriptions of drivers and license plate numbers for vehicles causing problems. Residents are often unable to get this information because they are driving themselves.  There has been mud tracked onto the roads and most recently there have been complaints of strong odors.  Of most concern is the fact that Extraction Oil and Gas is supposed to prove their expertise and capability of following BMPs to Broomfield before going on to drill on the next scheduled site. At this point many residents don’t believe Extraction has passed the test. 

by Becky McLeod