Public Health Director Moves to Call Public Health Emergency and Declare an Emergency Order to Pause Extraction’s Flowback Operations During the Height of Covid-19 Crisis in Broomfield

Five City Council Members Vote to Proceed, Five City Members and Mayor Vote to Delay Until Tuesday

By Jennifer D, Broomfield Concerned

The City and County of Broomfield met as the Broomfield Board of Health on Wednesday evening, March 25, to address the ramifications of the Covid-19 public health emergency and Extraction’s plans for flowback, beginning in April. The meeting, held virtually, included more than 4 hours of presentations, citizen testimony and Board of Health discussions and conversation.

More than 150 resident letters voicing concern had been received by the city in the days ahead of the meeting — in addition to 469 signatures on a petition requesting that the city take action and delay flowback operations.

The meeting began with a presentation from Extraction Oil and Gas, which was then followed by very brief comments by COGCC Director Robbins.  Immediately following the operator and the regulator’s comments, staff presentations began. These presentations included:

Engineering Consultation by  Barbara Ganong and Reg Wiemer (in absentia)

Air Quality Monitoring Program by Dr. Jeff Collette, CSU Oil and Gas Staff

Update by CCOB Director of Special Initiatives Tami Yellico

Emergency Plans by Broomfield Police Chief Gary Creager and NMFRD Deputy Chief Jeff Bybee

Public Health by Public Health Director Jason VahlingLegal by CCOB

Attorney Shaun Sullivan, Special Counsel Lance Astrella, Special Counsel Mike Foote

After a short ten-minute break the phone lines were opened to callers who had been placed in a queue, with each resident being given two-minutes for their remarks. Citizens raised multiple issues, including air emissions, evacuation plans and also significant community stress and anxiety as they faced a global respiratory pandemic in addition to flowback operations in their community.

At the conclusion of the citizen testimony, council members posed questions, many of them addressing clear legal opportunities and paths and gauging legal counsel’s various viewpoints, in addition to the guidance from Public Health Director Jason Vahling.

Ultimately Public Health Director Vahling stated that there had been strong evidence of increased community anxiety around these issues and that there were studies that existence of this stress and anxiety could worsen the impacts of respiratory pandemic Covid-19. As such, Vahling stated he was comfortable and felt it necessary to declare a public health emergency and issue an order calling for the flowback facilities of Extraction Oil and Gas to be halted during the Covid-19 public health emergency.

Mayor pro tem Castriotta submitted a motion to direct the Staff to write the public health order immediately, but her motion was then followed by a motion from Council Member Liz Law-Evans, suggesting the vote be delayed until Tuesday so that Council could review the ordinance  and hold an Executive Session.  The second motion was supported by council members: Groom, Jezierski, Law-Evans, Lindstedt and Tessier.

Council members who voted against the delay of the vote included: Anderson, Castriotta, Henkel, Lim and Shaff.

The Mayor broke the 5-5 tie and the vote to delay was passed.

Please continue to write to City Council about your concerns ahead of the final vote planned for Tuesday at