Broomfield held its second Community Conversation for Oil and Gas on May 4, 2018 in the City Council Chambers. It was a chance for Broomfield residents to ask questions of and make comments to the Mayor and eight Council Members. Many of the evening’s questions were addressed by Jason Vahling and Laurie Davis, speaking on behalf of Broomfield’s Health and Human Services Department. About 80% of the Chamber was filled with residents wanting to know more. Council Members were encouraged to keep their answers to about a minute. Residents were not time limited.
Broomfield resident and risk analysis expert Pat Talbot expressed his concerns regarding Extraction’s Comprehensive Drilling Plan (CDP) predictions of a 3-10% chance of 12 different catastrophic events occurring during the life of the wells (approximately 20-30 years). However, there are questions because Extraction didn’t say if this is per well, per pad, or per their project. Extraction also didn’t mention if any of these possible catastrophic risks were moderate or slight risks. The main concern is that the numbers imply a 50-60% chance of a catastrophic occurrence during the life of the wells. Possible events could include: fires, explosions, blow-outs, spills, various leakages, failure of equipment, or human errors. (As a side note, many problems/accidents occur during drilling, fracking and completion of the well, which typically happen during the first year of development.)
Answering Mr. Talbot’s concerns, Council Member Kim Groom said, “Some risks cannot be mitigated.” Mayor Ahrens commented, “We’ve been dealing with this since 2013 and have gotten wells moved outside Broomfield,” referring to wells which are being drilled just north of Hwy 7 on the Coyote Pad in Erie.
Resident Sue Saad asked, “How much money has the City of Broomfield already spent on this [oil and gas related issues]?” Mayor Ahrens replied that the City has spent approximately $1.6 million, which includes attorney fees, salaries of City employees, and studies requested by the Task Force. Since the question seemed to imply that the money spent so far proves the City has done enough work on this, Council Member Castriotta commented that, “Every penny spent on this has been worth it.”
Nick Kliebenstein of Front Range Energy Alliance said that the Council has doubled standards of the COGCC and done a good job. He wanted to know if there will be more changes to the Draft Regulations, to which there was an affirmative reply. Mr. Kliebenstein seemed to be confused as to why the Council had postponed voting on the first reading of the Regulations from April 24th to May 8th. Council Member Kreeger said it was because there were so many comments from the public regarding these regulations that Council needed more time to review before taking a vote.
Council Member Bette Erickson recognized Jason Grub of Erie, who represented the Colorado Oil and Gas Association as their Community Outreach Coordinator. He told the audience that he does not have any internal conflicts about representing the industry and he has a “unique perspective” because he worked on public lands and for a national non-profit. Mr. Grub was the only non-Broomfield resident allowed at the microphone even though Mr. Grub had no questions of the Council.
Andy Kramer of Anthem Ranch wanted to tell Council about a recent emergency experienced by a resident, who fell ill while at the Aspen Lodge. Andy expressed concern that the Emergency Response time was approximately 15-20 minutes. Andy asked again about the plan for evacuations of Anthem Ranch if it becomes necessary. There will be another meeting to discuss emergency responses in the near future.
Gary Landers of Wildgrass wondered what the City is going to do to monitor ground water and VOCs. Tami Yellico told the audience that currently the City is looking at eight air quality monitoring proposals and will decide soon. They will then send their recommendations to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and to Adams County.
Broomfield resident Dana Inerfield asked a 3 part question: 1) What are the penalties if Extraction doesn’t comply with regulations? 2) Are there levels of VOCs they can’t exceed? and 3) What happens if Extraction can’t pay fees, penalties or goes bankrupt? The simple answer was that there are steps the City takes for violations and they have a code along with a full time inspector. Broomfield is currently updating their fine schedule.
Broomfield resident Lois Vanderkooi expressed frustration with the State because they dismiss correlational health data. She said it is hard to do gold standard research on these issues and that’s where the perception that the state isn’t protecting people comes in.
Mayor Ahrens stated that Broomfield submitted 43 comments to the COGCC regarding Extraction’s CDP. Mayor Ahrens said that “drilling won’t start until everything has been addressed.” Mayor Ahrens said he believes that Extraction did a poor job on the original CDP and he thinks they may have done it purposely so Broomfield would have to write the plan. Pat Talbot suggested that Broomfield needs a verification matrix to make sure everything in the CDP was addressed.
Council Member Elizabeth Law-Evans of Ward 2 expressed her philosophy that it is “not right to look to delay or postpone decision-making or to depend on future voting, future legislative actions, or future elected officials to make political change in order to get what residents want.” She also said, “It is not good service to citizens to depend on government. We gotta do what we gotta do and that’s the course we are on.” Council Member Law-Evans went on to answer the question: “Does this keep us safe?” Her recommendation was, “Don’t put your faith in anything or anyone that substitutes for a higher power. Nobody can keep you safe.”
Council Member Bette Erickson responded by saying that, “It isn’t unreasonable for citizens to expect the City Council to do everything possible to keep them safe.”
In response to questions from resident Lynnette Vesco about what is happening around Anthem Ranch, Mayor Ahrens stated that he had called Boulder that day and they “have had discussions and are trying to do everything they can.” He also said the City does not know which pad will be used to drill under Anthem Ranch and they would find out.
Anthem Ranch resident Paul Classen brought up a new development in Longmont, where it seems that City has gotten agreement from certain oil and gas companies to prohibit drilling within the Longmont City limits. It does not prohibit locating wells just outside the City limits and drilling under Longmont. Mr. Classen also said he was disappointed that the Extraction MOU was approved quickly prior to the last election.
Mayor Ahrens ended the meeting by saying there may be another meeting in the future, but he did not give a date.