Council Formally Supports Colorado House Bills on Forced Pooling Changes and Incident Reporting

With unanimous votes, Council agreed to support Colorado House Bill 18-1289 on forced pooling changes for government entities and HB 18-1157, a bill to increase transparency around oil field accidents and injuries.  Mayor Ahrens will testify on behalf of the City for both bills at the House Transportation and Energy Committee on March 14th at 1:30 p.m.

The vote on HB 18-1289 was in response to a late March 12 addition to the Manager’s Report for the March 13 Council meeting.  Staff was looking for direction from Council to determine if the City would formally support the bill titled “Concerning An Exemption From Forced Pooling of Certain Governmental Entities That Own Mineral Rights.”  It will exempt local governments, school districts and other districts from being forced pooled in an oil and gas drilling unit (unless the local government, school or other district is voluntarily participating).

Staff had appropriately attached Broomfield Ordinance No. 2039 which had unanimously passed on January 10, 2017.  It served to give the City of Broomfield the power to control its own property.  It was made clear at the time that this included control in light of any forced pooling order, and then Assistant City and County Attorney Pat Gilbert stated the ordinance had the full support of the Staff.

In voicing their support for HB 18-1289, many Council members expressed their wish that the bill also extended to individual property owners.  Mayor Ahrens cautioned all mineral owners to make sure any lease offers were zone specific for the level of minerals being extracted.

In Public Comments, Wildgrass resident Jean Lim thanked Council for their past support in favor of changing antiquated Colorado forced pooling laws.   She also reported that five Broadlands mineral owners and three Wildgrass mineral owners went to discuss forced pooling legislation at the Statehouse on Feb. 21.  They had extensive, positive conversations with both Sen. Marble and Rep. Gray, demonstrating that property rights could be a bipartisan issue despite past Statehouse deadlocks, according to Jean Lim in her comments.

Also in Public Comments, Laurie Anderson encouraged Council to support HB 18-1157, a bill to increase transparency around oil field accidents and injuries, which was also scheduled for a House hearing at the Statehouse on March 14 at 1:30 pm. The bill will require mandatory accident reporting and a report on the specific nature and cause of the event and, to the extent practicable, a description of measures to prevent future similar causes at oil and gas facilities. Currently, the operator only needs to say that an incident occurred, but does need not to report on the nature of the accident or damages caused.

Of importance to Broomfield, Laurie Anderson stated in support of the bill that, “More in-depth reporting would require increased reporting on incidents like the Windsor fire and explosion (for which a cause has not yet been announced) and also the well incident in which a plugged and abandoned well near Berthoud which bubbled up crude is suspected to have been caused by oil and gas activities occurring 3000 feet away.”  Jean Lim stated that several Broomfield residents were unable to find the COGCC report on the Berthoud incident, of particular interest because it was reported to have involved pressure from an Extraction horizontal well 3000 feet away.  Jean had called the Reporter-Herald reporter to ask how to find the COGCC incident report on its website, but the reporter couldn’t find it there and had received it via email from COGCC Public Information Officer Todd Hartman.

Council also unanimously supported HB 18-1157 and Mayor Ahrens will also testify in support of it on March 14.  Council Member Beacom said that he thought that this bill was part of the larger picture of clarifying what is expected of operators at the State level.  Mayor Ahrens stated that he thought an important piece was to get the operators to talk to each other since discussion was needed “when bad things happen, and they’re going to happen.”

Mayor Ahrens also stated that he and Staff members met with new COGCC Director Julie Murphy on Tuesday.  Mayor Ahrens will talk about their meeting at the first Oil and Gas Conversation on Friday, March 16 at 5:15 pm.

Wildgrass Oil and Gas Committee President Lizzie Lario thanked the Staff for providing an informative Emergency Preparedness Meeting for Wildgrass residents on Monday evening, March 12.  In order to prepare for oil and gas emergencies, Anthem Ranch also held a similar meeting in February.

There will be a Council Meeting on March 20 in an adjustment to the schedule to accommodate school spring breaks.