Erie Reverses Decision: Passes Operator Agreement with 30 Wells on Acme Pad at Overflow Sunday Meeting

After the Erie Board of Trustees voted 3-4 to reject an Operator Agreement between Crestone and Erie on October 30, the Erie Board of Trustees passed a slightly modified version in Resolution 18-400 with a 4-2 vote at a 4 ½ hour Sunday afternoon session.  The Sunday vote was:

Yes – Mayor Jennifer Carroll, Mayor Pro Tem Geoff Deakin, Trustee Bill Gippe, Trustee Adam Haid

No – Trustee Scott Charles, Trustee Christiaan van Woudenberg

Absent – Trustee Dan Woog

In comparison to the October 30 vote on Res 18-400, Trustee Bill Gippe changed his vote and Trustee Dan Woog was absent.

The Sunday afternoon meeting was noticed to the public only 48 hours in advance and residents voiced their frustration that they did not have adequate time to review the Operator Agreement.  Despite this short notice, there was an overflow crowd who had to stand in the courtyard to wait to voice their objections in the Question and Answer Session.  Before the meeting, a petition was sent to Erie Board of Trustees by Erie resident Rachel Balkcom with 481 signatures from Erie and Broomfield residents that were gathered in only 24 hours and Broomfield resident Laurie Anderson presented it at the meeting.  About 40 Erie residents and about ten Broomfield residents spoke against the Operator Agreement at the meeting, with only one Erie resident speaking in favor of the Agreement.  Trustees Charles and van Woudenberg said that they received only one or two emails in favor of the Agreement while Mayor Carroll said that she had many residents tell her that they supported it.

Broomfield Council Members Kevin Kreeger and Sharon Tessier stated that they were speaking for Broomfield constituents and not the City of Broomfield.  Council Member Tessier questioned if the process provided the transparency that everyone deserved and offered the use of the Broomfield 1st Bank Center to hold a public forum.  Council Member Kreeger asked why Erie had not reached out to Broomfield before the vote and also why Erie did not have Crestone specify the number of wells in the Agreement.  Mayor Carroll responded that Crestone would not agree to include the number of wells.

The lack of transparency in the process was the focus of many comments by residents and also Trustees.  Trustee Charles said that the process was “beyond rushed” and that he was not the only Board member who was not included in “secret backroom” talks that were similar to the antics of the last board.  On the contrary, Trustee Gippe stated the he felt that the process did include the public and that he had “learned what Erie can and can’t control.”  Trustee van Woudenberg countered that by stating that “we do have the power to say no” and that his involvement in the renegotiation since November 1 had not resulted in an agreement that protected the health, safety and welfare of residents.  Mayor Carroll stated that she supported the Operator Agreement because “we wanted less wells, less well sites, and increased safeguards.”  Mayor Pro Tem Deakin stated that the Trustees had a “fiduciary responsibility to allow the town to grow” and that the Agreement would help Erie to manage the risks as a town.  Trustee Haid asked residents to “trust us to have researched our legal options.”

Crestone representatives in attendance stated that they had filed a permit to drill with the COGCC on the Vessels Pad on Friday, November 2 and would file a permit to drill on the Acme Pad the next day (November 5) regardless of the Sunday decision.  They stated that the permits to drill the Acme wells would be based on State rules, without additional protections, if the Operator Agreement was not passed at Sunday’s meeting.  Crestone stated it would withdraw the Vessels permit filed on Friday if the Operator Agreement was passed on Sunday.  Crestone stated that the Acme Pad would take 1.5 years to drill and complete, followed by 25 years of production.

Erie Acting Town Administrator Farrell Buller pointed out that a few of the differences from the October 30 Operator Agreement to the one for the November 4 vote were:

  • prohibition of Gibson D822 drilling fluid (possible source of odors)
  • addition of Pratt and Waste to the agreement
  • increasing the distance of the Acme Pad from residences from 522 feet to 532 feet
  • guarantee Crestone connection to the electric grid
  • reduction in the terms of the agreement from 7 to 5 years

Some residents pointed to dangers about the Acme Pad as it is right next to a gas station, very close to an airport that just had a nearby plane crash in Anthem Ranch, and just 1800 feet from the Fire Department that could itself be rendered useless by an emergency at the Pad.  There was one question raised by Trustee Gippe about proximity to the airport regarding FAA approval since the land that Crestone purchased for the Acme Pad was not previously approved by the FAA for residential development due to proximity to the airport.  One resident who identified himself as working for oil and gas suggested that residents might have to drive across the runway in an emergency.

In response to resident questions, the Erie Special Oil and Gas Counsel stated that the Martinez decision applied to consideration in rulemaking at the COGCC but that the COGCC would not be currently required to use the decision to review permits.  There were differences of opinions stated by officials on the impact of any November 6 passage of Proposition 112 and Amendment 74.