Regulations Pass First Reading with Intent to Have Study Session Before Second Reading on June 12

Ordinance No. 2067 Amending Certain Sections of the Broomfield Municipal Code Concerning Broomfield Oil and Gas Regulations was passed 6-3 on First Reading at the May 8 Council Meeting.  The vote was:

Yes –  Beacom, Erickson, Groom, Jezerski, Law-Evans, Shelton

No-  Castriotta, Kreeger, Shaff

Absent – Tessier

The motion put forth by Council Member Law-Evans stated that the second and final reading would be slated for June 12.  Based on Council discussion, City Manager Ozaki stated that it was understood that the intent of this motion was to have a study session on the regulations before June 12 to review possible additions and changes.

Statements made by Council Members who voted “yes” all generally supported that they did not believe that the regulations were complete but yet they felt compelled to move quickly because of pending operator permits such as ones from Crestone.  Council Member Erickson stated that, “It would be reckless not to get something in place when oil and gas operators are coming next month to talk.”  Council Member Shaff had a list of specific problems with the regulations that made him “not comfortable with approving these tonight.”  Council Member Castriotta stated that she did not receive one email from a citizen who supported passing the first reading of the regulations, adding, “I work for the people of Broomfield and I can’t approve them yet.”

Council Member Castriotta asked Attorney Matt Sura representing 301 Broomfield Health and Safety First if there was a need to rush the regulations due to upcoming operator permit applications.  Attorney Sura cited case law in City of Aspen v. Marshall that “a municipality may deny an application for a license or permit on the basis of a pending ordinance prohibiting the requested use.”  He stated that since the oil and gas regulations were already pending that any future permit applications would be subject to them, even if they were not passed on first reading on May 8.  Council Member Shelton disagreed, stating that waiting to strengthen the regulations could be a great risk.

At the Council Meeting, there were fourteen residents who spoke against passing the regulations on first reading without first strengthening them, while two Broomfield residents joined two industry representatives in expressing words of caution about even passing the regulations as currently proposed.  Cristy Woodward of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) warned Broomfield to be “mindful of legal challenges” as shown in the April 24 court rejection of the Thorton case.” (This was actually only a partial rejection.)  Broomfield resident Kristi Covalciuc responded that she was “disgusted that these [industry] people were allowed to threaten us,” reminding Council that the industry could not provide one study to show that oil and gas drilling near residential areas was safe.

David Nolan, MD testified during the regulation comment period that Dr. Larry Wolk of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) was “committing malpractice” in allowing the industry to continue operations when they gave no peer reviewed studies to support that living near fracking was safe while there were over 800 peer reviewed studies that provided evidence that it was not.  Elizabeth Ewaskowitz, Erie mother and biochemistry PhD, testified that a volatile organic compounds (VOC) blood level test on her son showed he is in the 85th percentile for benzene and two other cancer-causing chemicals.  She stated that even Dr. Wolk admitted that more studies needed to be done to prove that fracking was safe and that he should halt it just as the FDA would until it can be proven safe.  As Broomfield Resident Michael Hinton stated, “Until it is safe, there is no real profit in this.”  Broomfield resident Alison Jacobs asked, “What do additional regulations hurt if the industry wants to keep their people safe? Obviously it is all about the money.”

Wildgrass Oil and Gas Committee Chair Lizzie Lario stated that although Wildgrass residents had just received a lease offer described by their attorney as the best he had ever negotiated, the overwhelming majority of WOGc members voted to wait to sign any lease agreement.  Their reason was to wait until after the June COGCC hearings which Mayor Ahrens had stated was the earliest time of possible COGCC approval.  Lizzie cited “emergency preparedness or lack thereof, air quality, and the most recent risk analysis” as the reasons that Council should not allow the regulations to go forward.

Broomfield resident Laurie Anderson suggested that the Staff consider 301 Broomfield Health and Safety First’s recommendation that the City add a regulation to set up a nuisance hearing procedure for review of citizen complaints.  Broomfield resident Jean Lim suggested adding a regulation to require information about wells drilled outside of Broomfield and to require soil testing around abandoned wells, based on the concerns of Anthem Ranch and Wildgrass following the Extraction Berthoud mud spill.  She also requested that a regulation be added to support 301 Broomfield Health and Safety First’s recommendation to allow aggrieved citizens “standing to request a COGCC hearing,” borrowing the City’s right to request one.  All of these regulation proposals were mentioned as deserving Staff review by Council Members Erickson and Law-Evans along with Mayor Ahrens.

In comments made by Mayor Ahrens before the vote, he mentioned the need to regularly update the regulations as technology changes and more is learned.  This would include lessons learned from neighboring communities as they deal with oil and gas development issues.  He also brought up the emergency evacuation problem in Anthem Highlands and Anthem Ranch due to congestion, especially in Anthem Ranch which would have only one road to use.  He said that the City needed to look into the possibility of an emergency entrance to the Northwest Parkway or onto the dirt trails.

The video of the meeting is available here.