Extraction Memo Objects to Oil and Gas Update Committee Draft Recommendations: What About Evidence of Previous COGCC Uncertainty with Setbacks?

In an 8/3 memo to the Oil and Gas Update Committee and City officials regarding the Oil and Gas Update Committee Draft Recommendations, Chandler Newhall of Extraction Oil and Gas detailed “a number of concerns as to the technical and economic feasibility, and legality of the recommendations as currently written.”  He referred to the “in‐depth technical knowledge” at the COGCC as the reason that “oil and gas in the State of Colorado is regulated at the state level.”  In most of his objections to specific regulations that followed, he referred to the “doctrine of operational preemption that has been upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court on numerous occasions.”  However, in contrast to what the memo presented as solid COGCC regulations, there was evidence of previous COGCC uncertainty with setback regulations.

The memo listed the following headings for the objections to the Draft Recommendations that were “the most concerning:”

Recommendation 3: Setbacks

Recommendation 15: Disclosure of Hazardous Materials

Recommendation 21: Air Quality

Recommendation 28: Water Quality

Recommendation 33: Noise Mitigation

Recommendation 34: Flowlines/Pipelines

Recommendation 37: Soil and Gas Monitoring

Recommendation 46: Plugged & Abandoned

 

All of the objections are listed in detail in the memo.  The setback objections are listed first and highlights include:

“Recommendation 3: Setbacks

The Committee recommends that “oil and gas… be required to be setback 1, 320 feet from existing or platted residential areas, parks, playgrounds or sports fields and water bodies at highline, and that new construction must be setback 1,320 feet from an existing wellbore.”

“· Current draft setback recommendations would make our proposed project unfeasible and invalidate our existing MOU, violating the company’s vested rights.

All modeling and air sampling conducted by the Task Force has conclusively demonstrated no or negligible impacts to neighbors beyond the pad boundary. The findings of the recent CDPHE health study published on February 21 underscore that there are no measureable health impacts beyond 500 feet of an oil and gas operation.

The COGCC specifically regulates setbacks for oil and gas wells and production facilities. The COGCC minimum setback, subject to limited exceptions, is 500 feet. The Committee’s Recommendation is invalid under the operational preemption doctrine.”

 

However, regarding the COGCC’s setback regulation of only 500 feet, there was evidence that there has never been regulatory certainty about the current 500-foot setbacks.  In the Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force Final Report from February 27, 2015, it referred to significant unresolved issues regarding the setbacks in regard to multi-well pads.  Regarding a discussion between the Task Force and the human health and public safety panel, the document stated,

Task Force:  “Is there enough information to make a recommendation of setbacks? If there is not enough information, what does the panel need and when do you think you will you have the information?

O The panel could not recommend a specific setback number, but panelist did mention that the issue is around intensity [number of wells], frequency, and the reach of the emissions.” (p.112 in the document or 113/142 in the PDF)

This meant that the setback at the time was not based on public health and safety data but arbitrarily set.

 

The document also referred to prior meeting discussions where someone:

“Appreciate[d] focus on production facilities and the impact on communities, but still want[ed] to discuss setbacks with multi-well sites and implementing the ‘far away as possible’ rule.  Setbacks are a primary public health and mitigation in certain areas.” (p. 110 in the document or 111/142 in the PDF)

In fact, before the publication of the Final Report, there was a proposal to “factor in Scale, Proximity and Intensity [number of wells] of oil and gas locations” in setting “Oil and Gas Facility Setbacks”  (p. 24/91 in the PDF).   That proposal was such that even a “building unit (rural)” would have had to be setback 1000 feet from a 13-plus well pad.  Also prior to the publication of the Final Report, a 1/31/15 Denver Business Journal article indicated there was Task Force consideration of “Increasing Colorado’s 500-foot setback between wells and buildings to 1,500 feet or 2,000 feet from a home, with the measurement starting at the surrounding outdoor area that’s used, such as a yard, track, or playground.”

 

The Broomfield Oil and Gas Update Committee is finally the group that is ready to challenge oil and gas development issues that were swept under the rug.  For the sake of the health and safety of Broomfield residents, many hope that City Council is ready to follow suit.