Operator Refuses to Modify Plans for Flowback During Respiratory Pandemic

Broomfield Residents, Including Thousands of Seniors, Face Additional Respiratory Burden from Flowback Stage

Author: J. Dulles, Broomfield Concerned

According to a city document published late Friday evening March 20, Extraction Oil and Gas has declined to make modifications or changes to its upcoming completions phase — and specifically to the flowback stage of operations at the Livingston Pad — despite concerns raised by hundreds of residents and shared by members of city council. The letter states that the city has received citizen inquiries expressing health concerns and notes that many of these letters were “heartbreaking.” To date, more than 350 residents have signed a petition asking the city to take action.

It is anticipated that the flowback stage will begin around or just after April 1 — a date that coincides with public health projections for coronavirus cases in Colorado to potentially soar and for first responders, medical personnel, and hospitals to be overwhelmed in response. To date, the City and County of Broomfield has publicly announced that there is one individual who has tested positive for Covid-19, and this person is a 60-year-old living in one of the neighborhoods adjacent to the Livingston Pad, Anthem Highlands.

Health officials and the Governor have stated that for each individual testing positive, there are many others untested or carrying the virus asymptomatically. An inability to conduct broad-based testing has left state, county, and city officials without a meaningful real-time measure of Covid-19’s spread and infection levels in Colorado communities. 

Flowback has already occurred at Extraction operations on the Interchange B pad and air quality monitoring showed increased emissions.  These increases occurred in a “closed loop system.”  In addition, an emissions data study conducted by Colorado State University (CU) and which served as a precursor to a larger statewide CDPHE study, showed the highest emissions and VOCs occur during the flowback stage of operations. According to the study, “21 experiments were conducted from 2013- 2015 and emission rates of 48 VOCs reported by activity type. The highest emissions of methane and most VOCs (e.g., benzene, toluene, ethane) were observed during flowback activities. Study data and findings were made available to the public in 2016.”

Here are a few excerpts from the city document:

  1. Residents expressed their concerns that Extraction is expected to enter into the flowback process at the Livingston Pad around April 1…”
  2. “Additionally, many of the comments suggested that with the COVID cases increasing in Colorado, the expected presence of additional contaminants in the air resulting from the completion of the Livingston Pad wells may further compromise the ability of those with underlying health issues to fight the COVID…”
  3. “The City Council has strongly advocated for legal or other methods to cause Extraction to suspend the completion phase of the wells on the Livingston Pad in response to the concerns added by the coronavirus. We did reach out on Wednesday of this week and requested that Extraction suspend their operations during the emergency, but they have declined to do so…”
  4. “In turn, COGCC has communicated with Extraction over the last few days to discuss our concerns. Unfortunately, these conversations have not caused Extraction to postpone the flowback process on the site..”
  5. “At this time, the City Council with the full resources of the City and County of Broomfield, and with the assistance of outside Counsel will pursue all viable methods to protect the public health and safety, as they are identified…”

Please read the entire letter to understand the mitigation attempts that the city has stated will be made for the flowback stage.

To our editorial team’s eye, there are no actions being taken that will reduce or stop the emissions and VOCs; only plans to monitor the pad, be on-site and measure the air quality. Lacking the willingness to take action and stop the activity, or to shut down all activity immediately upon the release of any emission or VOC load, these measures seem woefully inadequate.

Please take the time this weekend to write, a second time, to express your concerns about flowback happening during a respiratory pandemic. 

Email: council@broomfieldcitycouncil.org 

In addition to writing an email, please also take the time to add your name to the petition being circulated.

We will continue to report on this matter as any new information becomes available.