The Story of Oil and Gas in Longmont

November 6, 2012 – Longmont citizens vote by a 60% majority to prohibit fracking in city limits!

After working diligently to get a Charter Amendment prohibiting hydraulic fracturing on the November ballot, Longmont citizens voted it into law by a 60% majority. Threats of lawsuits from the oil and gas industry and the state loom.

September, 2012 – City argues against state’s right to sue

The City of Longmont counters lawsuit against their regulations, stating that the state does not have authority or standing to sue the city based on the regulations.

July 30, 2012 – State sues city over regulations

The State of Colorado via the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission sued the city of Longmont stating that the city’s new oil and gas regulations trespassed into areas meant to be governed by the state.

July 20, 2012 – Petitions qualify Charter Amendment for ballot

Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont delivers over 8,000 signatures to qualify the ban on fracking in city limits for the November Ballot.

June, 2012 – Charter Amendment prohibiting fracking proposed

A group of Longmont citizens forms Our Health, Our Future, Our Longmont and begins gathering signatures on a petition to put a Charter Amendment on the November Ballot to prohibit fracking in city limits, as well as the disposal wastes from fracking.

Article XVI. Longmont Public Health, Safety, and Wellness Act.

Full text of the adopted amendment:

16.1. – Purpose.
To protect property, property values, public health, safety and welfare, and the environment by prohibiting the use of hydraulic fracturing to extract oil, gas, or other hydrocarbons within the City of Longmont.

16.2. – Findings.
The people of Longmont hereby make the following findings with respect to the process of hydraulic fracturing within the City of Longmont:

  • The Colorado Constitution confers on all individuals in the state, including the citizens of Longmont, certain inalienable rights, including “the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness," Colo. Const. Art. II, Sec. 3;
  • The Colorado Oil and Gas Act requires oil and gas resources to be extracted in a “manner consistent with protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources," Colo. Rev. Stat. § 34-60-102;
  • The well stimulation process known as hydraulic fracturing is used to extract deposits of oil, gas, and other hydrocarbons through the underground injection of large quantities of water, gels, acids or gases; sands or other proppants; and chemical additives, many of which are known to be toxic;
  • The people of Longmont seek to protect themselves from the harms associated with hydraulic fracturing, including threats to public health and safety, property damage and diminished property values, poor air quality, destruction of landscape, and pollution of drinking and surface water;
  • The people of Longmont have determined that the best way to safeguard our inalienable rights provided under the Colorado Constitution, and to and ensure the “protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources" as provided under the Colorado Oil and Gas Act, is to prohibit hydraulic fracturing and the storage and disposal of its waste products within the City of Longmont.

16.3. – Policy.
It shall hereby be the policy of the City of Longmont that it is prohibited to use hydraulic fracturing to extract oil, gas, or other hydrocarbons within the City of Longmont.  In addition, within the City of Longmont, it is prohibited to store in open pits or dispose of solid or liquid wastes created in connection with the hydraulic fracturing process, including but not limited to flowback or produced wastewater and brine.

16.4. – Retroactive Application
In the event this measure is adopted by the voters, its provisions shall apply retroactively as of the date the measure was found to have qualified for placement on the ballot.

July 17, 2012 – City Council approves new regulations, a contract with TOP Operating to drill 11 multi-well sites, and shut down of the contaminated Rider Well.

Longmont City Council passes new Oil and Gas regulations 5-2. Bonnie Finley and Katie Witt voted against.

“The council also voted 6-1 to approve a contract with oil and gas company TOP Operating, and 7-0 to approve a related operating agreement. As proposed, the deal would allow 11 multi-well drilling sites on public land but also would hold TOP to several conditions, including mandatory water monitoring and a 750-foot separation between their wells and any occupied buildings. Closing is scheduled for 90 days after council approval.; the restrictions will apply to any TOP facilities inside Longmont.

As part of the 6-1 vote, the council also approved shutting down the Rider well. The well near Trail Ridge Middle School was part of the early impetus for tougher oil and gas rules, after it was shown that excessive benzene levels had been reported on the property.

In addition to buying the 36 acres of land, the city will pay $25,000 cash to shut down the well and $850,000 from future oil and gas royalties for the cost of drilling a new site east of County Line Road. Levison was the sole vote against the shutdown, saying the price was more than she could take. ” – Times Call article 7/17, Scott Rochat.

May 25th, 2012 – Regulations delayed

On April 17th, the City Council was unanimous in supporting their own regulations, where it was understood from the start, that it would bring a lawsuit to the city. Still, the City Council accepted that and continued to move forward with their direction to City Staff to continue with the regulations, based on the City Attorney’s advise that the regulations were defensible and Longmont had a high chance of success if the regulations courted a lawsuit.

Then, on May 8th, the first reading of the draft regulations, Longmont City Council voted to keep the regulations alive, 5-2, with Council Members Witt and Finley dissenting.

Two weeks later, on May 22nd, the second reading of the regulations and final vote, the regulations were expected to pass (they were their own regulations after all), Council Members Santos and Sammoury buckled under pressure from the oil and gas industry and their political circles.

Instead of passing the regulations, Council Member Sammoury motioned to extend the moratorium for an additional 45 days, claiming that City of Longmont needed to give the State and Industry a second, and final chance, to work with the City and give the City what the regulations would have provided. This induced an emergency ordinance, which passed 4-3, with Council Members Bagley and Levison, and Mayor Coombs, dissenting.

This ordinance needed to be of emergency type, so that on June 5th, the ordinance would have its 2nd reading presented to City Council for final vote, in order to avoid a gap in the current moratorium. Because it is of emergency type, the final vote will require 3/4, rather than majority, to pass. Therefore, it is expected that Council Members Witt and Finley will derail the moratorium extension as well as the draft regulations and leave Longmont’s future up to the State and the Industry.

To see the TimeCall coverage, click here.

To see the council’s information packet for the second reading of the regulations, click here.


May 2012 – City of Longmont Draft Oil and Gas Regulations

Longmont City Staff has released Version 2 of the draft Oil and Gas regulations.

Regrettably, several significant provisions have been removed that had offered some protection to the residents of Longmont:

  • Version 2 allows open disposal pits and waste injection wells in Longmont’s industrial zones!
  • The Drillers are no longer required to use green, non-toxic, fracking fluids.
  • Changes have been made to remove bad-actor provisions. This accommodates notorious TOP and other O&G Operators.
  • All changes favor the Oil & Gas Companies. None favor the citizens of Longmont.

Let’s continue to support the City Council to
DEFEND THE HEALTH AND SAFETY OF OUR CITY, SCHOOLS, RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOODS and PUBLIC AREAS


REFERENCES:

1. 2012-02-21 – Draft Regulations – Version 1
City Council Communication
Presented by: Longmont City Planning Staff and City Attorney
Includes:

  • Background and History
  • Summary Document from Joint Board Meeting 2/6/2012
  • Court Rulings regarding Oil and Gas
  • Public Comments
  • Draft Buffer Map (Red Zone Map)
  • Planning and Zoning Resolutions

2. 2012-04-17 – Draft Regulations – Version 2
City Council Communication
Presented by: Longmont City Planning Staff and City Attorney
Includes:

  • Executive Summary
  • Background and Issue Analysis
  • Schedule Update

3. Proposed Clarification of Draft Oil and Gas Regulations Version 2

  • Oil and Gas Waste Disposal Facilities
  • Residential Exclusion

4. Longmont Zoning Map – Revised 2011-11-20

5. Longmont Zoning Map Legend

6. Longmont Comprehensive Plan

7. Setback Buffer Maps for 350′, 500′, 750′ 1000′

8. Why Now?

9. NOAA Air Quality Study
Erie VOCs Ground Based Observations

Erie VOC Measurements from the Tower
: “Ridiculously High Levels of …”
Videos of presentations to the Town of Erie

  • Impacts of Oil and Gas on Boulder County Parks and Open Space
  • Potential Transportation Impacts from Oil and Gas Development
  • Potential Health Impacts that May Result from Oil and Gas
  • (County) Authority and Opportunities to Address Impacts of Oil and Gas

11. Additional information about the health impacts of oil and gas wells.
Health Impact Assessment for Battlement Mesa
Oswald_Bamberger_Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health
TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange
Air Emissions Near Fracking Sites May Pose Health Risk


February 6, 2012 – Citizen input at Civic Center

A Community Open House and a Joint Meeting between the Board of Environment Affairs, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Water Board were held at the Civic Center on Monday, February 6.  The two events were a big success for Longmont residents.

While the battle is far from over and the opposition to communities who seek to protect their health, safety, well-being and property values is ferocious, the battle has been joined.  The public has spoken resoundingly and the board members heard and in most cases shared the positions of the community on a number of issues involved in drilling oil and gas within Longmont’s city limits.

The “Oil and Gas Regulations Update" document released in advance of these events was weighted with communications from the Colorado Attorney General’s office and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) that sought to intimate and threaten communities who had attempted to wander beyond parameters endorsed by the oil and gas industry.

Although the two Longmont public events were meant to be highly structured, both events did not bow to clearly predetermined outcomes and conclusions.

The Community Open House featured several boards placed on easels in the Council Chambers lobby asking questions that allowed community members to prioritize their concerns.  The public was given orange dots to place by their highest concerns.  Strong uniformity was apparent by the time the “voting" was completed.

Click here to see all of the questions and sticker votes.

One option that was not offered was a total ban on drilling within Longmont.  There is an overriding, although unacceptable, provision in state legislation and case law that no community has that choice.  The State of Colorado has decided that industry exploitation of mineral rights takes precedence over all human needs if a choice between these interests has to be made.

If drilling is to occur, the public wanted setbacks well beyond what has been provided in regulations by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.  The public demanded closed-loop systems (no open pits for “produced water") and the use of “green fluids" for fracking.   Air and water monitoring, inspections, wide community notifications of all drilling applications, spills and accidents were also uniformly demanded.

Longmont ROAR established separate easels for dot placement on its highest priorities: an extension of the moratorium, 1000 foot setbacks and the use of closed loop systems.  The public endorsed these priorities.

At 7:00 PM the Joint Committee met.  It heard a lengthy presentation from Brien Schumacher, the city’s point person on the regulations and the “Local Government Designee" to the COGCC.  That presentation followed closely the material presented in the Update.  After the staff presentation, members of the boards sought answers to additional questions and clarifications of the material presented.

During Public Invited to be Heard approximately 15 to 20 people addressed the boards, reiterating their concerns and rejecting the limitations that the COGCC, and the courts, have established.

The board members understood and substantially accepted the community’s position.  Fourteen of the twenty-one board members were present and were electronically polled with questions and issues similar to those during the Community Open House.  Board member responses closely tracked community concerns and demands.

Most encouraging was the willingness of board members to “push the envelope" and risk legal action in pursuit of community protection.

During the final portion of the joint meeting, board members stepped up to an issue that staff had not offered – the extension of the oil and gas application moratorium.  One member asked the pointed question, “How far can we extend the moratorium without risking a legal challenge?"  City Attorney Eugene Mei cited a court case that upheld a 10-month moratorium.

With that information, a motion was made by the board to recommend to the Longmont City Council that the moratorium be extended a minimum of two additional months.  All but two of the members present supported that motion.

As we move forward with the next phase of this process, it is essential that the community continue to assert its requirements to the City Council.  Information, education, persistence and determination are the necessary ingredients to assure that the residents of Longmont are not only heard but that their demands are accepted.


February 3rd, 2012

Draft regulations were intended to be published on January 31, 2011. It was clear from the outset that a 120-day moratorium was inadequate for the amount of work that is required to craft regulations that would protect the health, safety, and well-being of citizens and residents. City staff is now making changes to its schedule in order to meet the arbitrary moratorium expiration on April 17, 2011.

At the January 24, 2011, city council meeting, City Manager Gordon Pedrow announced that instead of releasing draft regulations on January 31, “options" would be made available to council members, board members and the public.

January 31 came and went without “options." On February 2, the city released a document that was not the promised “options" (whatever those might have been), but a 60+ page document titled “City of Longmont Oil and Gas Regulations Update."

Mr. Pedrow indicates that the options, now known as “questions," will be delayed until a Public Open House on February 6, 2011, to be held in the lobby of the City Council Chambers between 4:30 and 6:30 PM. No one will have an opportunity to see these “questions" until that time. There will be no opportunity to reflect on their meaning or potential implications for the future of Longmont.

The city has created a highly controlled environment for the release of questions. It will establish parameters and attempt to squeeze the public into a narrow band of choices that reflect the choices that the city’s attorneys and staff believe are acceptable.

It is important that members of the community maintain their own integrity on this issue and insist that the city respond to their demands and requirements.

Following the Public Open House, at 7:00 PM in Council Chambers, a joint meeting of the Board of Environmental Affairs, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and the Water Board (The Super Committee) will be held.

Information will be presented by city staff to the Super Committee and questions will be taken from the Super Committee. At that point, the public will have an opportunity to be heard in the same manner as at council meetings, a 3-minute Public Invited to be Heard.

Following the Public Invited to be Heard segment members of the Super Committee will be electronically polled with “multiple choice" style preferences to pre-determined questions. These questions may or may not be the same as those given to the public.

Mr. Pedrow has indicated that the responses from the public and the Super Committee will be compiled and presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission on February 15. That meeting is held in the Council Chambers at 7:00 PM and also has a Public Invited to be Heard Segment.

On February 21, the results of all three events will be presented in a Study Session to the City Council in the form of Draft Regulations. At that point the council may address an extension of the moratorium, provide additional input as to what should be included in the Regulations Ordinance, or accept the draft regulations as presented.

Barring any extension of the moratorium, the First Reading of new regulations will occur on March 13 and the Second Reading and Public Hearing will be held on March 27, 2011. If the ordinance passes, it will become law in the City of Longmont effective 10 days later and applications for permits will be accepted beginning April 18, 2011.


January 25th, 2012

(INCLUDING IMPORTANT DATES WHERE PUBLIC INPUT IS IMPORTANT)

Longmont is located in the Wattenberg area of the Niobrara Gas and Oil Field. This oil field is perhaps the richest oil ‘play’ in the United States.  The value of the oil underneath Longmont is worth more to the oil and gas industry than the actual value of all of our homes, our land, and our buildings in the entire Longmont  tax roll.

The oil and gas industry wants to undermine Longmont to obtain their mineral wealth.  To do this, they will place multi-well, high traffic, noisy, hazardous, polluting, industrial drilling and fracking centers within our city at every location that is feasible. Under current regulations, up to 850 wells may be so located.  Each well involves the transport on our city streets of thousands of truck loads of poisoned water used in the fracking process that could occur and re-occur on a yearly basis. This heavy industry,  dispersed throughout the city, will completely alter the character of Longmont. It will harm us, our children, our health, our values, our environment, and our future.

This Story of Oil and Gas in Longmont is being told to awaken our community to the dire threat from drilling within an urban area. The story provides information about the current status of the local and state governmental laws and policies that should (but don’t)  have the power and resolve to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Longmont’s citizens. The saga will continue on this webpage as the story unfolds. Sadly, the conclusion of the story is that the people of Longmont will need to stand up in unison to succeed in changing the current momentum.

The City has been working with TOP Operating, to establish locations for 182 wells on City owned properties where TOP is the owner of the mineral lease, including around Union Reservoir and at Sandstone Ranch Park.  TOP also has plans for a consolidated pad next to Trail Ridge Middle School. The moratorium was imposed just-in-time to delay those plans. It is TOP’s publically stated desire to drill those sites before more stringent regulations are passed, and before Longmont citizens realize the huge impact drilling will have at those sites.

Towards that end, a few citizens in the community have spoken up at city council meetings and have spoken to council members. Residents in the community have been visited at their doors and have signed statements of support. Victimized neighbors who must endure centralized wells in their backyards are speaking out. Parents of children in public schools have discovered and disclosed that a well operating adjacent to Trail Ridge Middle School has a multi-year history of benzene leaks and contamination that have never been resolved or revealed to the public.  A community organization is beginning to take form. There is a groundswell of activity that has fortunately caused the City of Longmont declare a moratorium on accepting applications for permits to allow oil and gas drilling on city property. A 6-month moratorium was sought. Six months might provide sufficient time to develop regulations that could protect the community. Evolving laws and regulations at the federal, state, and local level might materialize during a six month moratorium period.

On December 20, 2011 the Longmont City Council instructed staff to bring forward a 120-day (4-month) moratorium ordinance.  That ordinance was passed into law on January 24th and is effective through April 17, 2012.

Securing a moratorium was no small feat.  It took persistence on the part of members of the community and leadership from Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs.  Some city council members appear to have had second thoughts.  When the ordinance came to city council on First Reading on January 10th, Council Member Katie Witt suggested that a “gentlemen’s agreement" with the industry would be a better approach than a moratorium.

On Second Reading this past Tuesday, January 23, 2012 the City Manager advised the council that the timeline proposed in order to meet the April 17 moratorium deadline would require modification.  The original plan intended to have draft regulations available to council, certain city boards, and the public on January 31.  Because of the complexities of writing local regulations; of the legal issues of legislation, case law, and state regulations; and of the advisability of assessing and conferring with other governments in Colorado who have updated or are in the process of updating regulations, Longmont’s draft regulations will not be available on January 31.  Instead, a presentation of “options" will be offered.

This alteration to the process and timeline inspired a discussion amongst council members with input from staff and the public about the advisability of extending the moratorium as part of the final passage of the moratorium ordinance.  The discussion was tense.  One council member, Gabe Santos, warned that no moratorium would likely be passed if an extension was included.

IMPORTANT DATES:

On January 31 the regulation “options" will be posted to the city’s webpage (http://www.ci.longmont.co.us/pwwu/oil_gas/index.htm}.  LongmontROAR will also post the information.

City Council Community Open House
February 6
Lobby of City Council Chambers/Civic Center Complex
350 Kimbark Street, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
City staff will be on hand to discuss and request public input regarding the update process at an open house.

On February 6, the Board of Environmental Affairs, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and the Water Board will meet at 7:00 PM in the Council Chambers for voting on the options. UPDATE: There will be a public invited to be heard segment to the meeting.

PLEASE READ THIS LINK TO THE PACKET FOR THE MEETING, IT CONTAINS IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR THE BOARDS AND FOR THE COMMUNITY

Below are the dates, times and places for regular meetings of the three boards who will make recommendations to the city council.  All of them have a Public Invited to be Heard segment at the beginning of the meeting. You are encouraged to attend one of these meetings and voice your opinions both on the proposed regulations and on the issue of banning drilling and fracking entirely on city property.  Many determined voices are needed in order to shape the city’s policies on a subject so critical to our joint future.

Parks and Recreation Advisory Board
2nd Monday of the Month:  Next meeting February 13, 7:00 PM
7 South Sunset Street
Longmont, CO

Water Board
3rd Monday of the Month:  Next meeting February 13, 3:00 PM
1100 South Sherman Street
Longmont, CO

Board of Environmental Affairs
3rd Wednesday of the Month:  Next meeting February 15, 3:30 PM
1100 South Sherman Street
Longmont, CO

City Council meets every Tuesday at 7:00 PM in the Council Chambers at 350 Kimbark.  However, there will be no meeting on February 7, 2012.  It is important to make your voice heard early in this process.  By the time the actual changes and additions to Longmont’s Municipal Code a presented to the council as an ordinance, your opportunity will have been drastically diminished.

Drilling and fracking within Longmont is the most critical issue that has faced the city in years.  What happens now will determine the character of our city in the future.  Your voice and your action are essential.