Saturday, December 14, 2013

Greeley Planners Recommend Capture of 98% VOCs!

With hundreds of oil and gas wells inside our city, we all, at one time or another, get to inhale harmful VOC's that escape from them. (You can only see them with an infrared camera as in this illustration).
Our city council needs to hear that we want those well sites to be as safe and harmless as possible. 
One critically important recommendation from Greeley city planners is to require installing 98% emissions containment equipment on every pad.

 If you have not spoken out at a city council meeting before, it is imperative to do so now! We all must! We owe it to the children in Greeley who are especially  vulnerable to those toxins escaping from oil and gas installations!

Please join Weld Air and Water and others at the next City Council meeting,

Tuesday, December 17, 6:30 pm at 919 7th Street.

To see all recommendations scroll down to page 30 after clicking the link below.

Review Oil and Gas Local Land Use Regulations

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Their Story is Your Story

"Their story is your story; even if you don't realize it yet"  

Compelling words for a compelling situation; namely that of the infiltration of Oil and Gas drilling by means of fracturing (fracking) within communities, close to your own backyards, and in some cases even in it against your wishes if you own the land but not the mineral rights! How fair is that?

Says farmer Rod Brueske in the trailer: 
"Our democracy is contaminated."

Watch, and read about the "Dear Governor Hickenlooper" campaign, started by residents in Patagonia, Colorado, and help raise awareness for their film project! 

"Does our system of self-government allow Americans to protect themselves from an industrial threat when the state and federal governments will not? Our short (12-15 minute) film explores this question through the lens of Longmont, Colorado. We are making the film to help a nonpartisan political campaign called “Dear Governor Hickenlooper.” 
The campaign, launching in May 2014, is designed to pressure Colorado's governor to restrict or ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of gas wells across Colorado. The question we’re considering—whether Americans can control their destiny at home—cuts across political, economic, social and ethnic boundaries. 
In 2012 citizens of the small city of Longmont voted to ban tracking inside city limits. The state of Colorado, asserting that Longmont had overstepped its authority, sued the city to overturn the fracking ban. If the state wins, then fracking will continue to expand rapidly across Colorado and America. If the city wins, communities will have a potent legal tool with which to draw a “keep out” sign for industry.  
Since the lawsuit was filed, several other Colorado communities voted to ban fracking, temporarily or permanently, in November 2013. These citizens, believing the government has let them down, are taking matters into their own hands to protect their air, water and health. The Longmont tracking ban vote precipitated a showdown with oil and gas interests—a legal battle years in the making. Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission v. City of Longmont is a legal test case. 
It will determine whether citizens can use the Constitution to defend themselves against industrial practices they believe to be dangerous to them, their children, and their land. It reaches beyond Colorado and beyond fracking to Americans’ deepest sense of self-determination. Our intent is to produce a short film that does the same thing."
 Source: The Powers Not Delegated

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How With Stealth the Well is Won!

Residents who do not own their mineral rights, but who will be directly affected by the drilling near their homes, are kept in the dark for a long time after the first steps to drill have been taken by the stake holders. Take a look at how this process of planning a well site (and getting it approved with minimal interference from residents) works! In Greeley's 2020 Comprehensive Plan it states:
"Advise residents of rezoning and development applications in areas close to their homes and encourage citizen participation in the public review process to express support or concern for a given project in an informed and constructive manner. Encourage developers to work with area residents early in the development of a land use proposal to identify concerns, incorporate suggestions, and provide accurate information on the scope of an intended land use request." ~ LU2.18 Page 191

In the case of the (Fox Run) Sheep Draw Directional Drilling Project, that did not happen!  The location for the 'proposed well head' was staked out and photographed on February 17, 2012. The 2A application was filed with COGCC four days later, on February 21st.  So, when do you think the Fox Run residents were notified? A full year later!

[A similar situation happened with the Kelly Farm permit to put 12 additional wells with 20 condensate tanks near Northridge H.S. A lease was signed on July 21, 2011 between the Kelly Farm Home Owner Association and Waltel Minerals, LLC . That's almost two years before people in the vicinity were notified! Read more here: Kelly Farm]

Says resident Karen Janata:
"On February 26, 2013, I received the letter from Greeley City planner, Brandon Gossard, attached in an email from our Home Owners Association. It was the first I had heard of this!"

The letter stated that the city,

"received a formal application from Mineral Resources, Inc. for approval of a Use By Special Review to allow up to twenty-three Oil & Gas wells on a property located north of 13th Street between 59th and 65th Avenues..Due to the nature of the surrounding area, a neighborhood meeting has been scheduled prior to the scheduling of a public hearing with Planning Commission.
This neighborhood meeting will be planned on Thursday, February 28th at 6:00 pm at the Family Fun Plex...No formal decisions about the project are made by the City of Greeley at the neighborhood meeting....Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to consider the request".
Karen says: "As you can see, we received the notification 2 days prior to this meeting. It was held at the FunPlex in a small room where there was standing room only. Mineral Resources had colored, professional, diagrams of "how beautiful" the area would look with trees/fences etc. We were assured that the fracking would be state of the art and no health risks.

Several people brought up their concerns but of course, Mineral Resources either said they didn't have the necessary statistics or gave vague answers. [City Planners] Brad Mueller and Brandon Gossard were there to represent Greeley and answer questions. I remember one young mom leaving the meeting at the end and crying.

Bob Winkler [see: Frack Files on Facebook] told me at the time that this would be a major impact on us all. Many asked why we were never notified of this meeting -- only through the Home Owners Association. Brandon said they only had to notify homeowners within 350 feet. He then took all of our email addresses.

I received an email stating there would be a planning commission with public hearing on March 12 at 1:15 pm. We had just about 2 weeks to gather information and learn more about this industrial site. Several neighbors started to go door-to-door to get people involved and to attend this hearing. However, with only 2 weeks and having the meeting in the afternoon of a work-day, we only had about 30 people at the meeting.

Also at this time, ..[a neighbor] had contacted Matt Sura, a lawyer to ask for assistance. By a slim margin, the planning commission agreed to postpone their final decision on this project for 2 weeks. Mineral Resources was asked to meet with residents to address their concerns. Matt Sura also began meeting with Mineral Resources to get the site moved to behind King Soopers [on west 10th street], where there are wells already. I myself began researching more and more about the process, accumulating all of the data on spills for a 60 day period.

The Planning Commission approved the Fox Run/Sheep Draw project on March 12 despite the many, many pages of documentation sent to them, and despite all the comments of those who attended. It was agreed upon by Fox Run residents to appeal this decision to the City Council and our appeal was delivered and paid for ($200.00).

Of note: Even though drilling companies are required to adhere to specific setbacks, waivers can be given by nearby property owners. In the Fox Run case one such party even agreed to a setback of only 40 ft to her property line instead of the required 150 (signed May, 2011) See all 15 under: Waiver Exhibit.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

To Sign or Not to Sign a Mineral Lease.

If you are a homeowner who received a letter from 
Mineral Resources with the request to lease your mineral rights for their next horizontal drilling and fracking project, you may want to read what attorney Matt Sura has to share on the subject. 

As a service to the community, Weld Air and Water hosted a presentation by Sura who on Saturday gave an overview of the dangers of fracking near homes and schools, and explained what options people have. Here some key points. You can download two fact sheets by clicking here.
Forced pooling is often threatened by landmen to persuade reluctant mineral owners to lease their minerals. But the threat of forced pooling should not be used to pressure a mineral owner to hastily sign a lease. Forced pooling is only used as a last resort for operators who have already acquired leases to the vast majority of acreage they are planning to develop. In 2010, the COGCC received 62 forced pooling applications. Operators want to avoid the additional time and expense of going through the COGCC process to force pool a mineral owner.  
..Once the drilling unit has been established, an affected mineral owner, who has not leased his minerals, has four different options: He can choose to sell his minerals, lease his minerals, consent to voluntarily pool his mineral interest with the others and participate (financially) in the drilling operation, or be a “non-consenting” owner and be “force pooled”
If the COGCC issues a force pooling order, there are four consequences for the non-consenting owner; 
1) oil and gas operations in that drilling unit are allowed to proceed, 
2) the mineral owner will get a 1/8 (12.5%) royalty payment, 
3) the other 7/8 of the mineral interest payments are withheld to pay-off the costs of the well (plus penalties), 
4) if the mineral owner owns 100% of the minerals under a parcel of land, the operator will not be able to locate the well or facilities on that parcel.

Note that, "Mineral owners who are forced pooled will still receive a 12.5% royalty interest", but the total amount will likely be less than if a lease was negotiated and signed voluntarily. That is because royalties will not be paid until costs have been recouped and by then the production of the well may have declined. But, if (like me and many others) you find the practice of drilling and fracking inside a city reprehensible, this option is the only moral one. Signing the lease is really condoning the practice.

Note also that as the mineral right owner (and you do want to lease) you (especially when joining with many of your neighbors) can request mitigations that will help reduce pollution, noise etc. which is not only beneficial for the people directly affected by the drilling process, but for our whole community! If you want to know more about how to negotiate your lease, please contact Weld Air and Water.

With enough interest, a follow-up meeting with Matt Sura will be planned, so also let your neighbors know about this opportunity! 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Four Colorado Cities Ban Fracking!

Voters in Broomfield, Colorado, narrowly approved a five-year moratorium on fracking in their suburban community, after a recount by county officials found the measure had passed by 17 votes out of 20,683 cast. ..Because of the close results, a mandatory recount likely will occur.

[Read latest: Recount is delayed indefinitely:]

Four Colorado Home Rule Municipalities, (Ft. Collins, Boulder, Lafayette and Broomfield) used their Colorado Constitutional powers under Art. XX, Sec. 6, to reject hydraulic fracturing.

Governor Hickenlooper, the COGA and the COGCC must now motion to the state court in Boulder County for "joinder" of Ft. Collins, Boulder, Lafayette and Broomfield as co-defendants with Longmont in the lawsuit over COGCC "PREEMPTION". Should Hickenlooper not motion for joinder, then Longmont could motion for dismissal under the 14th Amendment Clause of "Equal Protection Under The Laws".

To single out Longmont and not sue the other four municipalities, would be "discriminatory against Longmont and unconstitutional". We are methodically moving forward to obtain competent legal counsel to represent We the People of Colorado in Federal District Court in Denver to challenge the constitutionality of the COGCC.

 Please sign and share this petition: (Click on the title)
"The COLORADO OIL & GAS ASSOCIATION (COGA) (a private trade organization) has sued the City of Longmont, Colorado (a home rule city) and its citizens for exercising their constitutionally authorized powers to halt fracking inside their City Limits. Governor Hickenlooper has threatened to sue any other Colorado city or town who dares to follow Longmont. Governor Hickenlooper is guilty of the acts and omissions of "Constitutional Torts" and must be made to answer to We the People of Colorado, (the Sovereign), in Federal District Court in Denver."
Carl L. Mc Williams
Lead Representative Plaintiff
 A Federal Class Action "Under Construction"

 Informative videos:
Broomfield Mothers Take On Colorado Oil & Gas  (2:16 min.)
Oil & Gas drilling in Garfield County (6:32 min.)
The New Shale Rush - USA (19:38 min.) 
Celebrities ask Gov. Hickenlooper to ban fracking (0:30 min.) 

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Column the Greeley Tribune Refused to Publish

Here is the submission to the Greeley Tribune by Rachel Gilbert. It was refused on grounds that it was too long for a letter. But, when Rachel let editor, Randy Bangert, know she would like to submit it as a column, he was not willing to concede, saying they are bombarded with election letters and have a hard time getting them all in.

"Feel free to send it to others. And of course you don’t need my permission to do that anyway. Thank you, -- Randy Bangert"

"Last March 12, I attended a City Planning Commission hearing regarding the permitting of 22 hydraulic fractured wells just north of the Fox Run neighborhood. Throughout the hearing, residents of the Fox Run neighborhood expressed their concerns about the appropriateness of the wells so near their neighborhood, while the oil and gas producer attempted to quell their anxieties with promises of dirt berms and shrubbery.

As I remember, the aesthetic properties of several species of shrubbery were discussed, as was the noise pollution associated with a 24/7 drilling project. However, it was the topographical map of the development that caught my eye. I noted the elevation of the site, and how the wells would be located in the Cache La Poudre watershed.

 I then asked the commission: where were the objective third-party assessments for 100-year or even 20-year flood risk? Neither side had addressed this aspect; as though the possibility of a catastrophic flood in our arid climate was too remote to consider. My concern was ignored, and the motion to drill these wells was unanimously approved by Greeley City Council on May 7, 2013.

Four months later, the rains came. Colorado saw the worst floods since 1976. Tisha Schuller,  COGA President and CEO, misled the public, saying there were absolutely no leakages from oil and gas wells during the flood.

Eyewitness accounts, including my own, observed a different reality. Some wells were leaning or bobbing like huge, insane corks in the moving water. Were they leaking crude oil? Or maybe toxic produced water? It was a chilling sight, and I dreaded the news to come.

Now, receding waters have allowed experts to comprehensively assess the damage. Two weeks ago, state officials discovered a fifteenth well that had spilled into the South Platte River during the floods. This discovery brings the total estimated amount of oil and gas spilled into the Platte to approximately 43,000 gallons.

These highly toxic and flammable gallons of spilled oil may seem like “small potatoes” to some, but they degrade much slower than the biohazards caused by human waste. In addition to the leaked oil, experts estimate that over 26,000 gallons of “produced water” also spilled into the Platte (COGA). This wastewater is the product of the hydraulic fracturing drilling process, and may be much more hazardous than the spilled oil.

Though “produced water” sounds harmless, it contains not only residuals of oil and gas, but many toxic chemicals. Benzene and ethyl-benzene are known to mutate human DNA; they are especially harmful to unborn babies because they can cause birth defects when absorbed into the mother’s bloodstream. Benzene is a known carcinogen in humans; it can cause lymphoma and other blood cancers. Ethyl-benzene, xylene, and toluene are toxic to human blood, kidneys, liver, and the central nervous system.

If the presence of these chemicals is not alarming enough, produced water often contains arsenic, chromium, boron, barium, and other heavy metals that are hazardous when ingested. While farmers are justly concerned about possible contamination from leaked sewage, these metals do not break down naturally like human waste does.

 Since its inception as Union Colony, Greeley’s farsightedness with regard to water has been one of very careful stewardship. We have set ourselves apart in defining prior appropriation laws, and our municipal wastewater processing plant has state-of-the-art technology. Greeley has water resources that other Front Range communities openly covet. Water is our legacy, and we are poisoning that legacy by allowing oil and gas wells where they clearly do not belong."

Here an impression of who Tisha Schuller is. Comments taken from her blog,  Red Tie, Green Heels.

"..As our personal story unraveled, a public one of oil and gas safety evolved as well, spurred on by unrelenting fractivists delighted by the opportunity to create a national story out of half-truths and straight up lies. Despite rumors of everything from massive toxic waste spills (never happened) to tens of thousands of lost wells (that didn't happen either), Colorado's oil and gas industry proved itself extraordinarily prepared, able to respond in real time, and deeply committed to Colorado’s recovery now, and for the long haul. 
The vast majority of sites had no spills. Six hundred sites were safely put back online within a few days, leaving 1,300 wells shut in. And spill volumes were tiny when put in context: Hundreds of billions of gallons of rainwater 220 million gallons of raw and partially treated sewage 45,000 gallons of oil and gas. 
I still find myself wondering why fractivists were so eager for a massive environmental disaster when so many families were and are still experiencing real tragedies." 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Greeley Tribune on oil spilled: 'Small Potatoes'

From the Greeley Tribune which in its print edition headline dared call the spills "Small Potatoes". That is their choice of words. When you read the article you will find that no official ever said the spills are  'insignificant' either, or else Dunn could have, should have quoted them.
"While the new estimate of oil released from flood-damaged tanks has grown to almost 35,000 gallons, officials believe it really is just a minute part of a much bigger problem. Floodwaters quickly became a toxic soup of wastewater, raw sewage, industrial and household chemicals, agricultural waste and chemicals rushing downstream.  
Oil and gas releases, officials said, have been so small it’s almost immaterial. “There were likely hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated or partially treated sewage, and that is the larger public health concern,” said Mark Salley, spokesman for the state Department of Public Health and Environment..."
But, at least the "hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated or partially treated sewage.." are biodegradable. Not so much the oil, and remember that 1 gallon of oil contaminates 1000 gallons of water. So, 35,000 gallons of oil has the potential of polluting 35,000,000 gallons. That is significant!

Gary Wockner, Colorado Director of Clean Water Action shared this:
"The more we know, the worse it gets, and it's not over yet. The State of Colorado needs to continue inspecting and reporting, and then testing water and soil for contamination. The industry needs to clean it up and be held accountable. Afterwards, the State needs to initiate new rules for drilling and fracking near rivers and in floodplains to avert this kind of disaster in the future." -- Gary Wockner, Clean Water Action

Who could argue with that, since spills keep occurring even when the weather is not to blame. The Greeley Tribune regularly shares spill reports. Read a recent one here.


Monday, September 23, 2013

And the Spills Continue

From the Greeley Tribune's Oil and Gas Spill Report
To tell by their opinion poll, many readers skip reading the spill reports! See illustration! Click here to leave your vote!

NOTE: One barrel of oil is 42 gallons (I added the conversion to gallons in red and added emphases)

Sept. 12, Kerr-McGee Oil and Gas Onshore LP reported that on Aug. 29, a gasket on a truck failed while an oil hauler was being loaded northeast of Fort Lupton. About 1.6 barrels of oil (672 gallons) were released; none were recovered. The driver shut the pumps down and released the pressure. A bucket was placed to catch leaking oil. Contaminated soil will be excavated. Soil sample tests will determine further remediation efforts. The cause of the spill was determined to be equipment failure.

Sept. 13, Bonanza Creek Energy Operating Company LLC reported that on Sep. 3, a tank equalizing valve was shut between two oil tanks east of Evans. This prevented oil from running over to the second tank as the first filled. About 100 barrels of oil (4200 gallons) were released, and 97 recovered with a vacuum truck. The equalizer valve was opened. The tank battery will be dismantled and soil tested. The cause of the spill was determined to be human error.

Sept. 13, Kerr-McGee Oil and Gas Onshore LP reported that on Sept. 4, an operator who was draining water from the oil tank to the water tank south of Platteville left the site without closing the drain valve. The water tank overflowed, releasing about 22 barrels of oil (924 gallons), none of which were recovered. Groundwater was impacted. Some contaminated water was disposed of, and MicroBlaze was applied to what remained. A new battery will be constructed with a geosynthetic liner. The cause of the spill was determined to be human error.

Sept. 13, Kerr-McGee Oil and Gas Onshore LP reported that on Sept. 6, an operator discovered oil staining on the ground during a daily site inspection southwest of Johnstown. The poly pipe came apart on the oil dumpline. It is unknown how much oil was released, and none has been recovered. Groundwater was impacted. Impacted soil was excavated. Ten gallons of MicroBlaze was applied to the water, and groundwater monitoring wells will be installed to determine the extent of the contamination. The cause of the spill was determined to be equipment failure.

Sept. 13, Encana Oil and Gas (USA) reported that on Sept. 6, a seal failed on a discharge line. The crew nearby shut off the mud drilling flow quickly. The spill area was scraped and the remaining drilling mud was removed using a vacuum truck. No further remediation is required. The cause of the spill was determined to be equipment failure.

Sept. 17, Bill Barrett Corporation reported that on Sept. 6, a hose from a mud pit to a pumping unit failed, causing a release of about five barrels of drilling mud, all of which were recovered. Soil samples will be collected, and if they are compliant with allowable levels of contaminates, no further remediation will be required. The cause of the spill was determined to be equipment failure.

Sept. 17, Noble Energy Inc. reported that on Sept. 11, about two barrels of water (84 gallons) released from a filling frac tank during line blow down process northeast of Eaton. One barrel was recovered. The area will be excavated and soil samples collected. The cause of the spill was determined to be equipment failure.

Anadarko Donation for Weld Less Than Half a Penny of Profits

Featured prominently in a piece by Cliff Willmeng on EcoWatch this morning: 
"Anadarko, a multinational petroleum corporation with annual revenue of more than $14 billion and the owner of some of the first major official spills into the South Platte River, volunteered $300,000 toward flood relief efforts." 
Their donation, very likely in part meant to help assuage their guilt in the spill, made me think of the following press release by the United-Way of Weld, Greeley chapter which proudly proclaimed:

Anadarko Headquarters, Texas
Greeley, CO – Anadarko Petroleum Corporation made a commitment to the communities of Weld County by contributing $300,000 to the Weld County Flood Relief Fund...With this contribution, the fund has grown to more than $450,000 in less than one week since inception. 
Donations are coming in from all across the country, with nearly two hundred individuals, in addition to a few considerate companies who have local ties. In addition to Anadarko, a few companies have stepped up to create corporate match programs as incentive for employees to donate to either the Community Foundation or United Way of Weld County. 

 The Greeley Tribune printed the release almost verbatim. Find the full version here. But, what I immediately wondered, was why the other company donors were not mentioned by name? Why should Anadarko be so prominently featured? 

I asked that question: 
 Dear Mr. Tucker,  
It offends me to read the following in your press release. 
 In addition to Anadarko, a few companies have stepped up to create corporate match programs as incentive for employees to donate to either the Community Foundation or United Way of Weld County
Why not also give proper credit to those other companies, by naming them? 

 His reply came back just 13 minutes later:
I'm sorry you're offended. We felt it was appropriate to focus on Anadarko because of the significance of the contribution. JBS and Bank of Choice have also committed to help through matching, but they have both been mentioned on separate releases.
Thank you for your concern and please let me know if you have any questions. 
Mark Tucker, Director, Marketing & Community Development, United Way of Weld County 970.304.6176 | 
So it is the significance of the contribution that matters! Certainly it is a nice gesture that provides the community with much needed aid, but when seen as a percentage of their yearly profits; 100 million dollars last year, their donation is only 0.3 of one percent of that. 

Put differently, that is like having $3.00 and donating just one penny! Compare that to a hundred dollar donation from a resident who only has $1200 in 'profit' or savings to freely spend in a year. His or her donation is 8%, or 8 cents of one dollar. 
If we really want to compare it to Anadarko's gift we need to put it in the right perspective of  the three dollar example. That would show the contrast of a whopping  24 cents compared with their measly penny! 

But, it turns out that Anadarko and the United-Way have been connected for many years, so perhaps that's the reason that they get so much praise for their donation. Last year Anadarko donated 2 million dollars to the United Way, but half of that came from its employees; the company matched their donation dollar for dollar.

EcoWatch: Colorado Flooding Triggers More Oil and Gas Spills

Thursday, September 19, 2013

South Platte Oil Spill Near Milliken

MILLIKEN —Oil and gas releases from 10 different sites in flooded areas of Colorado are being tracked by state and federal regulations. Two of the releases were "significant" and the remaining eight are being classified as minor, according to an update from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Minor spills are considered sheens coming off of a piece of equipment rather than a measurable volume of petroleum product. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. reported two releases Wednesday: a release of 125 barrels — about 5,225 gallons — into the South Platte near Milliken and a release of 323 barrels — about 13,500 gallons — from a tank farm on the St. Vrain River near Firestone.

Read more: Denver Post - State Now Tracking 10 Oil and Gas Spills in Flood Zone

Also view this picture gallery provided by the Denver Post.

Colorado floods cause oil and gas spills

A typical gas well, positioned too closely to the river, and homes

According to a study in Colorado that sampled air quality over the course of three years, people living within a half-mile of an oil or gas well were exposed to a number of toxic chemicals including benzene, a known carcinogen. VOC levels measured five times the safety limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
"For children, the potential cancer risk is a serious consideration. They are more sensitive, exposed at younger ages and for longer periods of time," said Lisa McKenzie, lead researcher on the study at the Colorado School of Public Health.
 See: Gas Wells Poisoning Children's Air 

Confirmed 5,250 Gallon Oil Spill in South Platte River

A Greeley member of Weld Air and Water was asked by the EPA District 6 Response Team to send photos of toppled tanks along with photos of  their corresponding well placards for identification purposes. He shares,

"I've been doing my best. Today an operator from Wise Interventions Services [an oil field services provider] yelled at me to get off of private property. I told him he may own mineral rights but the surface rights are owned by the farmer across the way. After that, four guys along with him blocked the placard. I asked, "If there is nothing wrong, why can't I photograph the placard?" They all started yelling, and approaching me. I thought it was time to leave as I was alone in a farm field and didn't want to be tilled under."

This spill can pollute up to 5,250,000 gallons of water, but......

Governor Hickenlooper said late Thursday there is a lot of water to dilute pollutants, including oil, in the South Platte.

 "When you look at the amount of water flowing through that river, it will process these pollutants very, very rapidly," 

Source: Colorado Flooding Triggers Oil Spills, Shutdowns 

MILLIKEN — Industry crews have placed absorbent booms in the South Platte River south of Milliken where at least 5,250 gallons of crude oil has spilled from two tank batteries into the flood-swollen river. The spill from a damaged tank was reported to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Wednesday afternoon by Anadarko Petroleum, as is required by state law.

Too late for floating booms; most oil went downstream!

State officials have responded to the spill site, which is south of Milliken near where the St. Vrain River flows into the South Platte. The flood that began late last week toppled dozens of oil and gas storage tanks and swamped other production facilities at sites in the flood plain. Earlier this week, oil drums, some empty, some full, could be seen floating in the river as far east as Kersey.

"This is the first specific incident where we have a clear indication of the problem," state natural resources spokesman Todd Hartman said. State authorities don't know when this spill happened, Hartman said. Weld County authorities on Saturday said at least one oil and gas industry pipeline had broken and was leaking into the South Platte. County officials did not provide a precise location for the broken pipeline. They said at least two other pipelines were compromised as they sagged in flood-saturated soils. Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action said in a statement Wednesday night that the spill "exemplifies the danger" of drilling and fracking in floodplains." ~ Denver Post: 5,250 gallons of oil spills into South Platte River

Watch a segment about the Colorado flood, and the oil spill on the Rachel Maddow show.

See photos of the spill by EcoFlight  

Monday, September 16, 2013

COGCC Asks to Report Damaged or Floating Tanks

"The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is setting up a clearinghouse to log the status of every well and operation, said Matt Lepore, the commission's executive director". ~ Denver Post,  Colorado and Industry working to assess damage in flooded oil fields

Marc Morton, the Local Government Liaison for Western Colorado of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission sent this email to liaisons in affected areas:
We are sending this e-mail to County and Municipal LGDs/local governments in areas affected by the recent flooding event in northeast Colorado that may be experiencing, or have observed potential environmental issues at oil and gas well sites or associated oil and gas facilities.

Please note that Oil and Gas operators and COGCC staff are already on the ground assessing impacts, but we welcome input from local governments and other sources (the general public, the media, or other organizations). Basically. we are seeking your input to inform us at COGCC of any specific incidents or observations at oil or gas facilities that you may be aware of, and believe may warrant inspection by COGCC staff and or Oil and Gas operators due to environmental concerns.

Please Report Oil and Gas Well/Facility Issues Related to Flooding. Send an email to: 
  • Your Name and Phone Number 
  • Location of the Concern (e.g nearest crossroads, section, township, range). 
  • Describe your concern (tanks, wells, pipelines, etc.). 
  • If you have pictures, please attach them to your email.
  • This e-mail address will be frequently monitored for new submittals.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

There's Something in the Water!

Fact: Just one gallon of oil can contaminate a million gallons of water!

"If the drinking water is contaminated, many health risks can result: ...a component of gasoline, benzene, is known to be a carcinogen.." (Louisiana Dept. of Environmental Quality)
Polluted water is a serious risk, and the fact that hundreds of oil and gas wells in Weld County are situated in the flooded areas, and may be leaking oil and chemicals, adds to the danger. See a list of various contaminants that can mix with surface water during a flood.
"A spokesman for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said the agency is aware of the potential for contamination from flooded drilling sites, but there simply is no way to get to those sites while flooding is ongoing and while resources are concentrated on saving lives. (Boulder Daily Camera)

Here a sampling by Weld Air and Water members and others, of the many hundreds of oil and gas wells in the flooded areas. Though some were taken by the Greeley Tribune and Denver Post, nothing was mentioned about the hazards that oil and chemicals in these tanks pose to the people who rely on these rivers for their drinking water, or who will consume food grown in fields previously flooded!

A photo by Andy Cross shows what looks like oil floating on the water.

A toppled oil condensate tank in Evans. (Greeley Tribune)

Outside of Kersey (Greeley Tribune)

Cache la Poudre river (Bob Winkler)

Near South Platte river, Evans (Carl Erickson)

Cache la Poudre (Paula Powell)

Conflux of S. Platte and Big Thompson, 54th St.Rd. (Laurie Lareau)

Tank tipping over. (Laurie Lareau)

Water is receding. (Laurie Lareau)

 More tanks in the water in the same area. (Laurie Lareau)

Along the South Platte river.(kathywoztompkins-Facebook)

O&G employee: "Line break; gas has been blowing for 2 days. N.E. of Kersey"

Inundated drill rig east of U.S. 85 near Evans. Note the oil slick on the left.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fight over Synergy drill site expansion in Greeley continues

From the Greeley Tribune, September 5, 2013

By Analisa Romero

The Greeley City Council approved the expansion of a Synergy Resources Inc. well site near Northridge High School late Tuesday, but opponents of the expansion say the fight isn’t over. In some respects, they may have made headway. Two Greeley City Council members voted against the expansion of the drill site on Tuesday, signaling a slight shift from the council’s historically unified stance that the city can’t interfere with an oil and gas company’s access to its mineral rights.

The city council upheld the Greeley Planning Commission’s decision to allow Synergy to add three wells and several dozen more water and oil tanks on the 12.5-acre site near 4th Street and 66th Avenue. Because the council was hearing an appeal of the planning commission’s decision, the council upheld that decision based on whether the planning commission followed proper procedures in its own approval process.

Council members, including Mike Finn, said they would like to continue the dialogue brought up during the appeal regarding the city’s development codes related to oil and gas. In the meantime, the Sierra Club, a national environmental group with an office in Boulder, is urging Gov. John Hickenlooper to halt the Synergy expansion permit at the state level.

In coordination with Weld Air and Water, a group with members who appealed the Synergy expansion at the city council hearing on Tuesday, the Sierra Club sent a letter to Hickenlooper in the hopes that the state will stop “rubber stamping” permits for large oil and gas operations. Lauren Swain, chairwoman of the newly created Beyond Oil & Gas Team for the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter, said the Sierra Club would like the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to reassess its setback rules, which she said are still inadequate.

 “I think there’s a bigger principle at play here,” she said of the fight to stop the Synergy expansion. Craig Rasmuson, vice president of operations and production at Synergy, said his company has worked closely with the COGCC on some recommended conditions of approval to be good neighbors and to ensure public health while the company is drilling. 

Synergy will monitor air quality every month, conduct baseline water samples near Sheep Draw before and after drilling, put up a 30-foot sound barrier, reduce dust with a hi-tech vacuum, and ensure all new equipment on site is automated, which helps to reduce human error. Rasmuson said he is finalizing the wording of that agreement now, and that Synergy expects a permit from the COGCC within the week. 

He said Synergy didn’t have to agree to any of those conditions but went above and beyond what was required. “I truly feel like we have done our part, and I feel like (COGCC) Director (Matt) Lepore would communicate that to the governor’s office,” Rasmuson said. 

Sara Barwinski, a member of Weld Air and Water who spearheaded the appeal of the Synergy drill site expansion, said she, too, hopes to change how oil and gas permits are handled even if the Synergy site expansion goes through. She said she wants to see the city include conditions of approval for well sites that don’t interfere with state regulations, a concern that city council members cite as a reason not to regulate oil and gas beyond what the state has in place. In 1992, Greeley lost a Colorado Supreme Court case when the city tried to ban drilling. 

Barwinski said she was encouraged by the two dissenting voices on the city council — members Donna Sapienza and Sandi Elder — who voted against the expansion. Elder said she was not bothered by similar drilling activities that went on at the Aims Community College campus and near her home, and trusts that Synergy will go above and beyond state regulations to ensure public health and safety, but she said she wasn’t comfortable with the amount of equipment permitted for the site. Sapienza said the proximity of a high school, the Sheep Draw Trail and a subdivision to the drill site concerned her.

Greeley featured on Fox 31News

Greeley residents go to city hall to fight proposed fracking operation 

GREELEY, Colo. — Residents in Greeley got together to fight what they say is a large fracking operation that wants to set up operations in their neighborhood. Sara Barwinski moved back to Colorado a few years ago. “We love living here,” she said. “We’ve had hawks, eagles, you name it.”

In that time some things in her neighborhood haven’t changed, and then there are the things that are about to. “There would be 32 tanks to support it. That’s how much volume those tanks present. That’s an industrial complex in the middle of the neighborhood,” Barwinski said.

In 2008 Synergy Corporation opened a fracking operation with six small tanks and minor impact on the neighborhood. But now the company wants to build a much larger operation requiring the approval of the Greeley City Council. Neighbors’ biggest concern is that the project is just 400 feet from Northridge High School. Left with few alternatives, Tuesday night Barwinski and an army of neighbors took their case to city hall begging the city of Greeley to stop the project.

All neighbors voiced the same worries – that they have too little information about the potential environmental impact, not to mention the public health concerns. “That school track is 411 feet from the wellheads and we don’t know what emissions come out of these.”

The central issue the city council must decide is whether the project is an industrial one that is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. Synergy corporation argues that the project is not heavy industrial and that they have gone above and beyond to satisfy neighbors’ concerns.

Monday, September 2, 2013

“No-one wants oil and gas wells near schools”

On Tuesday evening, September 3, fifteen Greeley residents along with Weld Air and Water will appeal to the city council to deny the placement of more wells near Northridge High School and the Sheep Draw, and encourage Mayor Norton to take the time needed to consider the role the city wants to play in future oil and gas development. 
"A premature decision to move forward on this application would saddle the community with inappropriate heavy industry in a sensitive area for decades to come. We hope the City will postpone a decision on this application to allow it to evaluate its options relative to the development of this and future large oil and gas complexes within the City."  

 Appellants met with two of Governor Hickenlooper's senior policy staff about the proposal which would add 12 horizontal wells and require 25 oil condensate tanks and 17 separators.

Alan Salazar and Doug Young both agreed that “no-one wants oil and gas wells near schools” and they stated that, 

"The City of Greeley has not been active enough in discouraging placement of wells near residential areas or using MOUs to place additional conditions on development within Greeley." 

The public hearing is this evening, Tuesday, September 3, at 6:30 p.m. at the City Council Chambers 919 7th Street. 


See location of the well pad:

See what the site looks like from the trail, here.

 MoU - Memorandum Of Understanding is a document describing a bilateral or multilateral agreement between two or more parties. It expresses a convergence of will between the parties, indicating an intended common line of action. It is often used in cases where parties either do not imply a legal commitment or in situations where the parties cannot create a legally enforceable agreement. It is a more formal alternative to a gentlemen's agreement. (wikipedia)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Greeley must protect quality of life for residents

By Therese Gilbert

I seldom see the Rockies clearly from Greeley anymore. My sisters, during their visit two weeks ago, noticed this as well. Having grown up in Colorado and now living out of state, they look forward to seeing that beautiful and familiar vista to the west. What accounts for this gray-brown haze on blue-sky days? We can’t possibly match the traffic level of metro Denver, so what could be contributing to this poor air quality?

Within the last 10 years, there has been an accelerated rate of oil and gas development in Weld County. While the industry has brought in some revenue and created jobs, the cumulative effect of this drilling on our air quality is now becoming apparent. We currently have over 20,000 active wells in Weld County, and new additional drilling projects, already permitted by the state, will soon close the “donut hole” within city limits.

Drilling within the center of Greeley has been last for obvious reasons; the risks of such development are simply not compatible with the quality of life that most residents consider acceptable. Since March of this year, over 181 wells were permitted to drill, many within 500 feet of schools.

Behind Frontier Academy and Walmart 67 wells are planned.
The red dot is where the drill rig will be placed; the dots and
yellow stripes at the bottom are storage tanks and separators.

 The process of hydraulic fracturing involves adding over 600 chemicals to 2-10 million gallons of clean water and sand per well, and the mixture is injected with great force to open up rock fissures underground that allow natural gas to escape and be captured on the surface. The gas is collected in the large, cylindrical, beige colored tanks that blotch our landscape.

If unsightliness were the worst feature of these tanks, we might have reason to complain, but little to worry us. However, what we don’t see is the problem. Toxic gases such as benzene, ethylbenzene, xylene, ethane, toluene, and others leak from these condensate tanks, some of which cause cancer and respiratory illnesses. The highest industry standard allows for 2% of the gases to escape, but it is estimated that many leak more than 5%.

Now, imagine the cumulative effect of over 20,000 wells leaking 5% of their toxic gases! Most emissions escape during the initial drilling process, and according to one study, those living within half a mile of natural gas wells are at the highest risk for exposure. (2012 Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado – McKenzie, Witter, Newman, Adgate)

 A recent study has found that oil & gas production in Weld County contributes 55% of the VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that cause ozone pollution in the northern Colorado region, and for the past 2 years the air in Weld County has been out of compliance with federal standards for ground level ozone. (2013 Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences – Gilman, et al)

As residents of Weld County and Greeley, we are surrounded with the consequences of this heavy industrialization every day. The latest project by Synergy Corporation proposes to add 12 horizontal wells and 25 condensate tanks to a site within 450 feet of the track at Northridge High School where students exercise. Is this responsible development?

Should we be risking the health of those who must live so close to this drilling? We were given this beautiful planet to call our home, and we must be responsible stewards of this gift. A healthy environment is a safe home; let us be careful in making choices that might forever damage the precious air we breathe. I urge our city council to make decisions that not only protect the rights of mineral owners, but protect the quality of life for those of us living and breathing on the surface.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Greeley Ignores Criteria For Proper Planning

In the past seven months the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) issued permits for 181 oil and gas wells to be drilled and fracked in Greeley, but according to criteria in the city's 2020 Comprehensive Plan  the city council should deny them!

Take a look!

Land Use (LU4.3) Disallow high impact agricultural and heavy industrial land uses that generate obnoxious influences, such as noise, fumes, or hazards. ~ Page 197
From Source Watch Colorado and Fracking: A study conducted over three years by the Colorado School of Public Health concluded that fracking can contribute to “acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites”... "The study found those living within a half-mile of a natural gas drilling site faced greater health risks than those who live farther away." Researchers located “potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene.” See: Health Effects
Environment (EN3.B) Disallow the establishment of any new businesses or industry which will create offensive outdoor odors. ~ Page 114

EN5.10 C) Carefully balance economic benefits from mining activities with the social cost related to the altered environment.~ Page 120

EN3 Air Quality - In order to protect and promote a healthy, pleasant, and economically viable community, the quality of the air must be improved to minimize offensive odors and have a minimum of pollutants. ~ Page 113

 EN3.2 Maintain full compliance with federal air quality standards and reduce stationary and mobile source emissions of pollutants with special emphasis placed upon efforts to reduce pollutants which cause adverse health effects and impair visibility.
From and article in the Denver PostOil and gas emissions now are the main source of volatile organic compounds in Colorado and the third-largest source of nitrogen oxides, at a time when a nine-county area around metro Denver is already failing to meet federal clean-air standards, state data show...State air monitoring has found that oil and gas sources currently emit at least 463 tons a day of smog-forming VOCs and 149 tons a day of nitrogen oxides — much of it in the ozone-prone Front Range corridor. Read more: Oil and gas air pollution
 EN3.5 Incorporate air quality objectives into the land use planning and development process by encouraging land use patterns which reduce travel and air emissions.

A) Evaluate all zoning and land use development requests for their impact on air quality. ~ Page 115

EN5.11 Maintain minimum setback and site design standards from oil and gas wells and tank batteries which protect the public’s interest through attention to safety and compatibility issues relative to adjacent properties.

EN6.7 Work with the Division of Wildlife on development in proximity to natural areas to assure sensitivity in the siting and design of urban features in key wildlife and related habitat areas. ~ Page 121

EN1.4 Consider wildlife movement corridors in the siting and development of urban uses to assure that native species are able to access habitats without human interference. ~ Page 111

EN8 View Shed and Important Corridors - In order to improve the area quality of life, enjoyment of community, and appreciation of natural resources, the City should promote the development of the community in such a way as to protect key view sheds and travel corridors and reflect in the built environment a sensitivity to the areas of environmental significance. ~ Page 123

EN8.1 Develop a list of important corridors and areas which carry environmental significance and/or visual appeal related to its natural features and establish special design treatments along such areas. Evaluate the following areas for inclusion on such a list:

A) Bluff area along northern edge of community;
B) Sheep Draw;
C) Ashcroft Draw;
D) Confluence of the Cache la Poudre & South Platte rivers;
E) “O” Street corridor;
F) Cache la Poudre River corridor; and,
G) U.S. Highway 34 corridor

EN8.3 Protect open lands in strategic areas within and around the community in order to provide visual relief from the urban landscape, preserve important vistas, and/or retain separation from other communities. ~Page 124

A) recognize the value in retaining agricultural crop land in acknowledgment of the community’s heritage and the opportunity for this land use to meet this strategy as long as Right-to-Farm protections are provided.

LU2.19 Residential development should be the primary land use adjacent to elementary, middle and high schools. Discourage zoning or development of property which diminishes residential population in an area which is supported by a neighborhood school, or which poses safety impacts to children.

LU4.2 In new site development residential uses should not be allowed adjacent to medium or high intensity industrial uses and zones to prevent unnecessary conflicts between such uses and to promote the expansion of industrial sites without undue hardship of needing to address mitigation or buffering treatments and impacts to residential and other low-impact uses. ~ Page 197

Thursday, August 15, 2013

French Film Crew in Greeley in Search of Fracking

"Would you want to meet with a french film crew, and help show them around? They want to do a film on fracking in Weld." 

That was the message I found in my inbox yesterday. "Heck, yes! Of course I wanted to show them around! Let's get word and video out to the world beyond our city limits, and borders, of how dreadful the oil & gas installation infestation has become here! When was the last time we had a clear view of the mountains?

Unfortunately I forgot to take along my photo camera, and cannot show that I and two others actually did meet the crew. It was six o'clock when they finally arrived at the Kress theater where we'd been waiting for almost an hour. It turns out they'd been wandering around up north, near Grover!

After introductions I asked Herve and Pierre, "Did you see a lot of gas wells and oil tanks on the way here?" "Yes", Herve said, "but we want to see fracking" . "But that all is fracking!" I told them, but it turns out they wanted to see the actual process where the water goes in or comes back out. They were looking for a site with lots of trucks and compressors.

"No such thing going on around here for the moment," I told them. "Your best bet is to find active sites along U.S. 85". And so, after having spent just 10 minutes in our well infested city, they left again.

We thought they had wanted to see the various gas well sites near houses and water, but they were not interested in the effects after drilling and fracking is completed, and that it is the emissions from the installations that pose the largest and most immediate danger to people's health.

Near Riverside Park, Evans

Granted, a field filled with trucks and compressors looks more impressive and obnoxious than the tanks and separators neatly painted in sand color to blend into the surroundings, but it is precisely these that are dangerous and noxious, and remain so! The fracking process is bad and poses real hazards, but let's not forget that after fracking, residents will still be inhaling noxious fumes!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Residents Against More Wells Near School And Houses

Weld Air and Water joined 15 Greeley residents in filing an appeal this week to stop increased drilling within a high residential neighborhood, adjacent to Northridge High school, and on a ridge that slopes into the Sheep Draw waterway and wetlands. The proposal would add a twelve-well horizontal “fracking” operation on a site which already has six vertical wells.

The application by Synergy Resources Corporation was approved by the Planning Commission on July 23rd and has been scheduled for a public hearing before Greeley City Council on September 3rd. If approved, the application would allow for 25 condensate oil and gas tanks, 7 water tanks for flow-back water, and 17 separators; in addition to equipment (flares) to reduce the volatile organic compounds emitted.

What the site may look like during the drilling and fracking process.

Neighborhood resident, Sara Barwinski explains,
 “What really concerns us is the massive increase of heavy industrialization on the site. This size of industrial complex is simply not appropriate next to a school and near homes. We are not calling for a ban on existing operations—we are just asking for balance, and for the city to apply their own criteria that requires new applications to be compatible with surrounding land uses.” 
Therese Gilbert with Weld Air and Water (WAW) agrees.
“Weld Air and Water became involved because we want to help Greeley understand the options they have to restore sanity in planning around oil and gas decisions. City Council members and City Staff have stated that because Greeley lost the effort to ban oil and gas drilling back in 1992 that they have “no choice” but to approve any and all requests to drill. This simply is not true.” 
 The appeal by neighbors and Weld Air and Water outlines legal arguments and suggests that Greeley adopt regulatory approaches that are commonly used by other local governments throughout Colorado. According to Gilbert,
  “Greeley needs to strike a better balance between the goals of the oil and gas industry and the health, safety and welfare of Greeley residents.” 
 The group believes there are hopeful signs that Greeley residents and leaders are seeing a need for more balanced decision-making.

Weld Air and Water is encouraged that the City Council passed a petition on July 16 to take a closer look at the impacts of these fuel storage tanks in neighborhoods and whether there should be restrictions in the number allowed.
“We don’t think the City should move forward with this application until that analysis has occurred,” Barwinski stated.
Susan Rutherford is one of the nearest neighbors to the site. Last spring her entire neighborhood woke to a loud, shrill noise at 3:00 in the morning.
“I finally was able to figure out that it was coming from the oil and gas site because I could see a smoky cloud and the air smelled like a hot furnace,” Rutherford stated.
She called 911 and the whole operation was soon shut down. She was informed by the operator that the problem was a faulty gas pressure release valve. Rutherford believed the problem should have been caught by more frequent inspections.
“There had been periodic unexplained noises going on all day long before it finally reached that critical point. ..How can anyone believe that approving that kind of danger is protecting our health and safety?” 
Residents are also upset that the city has ignored the impacts that enlarging this industrial complex would have on the Sheep Draw trail and wetlands, which has been home to bald eagles, horned owls, hawks and other wildlife.

Patricia Gonzalez, a neighbor in the immediate vicinity explains,
“We have already seen great impacts on wildlife caused from the existing wells. The day after the 3:00 am “wake-up call” incident, a pair of hawks abandoned their nest. I am also very concerned about the odors that have increased and the fact that I see less and less wildlife when I walk the trail.. 
This is an area that is considered of “high” ecological significance. It is zoned as a conservation district and is considered part of the Cache la Poudre River corridor. City code states: development should be rejected unless it would have ‘little or no impact’ on this area. An accidental spill will flow down-hill into this vulnerable watershed contaminating it.”  
Rutherford adds,
 “Greeley and our concerned citizens are spending dollars and manpower to connect this beautiful part of the Sheep Draw to the Poudre River Trail in 2014—why wouldn’t we want to protect this investment?” 
WAW’s Gilbert is a teacher and shares a further concern,
“The track and field of Northridge High School is just over 400 feet from the well-heads, so our kids will be deeply inhaling the fumes when they exercise. I am also worried about the lack of security at this unmanned facility.” 
Synergy had an uncontrolled release in Mead last month that required an emergency response at 2:00 a.m. Synergy stated that it suspects that it was caused by teens tampering with equipment. This and other similar incidents around the country have persuaded Weld Air and Water to put forward a number of recommendations for conditions that should be attached to the permit, should the City Council decide to approve it

Gilbert continued,
  “The 24/7 drilling, increased truck traffic, odors, dust and toxic emissions are clearly not ‘compatible’ with a neighborhood.” 
She pointed to the fact the City Council rejected a coffee-shop in a neighborhood last month because citizens’ voiced concerns about possible increased traffic and noise from the commercial facility.
 “Our city government needs to understand that they have both the authority and the obligation to regulate the impacts of this heavy industry whose impacts are far worse than the impacts of a coffee shop.” 
The appeal argues that the site fails all of the City’s criteria for appropriate development and is not consistent with Greeley’s Comprehensive Plan for the future. Barwinski stated,
“If it was any other industry besides oil and gas they wouldn’t think twice about rejecting it. We want them to take the time to think through their legal options and their responsibility to Greeley citizens before making a decision that will impact us for decades to come.” 

Large tank batteries have come under greater scrutiny because of a serious explosion at a natural gas drill site on July 7 in West Virginia—two people died and five others were injured. The accident is under federal and state investigation. The company that operates the drill site, Antero Resources, claims in its report issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, that the cause of the blast was a buildup of gas in tanks used to store flow back water from the process of preparing the well for natural gas production.

The flow back process occurs during high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing—in which millions of gallons of water and chemicals are pumped deep underground to release natural gas from shale rock. According to the West Virginia Gazette, Antero said the accident was due to “the presence of an accumulation of gas from storage tanks on location.” The company also blamed “a concentration of heavier than methane hydrocarbons in the gas mixture” and “an apparent ignition source near” near the operation. 

The Chemical Safety Board (CSB), a federal agency, is encouraging local and state governments to take steps to protect young people from dangerous tank batteries related with oil and gas development. On October 31, 2009, two teenagers, aged 16 and 18, were killed when a storage tank containing natural gas condensate exploded at gas production site in Carnes, Mississippi. Six months later a group of youths were exploring a similar tank site in Weleetka, Oklahoma, when an explosion and fire fatally injured one individual. Two weeks later, a 25-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman were on top of an oil tank in New London, Texas, when the tank exploded, killing the woman and seriously injuring the man.

 The CSB deployed investigators to all three sites to collect information on the incidents. They concluded: “The introduction of an ignition source (such as a match, lighter, cigarette, or static electricity) near tank hatches or vents can trigger an internal tank explosion, often launching the tank into the air and killing or injuring people nearby, the CSB found in its October 2011 study of the problem. The study identified a total of 26 incidents since 1983 that killed 44 members of the public and injured 25 others all under the age of 25.

The CSB’s safety recommendations urged states, standards organizations, and trade associations, to take action to protect members of the public – particularly children and young adults – from these hazards.” For more information and a video on the risks to teens see Oil Site Safety. Synergy has stated that it believes that teen vandalism may have caused one of its gas wells near Mead to vent natural gas at 2:00am at a rate that sounded like “a giant over-sized air compressor” according to a neighbor. Source: Greeley Tribune in Brief, SHERIFF’S OFFICE INVESTIGATES POSSIBLE TAMPERING AT MEAD-AREA GAS WELL, Greeley Tribune July 27, 2013.