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 | mark@unitedway-weld.org 
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: DNR_FloodInfo@state.co.us 
  • 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: http://goo.gl/maps/148wr

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)