Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Commissioner Kirkmeyer: We Need More Injection Wells in Weld

During my own testimony to the COGCC I wondered where the woman on the commission was. "Where is your voice of reason? A woman on your commission, or several, might change this whole thing here." 

In retrospect I was naive to think that women commissioners would make much of a difference in permitting wells near homes and schools. There are many women in the oil and gas industry. Tischa Schuller is one. She is president of their trade group, COGA. She has no qualms about drilling inside city limits, nor does Barb Kirkmeyer, the one woman on our Weld County Commission, who hoped to become the next U.S. Representative for our area. 

In her campaign she claimed to be a "proud and consistent supporter of the Personhood movement, unambiguously defending life from conception." But, apparently she does not give the quality of life of children after they are born in an area inundated with oil and gas drilling much thought!

Barb Kirkmeyer and fellow Weld commissioners happily holding the big bucks check.

And Sarah McQuiddy, president of Greeley's Chamber of Commerce believes,
“It’s safe, affordable, reliable and clean, ...Weld County really is the epicenter for a new generation of energy development, as well as abundant benefits that bring the local community much support in an economic-development way.” 
Of course, she also praised our school district's strategic plan that eliminated play from kindergarten and subjected these kids to 90 minutes of mind numbing scripted literacy lessons each day!

But, I was especially taken aback by a mom with three young children going into Centennial Park Library where a friend was circulating the petition for initiative 88. I asked the woman if she wanted to sign the ballot initiative for greater setbacks from homes and schools and she said no.

"You think it is OK for children to be subjected to the hazards?" I asked and she said: "Yes, because my husband works in oil and gas." And so it is that there are also women without compassion or concerns for the well-being of children, even their own!

But to paint a picture of Weld commissioner Barb Kirkmeyer, below an account by Frontier Parent Trisha Golding who attended the lunch for the COGCC, catered by Dickey's barbecue pit.


First listen to this woman's testimony. She came all the way from Aurora to address the commission. The transcript of her comments are below, but you should really hear her speak! It's only 47 seconds.

"Five years ago Oklahoma had two earthquakes, last year they experienced a hundred, this year there were over two hundred. The petroleum institute in Oklahoma has no idea what might be causing these earthquakes. Not a clue! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that injecting millions of gallons of contaminated water into the earth is going to have a dire consequence, and now Greeley will be receiving Aurora's flowback water...To approve these exemptions would be foolhardy and would put more Greeley residents at risk, and I would suggest "Enough is enough!"

Enough is not enough for Barb Kirkmeyer. She wants more injection wells in Weld county! 

Here's what was discussed during the break.

"A few of us stayed for the lunch session. It was very interesting. The County Staff and COGCC Commissioners chatted for a long time about injection wells. Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer stated that Weld County needs more injection wells and COGCC is taking too long to complete the permitting process. 
COGCC stated there are 39 injection wells with permits in queue for the state, of those 20 are disposal class II injection wells...8 of those wells are in Weld County, 5 of the 8 have yet to be drilled and are waiting for EPA. The other 3 are in the drilling process. 
Kirkmeyer inquired if Weld County were to hire a person and lend him to the state to work on the injection well permits, would the state be able to expedite the backlog of permits at COGCC and start getting the permit time down? COGCC said they would be willing to look into this with Weld County. 
COGCC stated that Aurora is looking into bringing their wastewater to Weld also. Kirkmeyer stated again that more wells are needed. She said that overflow of wastewater is being trucked to WY and that it would be better to avoid them being on the roads. 
Another Weld County Commissioner asked (I’m sorry, I am unsure of who), if COGCC does permitting for storage of temporary waste. Lepore responded that he felt the city would be able to regulate that some. The weld county commission said that waste is being temporary stored in the easements of their well site in trucks and it seemed like there should be a violation assessed for unpermitted storage. 
He said operators are even storing the trucks of waste in other locations not suitable or permitted, but that it is less cost for them than setting up a commercial storage area. It was agreed that this was something to look further into and seek legal counsel."

The Rocky (Mountain) Horror Show Coming to a Home or School near You

Sara Barwinski shared this picture with me that her husband Dan took of the Northridge fracking operation 360 feet from their back yard. She reported that Synergy had completed the fracking process before schedule (it could have taken as long as 10-14 days)  "and all is quiet at last!"

She did an excellent job testifying before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Monday (July 28th), urging the commissioners to deny the placement of 19 wells near Frontier Academy. 

Listen to her testimony here.

If the link does not take you there, you can find it at 1:15:47 on the audio.

In an earlier email to me Sara wrote:
"I'm listening to the beep-beep-beeps as I type this in addition to the constant rumble and frequent banging. ..for me the worst is after dark--during the day you can't see the evidence of what they are spewing--but the first time I saw the cloud over the site at night with the lights illuminating it, I was stunned. I've seen it every night--but some nights are worse--I think it depends on where they are in the process (they are doing 4 wells one after another) and what the weather, wind, etc. conditions are as to how visible it is. Some of it might be steam, but you know it's got stuff in it."

I had tried to get a good photo and video myself, but it was too windy and the wind drowned out the noise from the site, which was audible to me but not always to the microphone on my camera.
Here are my captures. 

View from the Sheep Draw trail of the sound wall around the site.
You can see the fumes being blown away.

As I stood downwind in the parking lot of Northridge's stadium, about one tenth of a mile away, to capture the sound on video, I caught whiffs of petroleum fumes.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Truly Good Neighbors Look Out for Greeley's Liveable Future

Greeley Tribune guest column by Sara Barwinski:

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a good neighbor. The Tribune has suggested (“Compromise offers best bet on drilling”) that Mineral Resources has been “neighborly” when they submitted a new application to move their proposed 19 wells and 20 oil tanks a few hundred feet further away from the Frontier Elementary School playground.

Imagine 20 of these near the school! 
The editorial further suggested that Frontier parents were not being “neighborly” because they did not passively and gratefully accept this supposed solution. But Mineral Resources never bothered to first listen to the parent’s concerns when they moved forward with their plan to frack in the heart of Greeley-Evans. They never took the step to inform all parents and have a public forum to receive input and address issues. [remember too that the initial plan called for 67 wells with 32 oil tanks, and 30 separators!]

Instead, they tried to make the problem disappear and generate some positive “good neighbor” public-relations. I’m not sure that many people think that a neighbor who generates 24/7 noise, creates emissions, increases truck traffic, and stores flammable materials in tanks in the middle of a community is a good neighbor. No other industry is allowed to infringe on a community in this way. Special privileges were granted to the oil and gas industry in the days of vertical drilling in order to allow access to minerals.

However, with horizontal drilling, minerals can now be accessed from drill sites up to two miles away. Operators can choose locations that are truly “neighborly” and that are more appropriate for heavy industry. Yes, the wells would now be 1,000 feet from the playground — but the well blow-out in Windsor last year had an impact area of 1,500 feet and took 30 hours to contain. Is it any wonder parents aren’t satisfied?

In addition to the proximity issue, a problem with the intensity of the site remains. Twenty oil tanks? There have been a number of tank fires in the past four months — do we really think we should be making evacuation plans for kindergarteners? When I think of whom I want for a neighbor, I think of someone who looks out not just for themselves but also for their community.

I have heard the Frontier Parent Group voice concerns beyond protecting their kids. They objected to the operator’s decision to simply move the site back because they knew this meant pushing it closer to apartments and to about 500 feet from the Walmart where many people shop. I’ve heard them voice concerns about what the truck traffic will mean for this part of town, especially in light of recent accidents, spills and fatalities. I’ve heard them express concerns about Synergy’s plan to frack behind Centerplace, (behind Kohl’s and new restaurants), and what that means for this growing commercial area and the 1,500 residents of nearby homes and apartments — many of whom live less than 500 feet away.

 I’ve heard them express concern for friends, neighbors and family members who are torn about this issue because of economic considerations. I’ve heard some who have strong ties to oil and gas and fear speaking out, express gratitude to the courageous parents who do so without demonizing others. I’ve heard them express concern about the direction Greeley is headed, knowing some residents have given up and moved away. I‘ve seen them work to find a better way to have responsible oil and gas development and still maintain a livable, healthy community.

They should not be criticized for taking a positive stand for Greeley’s future — they are some of our finest neighbors.

Sara Barwinski is a retired social worker who lives less than 800 feet from the Northridge drill site in Greeley.

Note: Be sure to  Attend hearing: Support Children of Frontier Elementary.on Monday, July 28th.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Attend Hearing: Support Children of Frontier Elementary

Please attend and invite others to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Committee hearing on


Monday, July 28 at 9:00am

 Weld County Administration Building Events Center

 1150 “O” Street, Greeley, CO 80631 

Please arrive by 8:45am. Comments will be taken until 11:00am

This hearing is a rare opportunity for Front Range citizens to be heard directly by the COGCC.

It is critical for as many concerned citizens as possible to come tell the COGCC that school children should be protected from hazardous, polluting drilling operations near their schoolyards and homes.
They need to hear what you think of the job they are doing under their mandate to protect public health and safety.

This is your chance to tell them about how this scale of oil and gas development has impacted your, or your loved ones' life and be heard about concerns such as:

 1) Public health and safety concerns - drilling near homes and schools exposes the public to higher levels of benzene and other hazardous chemicals. Recent tank explosions should be reason enough to move these industrial facilities away from where people live!

 2) Pressure tactics put on mineral rights owners to lease their property against their will - Forced pooling allows operators to take away our right to choose whether or not our property should be developed for oil and gas. Oil and gas development hurts property values.

 3) The heavy concentration of wells and tanks they have approved next to homes, schools and commercial districts in Greeley and Weld County – large industrial sites do not belong in residentially-zoned land!

Comments should be short—three minutes or less.

 Please share this message and invite friends, neighbors or family to the hearing as well!

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Damage Done by Fracking

“At health clinics, we’re seeing nearby residents experiencing nausea, headaches and other symptoms linked to fracking pollution,” said David Brown, a toxicologist who has reviewed health data from Pennsylvania. “With billions of gallons of toxic waste coming each year, we’re just seeing the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in terms of health risks.” 

 The report measured key indicators of fracking threats across the country, including:

280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater generated in 2012—enough to flood all of Washington, DC, in a 22-foot deep toxic lagoon
450,000 tons of air pollution produced in one year
250 billion gallons of fresh water used since 2005
360,000 acres of land degraded since 2005
100 million metric tons of global warming pollution since 2005.

Fracking also inflicts other damage not quantified in the report—ranging from contamination of residential wells to ruined roads to earthquakes at disposal sites.

Reviewing the totality of this fracking damage, the report’s authors conclude:

Given the scale and severity of fracking’s myriad impacts, constructing a regulatory regime sufficient to protect the environment and public health from dirty drilling—much less enforcing such safeguards at more than 80,000 wells, plus processing and waste disposal sites across the country—seems implausible. 
In states where fracking is already underway, an immediate moratorium is in order. In all other states, banning fracking is the prudent and necessary course to protect the environment and public health.

Read more: Groundbreaking Report Calculates Damage Done by Fracking

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Governor Vows to Defeat Stricter Fracking Regulations

Have you seen the many pro fracking television ads? The Oil and Gas industry,  industry backed advocacy groups, and even our Greeley Tribune editors (read their editorial!), try to convince you that drilling for oil and gas near your house and/or your child's school is all safe, all good! According to Gov. Hickenlooper ballot initiatives 88 and 89 should be defeated because,

"..Colorado is already a leader, nationally and internationally to protect the environment, and promoting responsible energy development."

He went on to claim,

"We are proving that we can take full advantage of the innovations in oil and gas development while at the same time maintaining the highest ethical, safety, and environmental standards."
Ethical, safety and environmental standards? Take a look at what is jokingly called the measle map of our city. Each dot represents a well and more are slated to be drilled!

Governor: "Coloradoans for Responsible Energy Development, Protect Colorado, and Coloradoans for Responsible Reform are all organized to defeat these measures, and I am proud to stand with them before you all today...we want to make sure we get the information out there and really focus on making sure this doesn't get passed."

Note that CRED (Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development) is not a group set up by regular Colorado residents! On their website it states: 
"Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and Noble Energy, two leaders in the Colorado oil and natural gas community, formed CRED to provide scientifically sound information about fracking. CRED is a 501(c) 6 non-profit organization .. 
Unlike a trade association, CRED doesn’t focus on policy, legislative or regulatory matters. CRED’s core mission is to deliver solid facts directly to the people who need it most: you." 

Yet,  they are not willing to do any scientific health studies to ease our concerns! Why not? And, if they don't "focus on policy, legislative or regulatory matters", why are they siding with the governor to defeat the initiatives??

Interesting too is to learn who is involved with Coloradans for Responsible Reform. On their website you find some familiar faces. Our supposedly 'pro' environment champion and former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, and Greeley's current Mayor Tom Norton. 

And then there is, another group with a name that sounds as if it has everyone's interests at heart, but is really only concerned with what's good for their industry's profit margin! Emphasis is mine.

"Unnecessary ballot initiatives supported by extreme groups are a blatant attempt to eliminate oil and gas production in Colorado. Not only do these ballot initiatives give the government the power to dictate what homeowners can and cannot do with their own property, they would also devastate Colorado's environment, economy, and energy independence".

Isn't the enormous scale of drilling and fracking everywhere around us, near and far devastating the environment we all share? And why is it extreme to worry about the polluted air that our children and grandchildren inhale? Why is an attempt to restrict drilling near homes and schools blatant? And who is dictating to residents, who have nothing to gain from drilling, now? Note that many homeowners, especially those in newer subdivisions, do not own the mineral rights below their land; the developer does. He or she gets to reap the benefits of royalties, but the homeowners are left with the fumes and hazards!

Protect Colorado concludes with this statement. 

"We oppose any extreme ballot measures that threaten the existing laws designed to protect Coloradans’ health and safety or that harm our state’s economy, environment, and energy independence.
With drilling near homes and schools the health and safety of Coloradans is not protected, and the environment is harmed!

But, back to Hickenlooper's recent press conference

Reporter: "You said you are going to do whatever it takes to defeat initiatives."

Governor: "Well it was a figure of speech....[outburst of laughter from those standing with him] We are going to make sure to get the information out".

He means information about job, and revenue loss, but omitting information of hazards, and the health impacts on anyone in close proximity to these wells, including the oilfield workers. My brother-in-law who worked for decades checking gas wells is now suddenly suffering from asthma, and nearly died during his very first attack!

Governor: "..If you impose a 2000 ft setback on the state of Colorado,..not only the oil and gas industry, but we're talking about almost any industry in the state, would suffer negative consequences."

Really? Which other heavy, highly dangerous, and toxic industry is allowed to set up shop inside city limits? I cannot think of any. Besides, Initiative 88 spells out Oil and Gas specifically. Not only that, but if you own the land you can waive the requirement. Better would have been "If you own, AND live on, the land". 
 Initiative 88: 2,000-foot Oil and Gas setback requirement  
"Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a statewide setback requirement for new oil and gas wells, and, in connection therewith, changing existing setback requirements to require any new oil or gas well to be located at least 2,000 feet from the nearest occupied structure; and authorizing a landowner to waive the setback requirement for any structure located on the owner's property?" 

In stating that he will do anything to defeat the initiatives the governor is not acting very statesman like. In effect he is flipping the bird to all who have concerns about health impacts on their communities, and on the vulnerable young children living in an oil and gas town. As it stands we all are breathing various petroleum fumes from these installations, and we are subjected more and more to days on which we inhale harmful ozone! Orange day? Do not let your kids be active outside. Red day? You better keep your child inside!

"On November 20, 2007, the Denver-metropolitan and Northern Front Range areas (including portions of Weld County) were designated as “nonattainment” with the 8-hour federal ozone standard (meaning these areas exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone)"  ~  See the ozone nonattainment map for our area hereSign up for ozone alerts at 
Initiative 89: Local Government Regulation of Environment
"Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a public right to Colorado's environment, and, in connection therewith, declaring that Colorado's environment is the common property of all Coloradans; specifying that the environment includes clean air, pure water, and natural and scenic values and that state and local governments are trustees of this resource; requiring state and local governments to conserve the environment; and declaring that if state or local laws conflict the more restrictive law or regulation governs?" 

If you want to sign the petitions to get these initiatives on the November ballot, please stop by at Centennial Park Library this coming week in the morning hours as some people will be there waiting for you to give you that chance! 

Want to help and take action? See Safe, Clean, Colorado

If you want to leave a comment with the COGCC to oppose drilling at Frontier Elementary school, click here: South Greeley Directional File # 400604803 to access it. After a few seconds you will be redirected to the correct page, then click on comment on the right, and then on New Comment to add your own. Be sure to copy the code that appears!

Tribune to Parents: Stop Fighting Mineral Resources

As if having a governor who does not care about health impacts to our children isn't bad enough, and threatens to do anything to defeat ballot Initiatives 88 and 89, our Greeley Tribune editors add insult to injury! One person I shared the editorial with, responded:

"Sad! Very sad for the editorial board to proclaim you must reciprocate. Tell the Tribune editorial board this is known as the Stockholm syndrome. Being cordial to one's captors... We get the point this is not as bad as it was, but it's still unacceptable to be captured by this industrial giant far too close to our schools. We support initiative #88 to make future wells at least farther away."

Of course, all this push back; the pro fracking television ads from the industry, the threats from the governor, and also this Tribune editorial mean only one thing. Those who favor jobs over the health and well-being of residents and children, are clearly concerned that the majority of people in Colorado are prepared to get these initiatives on the ballot and will also vote in favor of them. As you read the editorial, keep in mind what San Juan residents found in air samples they took themselves, after becoming ill and they could not convince government agencies to respond to their concerns. Find their full report here.

Here's the Tribune's editorial of July 18, 2014

Frontier parents must reciprocate neighborly gesture

 from Mineral Resources 

Sometimes knowing when not to fight is as important as deciding to passionately take up a cause. That’s true for the group of Frontier Academy parents who are continuing their efforts to block a drilling project near the school. In April, the group of parents and like-minded supporters fought against a plan to place 19 wells, 19 separators and 24 tanks on a well pad about 500 feet from Frontier’s playground property line and 800 feet from the school building at 2560 29th St.

In face of the opposition, the energy company, Greeley-based Mineral Resources, halted its plans for the development, and vowed to work to find a new solution. While it is true that Mineral Resources could have sought that solution before the plans became controversial, it’s also true that the company had every legal right to go ahead with the original plan, which had already been given approval by state regulators under older, less stringent setback rules.

The new application is for 19 wells and 20 tanks 1,512 feet away from the school and more than 1,000 feet away from the playground. The application, which was filed in June, has a target date for approval and permitting by the state of Sept. 1. It is in the public feedback phase. All comments must be received by the COGCC by July 28 to be considered.

 We were sympathetic to the concerns raised by the group of Frontier Parents in April. The project struck us as too close for comfort, and we were glad to see Mineral Resources seek an alternative drilling site. Now, Mineral Resources has, at its own expense, moved the drilling site to a distance from the school that exceeds the state’s new tougher requirements. We think that makes a decisive difference. So do regulators, which is why they set the standard — the toughest in the nation — at 1,000 feet.

We don’t blame parents at Frontier for worrying about their children’s safety. But no amount of distance will provide absolute security, and we must work with energy companies, especially when they’ve shown a willingness to be good neighbors. If we don’t, we only remove the incentive for the companies to take such measures. If we’re not willing to be good neighbors, too, the only incentive we leave for the drillers is to press for every advantage the law allows, regardless of local concerns. That’s not good for anyone.

 — The Tribune Editorial Board

If you want to leave a comment with the COGCC to oppose drilling at the school, click here: South Greeley Directional File # 400604803 to access it. After a few seconds you will be redirected to the correct page, then click on comment on the right, and then on New Comment to add your own. Be sure to copy the code that appears!

If you want to sign the petitions to get initiatives 88 and 89 on the November ballot, please stop by at Centennial Park Library this coming week in the morning hours as some people will be there waiting for you to give you that chance! Read here what they entail.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Parents Ask Community for Input Against Drilling Near School

A message from the Frontier Parent Group. Receive  their Instruction Letter Action Alert with more information by emailing: 

Please help us to protect our school and our community...

Our children deserve a safe, healthy, noise and pollutant free

 environment to study and learn!

"The new Mineral Resources proposal [to drill near Frontier Academy] is for 19 wells, 20 tanks and 19 separators. Plans show the site to be 1,512 ft from the school building and a little over 1,000 ft from the playground. On 6/16/14 Mineral Resources filed a location assessment permit (form 2a) with the COGCC – Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. This file is being reviewed by COGCC and is currently open for public comment.

We are asking parents, concerned community members, grandparents, local business owners, people who shop at local businesses (the proposed well site is 586 ft away from Walmart), anyone concerned, to VOICE their CONCERNS to COGCC via their online comment form.

The only way we will be able to be effective is if people show their involvement and worries for this location. Please, if you have any concerns with this location, now is the time to voice it! Your comment will become part of the public record of the application. Your name and e-mail address, if entered, will not be visible to other public users.

The deadline for comment is July 28.

Click on South Greeley Directional File # 400604803 to access it. After a few seconds you will be redirected to the correct page, then click on comment on the right, and then New Comment to add your own.

On 7/1/14 Mineral Resources filed for the USR (Use by Special Review) with the City of Greeley. The file is under review and a hearing date will be determined.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Residents Offered $50,000 to Release Company of Liability

From Aggressive Tactic on the Fracking Front

It didn't take long for the residents of Finleyville who lived near the fracking operations to complain – about the noise and air quality, and what they regarded as threats to their health and quality of life. Initially, EQT, one of the largest producers of natural gas in Pennsylvania, tried to allay concerns with promises of noise studies and offers of vouchers so residents could stay in hotels to avoid the noise and fumes.

But then, in what experts say was a rare tactic, the company got more aggressive: it offered all of the households along Cardox Road $50,000 in cash if they would agree to release the company from any legal liability, for current operations as well as those to be carried out in the future. It covered potential health problems and property damage, and gave the company blanket protection from any kind of claim over noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot, air pollution or vibrations. is unlikely that companies will start handing out such agreements en masse, [as]..doing so could decrease landowners' confidence about the safety of the company's operations and their personal health. "People are going to say the gas companies must be concerned about air pollution because they're offering these easements," said Clark. "Everybody's going to get suspicious."

Earlier this year, a couple in Texas was awarded $3 million in a lawsuit against a gas drilling company. The couple alleged that the company's operations had affected their health, decreased their property value and forced them to move away. The case was one of the first successful lawsuits alleging that air pollution from gas drilling activity caused health issues.

..some of the residents have refused to negotiate with the company. "I was insulted," said Gary Baumgardner, who was approached by EQT with the offer in January. "We're being pushed out of our home and they want to insult us with this offer." Baumgardner says his house is like an amphitheater, constantly vibrating from the drilling. At times the noise gets up to 75 decibels, equivalent to a running vacuum cleaner, he said.

Earlier this year, EQT Corp. put up a sound barrier to limit the noise, but Baumgardner says it has made little difference to his quality of life. "We took the pictures down in the bedroom because they still vibrate at night," he said. Baumgardner says he has had to leave his house at least three times so far because the gas fumes from the well site were too much to bear. A local health group has installed air quality monitors in his home and several of his neighbors.

Last year when the one of the monitors began flashing red, his daughter, pregnant at the time, fled the house. She has since moved away after her doctor advised her not to live close to a drilling site. "Our house is most often not livable," said Baumgardner. EQT's response to his complaints, he said, has been "constant dismissals, excuses, delays and broken promises."