ACCDAN Concluding Remarks – COGCC Rulemaking Hearing 1/25/16
My thanks to the commissioners, the staff, the stakeholders and the concerned citizens for the amount of time and energy that has gone into this process. I recognize and appreciate the knowledge and expertise of the participants – from the petroleum engineers to people living near oil and gas developments. While it has been educational, it has also been disappointing.
ACCDAN came with the goal of impacting the rulemaking, believing that 20 wells in the middle of a residential community was an egregious proposal and should not be sanctioned by the state. At the time, Adams County Commissioners and the operator agreed to hold off on signing an MOU until new rules impacting large scale facilities in and near residential areas were created. Because that is what these hearings were intended to do – address the urban drilling interface that is happening right now. The result thus far appears to be more of a road map for how to drill in neighborhoods without limitations – no limit to the number of wells, the amount of days, weeks or even months an operator can keep people on edge with drilling and completion, the amount of truck traffic, diesel fumes and dust residents must experience, and certainly no limit to the amount of industrialization, the sheer number of well pads a community is expected to endure. Nothing in these rules changed the fact that an operator can put 20 wells smack dab in the middle of an existing community.
And just in the four months I have been attending these hearings, the COGCC has permitted 60 new wells in Adams County and over 105 in the last 12 months. Most of these are near homes and schools, regardless of your UMA definition. We see these facilities from our bedroom windows, when we take our kids to school or walk the dog. We can see the trucks back up on nearby roads. We are not distressed because these developments are unsightly. We are distressed because we know they are dangerous. One elementary near my home, will experience the impacts of 50 new horizontal wells on 4 separate well pads all within less than ¾ of a mile. Adams County is clearly at the forefront of the clash between neighborhoods and drilling operations. You heard from Adams County Commissioners, staff and citizens that we need restrictions on the location and the size of these large facilities in urbanized areas.
Local citizens came to the hearing with the intention of discussing where to drill; I believe operators came to discuss HOW to drill in these urbanized areas. That was fine. We needed meaningful discourse – a real give and take. However, at the outset of the first prehearing meeting, we were told by Director Lepore – I assume at the direction of the governor – that there would be no talk of setbacks. Where to drill, ie, location was off the table for the rulemaking. Immediately citizens, home owners and to some extent local governments were marginalized. Speaking for ACCDAN, our primary reason for attending the hearing was to discuss location.
By taking WHERE off the table and leaving only HOW, what should have been a deliberation on how to drill where, became simply how to drill anywhere. It left the citizens marginalized and the resulting rules without the public buy-in that gives meaning to regulatory decisions.
The proposed rules you will vote on today lack public legitimacy. And that is the definition of failure. The rules are only as good as we ourselves believe them to be.
These regulations are irrelevant because they did not address the fundamental concern of Colorado residents: where to locate large oil and gas facilities. And as long as you continue to discuss only the HOW and not the WHERE to drill, you won’t get rid of the IF– if we should drill at all.
That leads me to a personal invitation I would like to extend to everyone here. In the absence of meaningful regulatory changes from the COGCC, and in the face of 105 new wells permitted in Adams County in the past 12 months, the Adams County Commissioners have called for a public hearing to discuss oil and gas. Tomorrow evening at 6:30. I suggest you show up earlier than that if you would like to sit down as we expect a lot of participants.
In the absence of state credibility on this issue, you will see many more of these local government forums, one county at a time, one site at a time. My hope is that through the education many of us received as participants in the COGCC rulemaking hearing, we can really move the dialog forward in Adams County. Please consider joining us.