COLORADO SPRINGS & EL PASO COUNTY FRACKING NEWS
Oil drilling traffic damaging county roads
March 20, 2012
Truck traffic to two oil drilling sites in El Paso County is damaging the gravel roads and forcing repairs, county engineer Andre Brackin told El Paso County Commissioners Tuesday. Brackin said some nearby residents have complained about dust from the truck traffic and that the county is applying magnesium chloride to help control the dust, which itself could cost $5,000 a mile.
Commission chairwoman Amy Lathen said she has already heard those complaints and is concerned. "I heard just last night from a constituent who actually had to go to a physician because of respiratory problems," she said. "We have significant dust issues because of these trucks."
Oil exploration now a reality for El Paso County
March 03, 2012
Ultra Resources notified the state it planned to begin drilling at a site in unincorporated El Paso County a few miles south of Schriever Air Force Base, although it was unclear if that work had actually begun on Friday.
February 23, 2012
All applications [by Ultra Resources] say the company plans to dispose of drilling wastes in landfills. Though Ultra's applications say the company wants to start drilling in early 2012, it hasn't yet contacted the landfill.
Under state regulations, the company could store waste in pits or inject it underground. Or it could spread mud and fluids over the ground, with the landowner's permission. Most of the recent fines in Colorado regarding storage dealt with leaking pits or ground spreading.
In April 2010, an Occidental Petroleum Corp. subsidiary got slapped with a $390,000 fine for storing drilling mud and fluids in an unlined pit in Garfield County, on the state's western border, in 2008. The fluids caused two natural springs to test for cancer-causing benzene at levels 200 times higher than the groundwater standard. The company spent $1.5 million mitigating the damage.
The most common way to dispose of waste material is by injecting it 12,000 feet into the ground, Neslin says. He acknowledges that earthquakes began in 1963 in the Denver area after an injection well was drilled at the nearby Rocky Mountain Arsenal. When injection stopped in 1968, so did the seismic activity.
Attorney General again expresses concerns over county oil and gas regulations
February 08, 2012
The Attorney General's Office, acting on behalf of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, today sent El Paso County [another] letter raising concerns with the county's newly adopted oil and gas regulations.
[The BoCC continued the matter until Feb. 21st.]
Ultra applies for fifth drilling location in county
February 01, 2012
Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission records show the company's plans to drill five wells on a nine-acre site near the intersection of Highway 94 and S. Blaney Road, northwest of Schriever Air Force Base.
County adopts slimmed-down oil and gas regulations
January 31, 2012
The Board of County Commissioners voted 3-2 to approve a proposal that was significantly scaled down from what the county's planning commission approved earlier this month. The regulations govern transportation, emergency response, noxious weeds and, controversially, water quality issues related to drilling.
Commissioners Peggy Littleton and Darryl Glenn objected to the water quality regulations, arguing that the county was overstepping its authority because the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission also regulates drilling-related water issues.
Frack-happy Ultra Petroleum is the city's largest private landowner. What kind of neighbor might it be?
January 26, 2012
Between the two states, the company has been hit with more than 200 violations in the past five years. It's paid fines totaling $231,500 for 35 environmental and operational infractions dealing with wells, air quality and pollution of wetlands. And it's been forced to install a $25 million system to reduce its chances of polluting Wyoming's air again.
According to the El Paso County Assessor's Office, roughly 2,500 oil and gas leases have been filed in El Paso County within the past four years.
City committee begins studying oil and gas exploration
January 26, 2012
City attorney Chris Melcher said the committee should make a recommendation to City Council by the first meeting in May. Between now and then, the committee will look at how other municipalities have approached oil and gas development, ponder the balance of regulatory power between the city and state, and look into specific issues that may affect the city, such as impacts on road and water infrastructure.
The committee will continue meeting at 8:30 a.m. every Thursday at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave. The meetings are open to the public, but no public comments will be accepted until later in the process.
Attorney General warns El Paso County on proposed oil and gas regs
January 17, 2012
The Attorney General's Office last week sent a letter warning El Paso County that its proposed oil and gas drilling regulations conflicted with state regulations. Matter_ltr_to_Monsson_1-10-12.pdf
"It's not cut and dried," Craig Dossey said. "It's not as clear as the industry, certainly, would like to portray it as being." Dossey said that the county plans to move ahead with the draft regulations as written, since any change would require going back through the planning commission process.
El Paso County spokesman Dave Rose said, "If the board does not approve regulations at this time, the existing temporary land use permit for exploration will likely remain in effect and new applications for exploratory drilling would be reviewed through that process."
Not on the same page
January 05, 2012
But it's premature to say whether the city will use any rules that the county plans to adopt for the industry, according to Colorado Springs Councilman Val Snider. "We just don't know enough yet about the needs of the city," he says.
Snider heads the city's Oil and Gas Committee, commissioned last month to hammer out local regulations after Council enacted a moratorium through May on exploratory drilling. The committee, which is seeking members from the public, tentatively has scheduled its first public work session for 8:30 a.m., Jan. 26, with weekly meetings expected thereafter.
The county periodically has spoken with city leaders about its proposed regulations, says Dossey, who outlined the county's strategy to City Council members during a joint city-county meeting in October.
Free on Thursdays? Council needs help on oil and gas
Jan 4, 2012
City Council Oil and Gas Committee, chaired by Councilman Val Snider, will meet weekly from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Thursdays starting Jan. 26, and concluding May 31.
Membership on the panel will include a few council members, notably Brandy Williams, Angela Dougan and Bernie Herpin. It also will include citizens, a representative from El Paso County Public Health, an environmental group representative, and someone from the oil and gas industry. The task force will come up with a recommendation to City Council for "above ground" rules on oil and gas exploration.
Volunteers should submit a letter of interest, a two-page resume, and a response of less than 300 words to each of the following questions:
1. Describe the need you see for the City of Colorado Springs to examine above ground oil and gas exploration and operation policy.
Ultra representative blasts county's proposed regulations
December 29, 2011
Johnson said industry regulations at the state level were sufficient. "Important issues such as wildlife, groundwater protection, visual mitigation, location setbacks, noise, air quality and waste management, among many others, are all effectively regulated by the state agencies," he said. But Johnson was in the minority.
Most of the people who spoke at the work session urged county commissioners to adopt strict regulations, especially pertaining to groundwater. Other speakers expressed concerns about whether the county would have the resources to enforce the proposed regulations, such as those pertaining to air quality.
"Generally what I've read is that if something happens, (the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) will investigate, but there doesn't seem to be anyone on the side of the people," said Phyllis Cahill. "If something happens to our well, it's our problem. We're the ones that have to hire the lawyer to fight it," she said.
McKelvy said the maximum fine for a spill would be $1,000, which he said is too low. "That's pocket change to these people. It should be $10,000 at minimum," he said. "Why are we making things easy for them?"
Colorado Springs resident Dave Bryan said he was concerned about the size and scope of the drilling operations. "Weld County has 17,000 wells currently," he said. "According (to the state oil and gas commission,) in the first quarter of 2011, there were 497 permits issued in Weld County. That would equate to roughly 2,000 permits (for the entire year). If El Paso County had half that number of permits, that would be 3 permits a day on average."
A county employee told county commissioners that the industry is "uncertain" about the viability of oil and gas production in this part of the state.
City, Ultra remain at odds over Banning Lewis Ranch
December 23, 2011
On Friday, the city filed a 54-page response to Ultra in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Denver, in which it reiterated its contention that a 23-year-old annexation agreement and other land-use controls should govern the ranch's development and cannot be "stripped away" as a result of Ultra's purchase of ranch property this year.
Ultra has argued the opposite, asking a bankruptcy court to set aside the annexation agreement and other controls so that it can drill.
"The city will continue to defend our rights in this matter," City Attorney Chris Melcher said in a statement Friday. "We are open to a sensible outcome that will benefit the entire community. At this time, we are confident that we will prevail on all issues that are currently in dispute."
It's unknown when a judge might rule. Ultra officials couldn't be reached for comment Friday.
Even so, Ultra filed applications with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Dec. 15 to drill two wells on the ranch. Several state regulatory processes must play out before the wells can be approved.
County's proposed gas/oil regulations making way through pipeline
December 23, 2011
"It's definitely appropriate for us to allow for public comment because there are a lot of unknowns, and that creates a lot of impacts, especially when there are larger-scale facilities," said Dossey, who was instrumental in drafting the regulations.
El Paso County has never had rules and procedures specifically relating to the oversight of gas and oil drilling, although the activity was included in general regulations tied to mineral resource extraction. But in 1990, Dossey said, an amendment to a state statue took oil and gas drilling out of the equation.
"This is the first time El Paso County has gone down the road of regulating oil and gas since the code was revised in 1990 to expressly remove oil and gas from the definition of mineral resource extraction," he said.
Driving the push to get regulations on the books as soon as possible is a move by Ultra Resources of Houston to begin exploratory drilling in both unincorporated El Paso County and the city of Colorado Springs, which is looking into its drafting its own rules.
Two meetings on oil and gas drilling
Dec 21, 2011
The El Paso Board of County Commissioners is hosting an oil and gas land use regulations work session to receive updated information from the Development Services Department (DSD) relative to the open public comment period which closed November 28. The work session is at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 29, at the Pikes Peak Regional Development Center, 2880 International Circle in Colorado Springs.
DSD will present its recommendations during a public hearing at a special meeting of the El Paso County Planning Commission at 9 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 4, at the Pikes Peak Regional Development Center.
The proposed regulations, along with comments and revisions resulting from the Planning Commission hearing, will be heard by the Board of County Commissioners during its regularly scheduled meeting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19, at the Pikes Peak Regional Development Center.
A draft copy of the proposed changes can be found on the Development Services Department's home page on the El Paso County website at: http://adm.elpasoco.com/Development%20Services/Pages/default.aspx
Ultra wants to start drilling on Banning Lewis
Dec 21, 2011
Ultra Petroleum has filed applications with the state for two wells on its Banning Lewis property.
Ultra already has been approved to drill several speculative wells in rural parts of El Paso County, east and southeast of the Colorado Springs metro area.
Oil companies rushing to buy leases along Colorado's Front Range
The top drillers and number of permits for the 12-month period ending Aug. 30:
El Paso County
El Paso County eases oil and gas moratorium
October 26, 2011
El Paso County commissioners have lifted the count y' s moratorium on applications for oil and gas operations " a little bit. " They modified it to allow the [development services] department to take applications for temporary exploration activities ," county spokesman Dave Rose said Wednesday. " W e' re still not accepting applications for production, and they have the condition that companies must agree with the permanent set of regulations that are coming ."
No drilling, for now, in the city
Nov 30, 2011
Colorado Springs City Council adopted an ordinance placing a moratorium on applications for drilling within the city limits. Council also agreed to create a council task force to study and propose drilling regulations within the six-month moratorium, which ends May 31, 2012.
City Council enacts emergency 6-month drilling moratorium
November 30, 2011
The six-month moratorium comes after a Texas-based energy company said in June that it wanted to drill for oil and gas on the sprawling Banning Lewis Ranch on the east side of the city.
A PRIMER: Oil and gas exploration in El Paso County
December 13, 2011
Ultra Resources got approval in October to drill three exploratory wells in unincorporated El Paso County on Colorado State Land Board property.
The company has filed permits with the state to drill three vertical wells, and using hydraulic fracturing, wants to extract rock and fluid samples to determine whether oil or gas could be produced in commercially viable quantities, a company official has said.
El Paso County commissioners in late September stopped accepting permits for exploratory drilling for four months, to give the county more time to write local land-use regulations. Then, in October, they approved changes that will enable Ultra, part of Houston-based Ultra Petroleum, to drill as early as December. Oil and gas production remains banned under the suspension, which is expected to be lifted in late January.
Everybody's happy about drilling rule
December 13, 2011
Tuesday, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved a rule that requires oil and gas drilling companies to disclose chemicals they use to fracture underground rock formations to knock loose fossil fuels for harvesting.
But the rule allows companies to not identify fluids that constitute trade secrets. To do that, the company must file a Form 41 that states under penalty of perjury that the fluid is, in fact, proprietary.
D rillers will still have to disclose the "trade secret" fluids to health professionals when it's needed to diagnose and treat a patient who's been exposed to it.
Oil and water: Will they mix?
December 15, 2011
There's little debate that if toxins did get into an aquifer, they could befoul groundwater for hundreds of years. "Once you pollute a water supply, there's very little remedy available to you," Montgomery says. "A company can't go in and clean it up and make it whole."
Where's the Leadership Forum on oil and gas?
December 15, 2011
Councilor Val Snider will chair the city task force. Other council members taking part are Brandy Williams, Angela Dougan and Bernie Herpin. The panel didn't decide today how large the task force will be, but discussed the kinds of representatives it is seeking, such as someone from the oil and gas industry, an environmental advocate, a neighbor to the drilling field and, perhaps, someone from the El Paso County Health Department.
Public Record of Fracking Chemicals
by Commissioner Dennis Hisey
T he county commissioners are asking the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to require disclosure of the contents of fracking solutions.
" While hydraulic fracturing fluids are injected thousands of feet below the aquifer containing drinking water, the public deserves reassurance that if and when, and for whatever reason, these fluids are inadvertently released into the environment in a manner that causes contamination of soils at or near the surface and /or of drinking water resources, those responsible for the contamination are held responsible. To that end, El Paso County requests that the proposed COGCC rules be amended to require that all hydraulic fracturing fluids include an inert marker that will enable the fluids to be traced to the source of any contamination ."
El Paso County Issue DRAFT Oil and Gas Regulations for County Code - Fast Track for adoption by the end of 2011
The oil and gas facilities special use provisions of the [Land Development Code] LDC are designed to allow oil and gas operations in all zoning districts in which these operations might otherwise be inappropriate provided that the potential impacts associated with oil and gas operations are avoided, or at a minimum can be adequately mitigated.”
In other words, oil and gas exploration and production may occur in any zone in the County.
Both Major and Minor facilities require a Special Use Permit, but the Development Services Director can approve the Special Use Permit without any pubic hearings for Minor Oil and Gas operations. Major Oil and Gas Operations require a Planning Commission hearing and approval by the Board of County Commissioners.
Setbacks of either a minor or major facility from the closest existing residential structures, place of worship, nursing home, jail, commercial, office or warehouse establishment, designated recreation area or any other designated place of public assembly is a minimum of 500 feet. The BoCC can proposed wider setbacks on a case-bycase basis.
The DRAFT regulations say: ‘To prevent contamination of groundwater, surface water, soils and to protect wildlife, the use of excavated storage pits as part of an oil and gas operation shall be prohibited in favor of more environmentally pro t ective alternatives, such as closed loop systems and tanks. An exception to such prohibition may be approved by the Board of Commissioners if the operator can demonstrate that no technically feasible alternative exists to the use of storage pit and that groundwater, surface water, soils and wildlife will be adequately protected.
Boom time? Oil and gas leases flooding county assessor's office
Aug. 26, 2011
" I t' s everywhere out east ," Lowderman said of leasing activity. " W e' re trying to educate ourselves and quickly get a handle on this because we have n' t dealt with it before ."
But the county wo n' t reap the multitudes that it could. Lowderman said the industry is classified as business personal property, and the county abolished the business personal property tax years ago.
The industry also can be lucrative for land owners and mineral rights owners, which can be two separate parties. A few years ago, leases in Colorado were selling for less than $2 an acre. In February, the going rate was $81 an acre. Prices in the past six months have skyrocketed to hundreds of dollars an acre, and in prime locations, several thousands of dollars, according to anecdotal information and state leasing records.
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