Steve Lewis: Clean up their act


It is good to see forums and symposiums addressing oil and gas development in Routt County. There is a continuing position that everything is fine — there is no real problem and we just need to get beyond the misinformation. The moderator of one forum said as much: “The fear (of oil and gas) and being nervous about it is going to subside” as we get more answers. I take the opposite position. There are serious problems and the industry needs to clean up its act. This recent letter from the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action is important in this regard:

Information obtained on March 8 from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) indicates that hundreds of spills and releases are reported to the state each year, with a statewide total of 3,966 since the year 2000.

Additionally, the number of spills and releases has been increasing throughout time — in 2002 there was a 12-year low of 193; in 2010 and 2011, there were nearly 500 per year.  Compared to the year 2000, spills/releases increased by 90.6 percent in the year 2011.

“The public needs to know the facts about the threat that drilling and fracking poses to our communities,” said Shane Davis, of the Sierra Club. “Not only are chemicals spilled and released, the majority of that chemical pollution is never recovered or cleaned up.”

An earlier detailed analysis by the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action revealed that more than 40 percent of the 1,000 spills/releases reported in Weld County between 2003 and 2012 contaminated groundwater and nearly 3 percent contaminated surface water, and a random sample of 6 percent of 1,000 reports suggested that as many as 1.75 million gallons of spilled/released fluids was never “recovered.” Spilled/released fluids includes “oil,” “produced water” and “other” as reported to the COGCC.

There are real problems, and awareness is increasing as new information comes in. The Colorado Independent reports that “Boulder County, Longmont and Colorado Springs have temporarily halted drilling activity. Commerce City, Erie and Aurora, Arapahoe County, Douglas County, Elbert County and El Paso County have all either considered or are considering enacting their own drilling laws.” It is disingenuous to suggest these new efforts across Colorado are based on misinformation. The problems are real and based in fact. NOAA air quality findings detail the problems are not limited to water quality. NOAA research chemist Steven Brown reported that Erie has 10 times more propane in its air than Los Angeles has and several times the level found in Houston (Boulder Daily Camera, Feb. 21, 2012).

There are answers for resolving these issues. Those answers require, among other measures, that the oil and gas industry provide closed loop systems, comprehensive water quality protection measures and capture of lost methane and VOC now allowed to leak or be flared as “waste.”

Let’s move beyond denial and into the realm of making this work, cleanly and safely, for everyone.

Steve Lewis

Steamboat Springs


Fred Duckels 5 years, 1 month ago

It is interesting that Governor Hickenlooper a Democrat, a businessman, and a geologist is willing to go against his constituency and support state control of the oil and gas operations, eliminating local participtation that would open the door for radical environmentalists to cripple an industry that has served us well and without fanfare for generations. On the national scale this remnds me of activists slashing logging truck tires of a man with payments to make and mouths to feed. Localy we have been through the gravel pit wars where I considered entering the witness protection program to avoid the wrath of the "caring".

The basic problem is that we have a lot of people and caring for them requires resources. Why don't the radicals look at the real problem and ask for volunteers to take one for the team?

Now back to you Steve, what constitutes a spill? Quickly now, I expect expertise, with all the spills that you decry certainly you should know every aspect of this reporting, or are you merely reciting talking points? If I was an operator wouldn't I report every incident, no matter the insignificance in order to protect myself and to show diligence?


Fred Duckels 5 years, 1 month ago

This article follows closely the time proven tactic of alarming the public and letting our elected folks know the futility of going against a mob of indoctrinated do gooders.

We didn't have much input from the enviros until fracking and exploration exposed that we are awash with energy and now the rush is on to put the cork back in the bottle.


Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

Hickenlooper is indeed interesting, saying that drilling and fracking have seen few spills in Colorado. The numbers I reference above are actually presented as 2 non-profits' response to Hickenlooper's ads, paid for by the oil industry, where he made the incorrect claim.

Certainly there are many small incidents reported. Certainly there are some big ones reported. (You'll recall the potentially contaminated acreage was in the thousands of acres.) And certainly there are some not reported. But nothing would faze Fred Duckels?

The evidence increases steadily, and it will eventually change even your mind, Fred. This from the Denver Post today:

"People living within a half-mile of oil-and-gas well fracking operations were exposed to air pollutants five times above a federal hazard standard, according to a new Colorado study."

"The University of Colorado-Denver School of Public Health analysis is one of a string of studies in Wyoming, Utah and eastern Colorado that highlight the air-quality impacts of drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking."

"The EPA is set to release new rules April 3 aimed at cutting emissions by 25 percent from oil fields by measures such as controlling for leaks and requiring green completions, which use no toxic chemicals."

The industry has to be forced to clean itself up. Colorado won't do it. Routt County will have to protect its own.


Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

A movie out of Garfield County will be on the "you knew this was coming" pile soon:

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — "A former water handler for the oil and gas industry in Garfield County says he quit his job over health concerns and now is working to make those concerns known to the public."

“It will be my story, and there's a lot of other whistleblowers that are going to be in there, too,” Milton said."


Fred Duckels 5 years, 1 month ago

All ye concerned do gooders, we have a "nest on the ground". If life is boring and the usual "causes", affordable housing, stopping development, salting elected positions, stoppping gravel pits are not fulfiling you, we now have this nasty dragon that must be dealt with. Let's get together and pool every resource to create an army of the "concerned" in order to overwhelm our duped representatives and vanquish this beast. Forget the fact that this dragon is paramont to our existence, we have a kinder, more gentle, cleaner, and politically correct dragon that we have nurtured at great expense. It may be decades before this little fellow actually has teeth but we can worry about that after we slay the old outdated codger. Trust us, have we been wrong before? Ethanol? Whats that?


Fred Duckels 5 years, 1 month ago

Steve, The Garfield guy is a "plant" not unusual for do gooder tactics. I know construction and the oil patch is not far removed. They made a mistake when he was hired, the manicured beard does not come from laboring in either field. Watch this opportunist in the future and observe the hypocracy.


Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

Fred, Unbelievable.

You've read Erie CO residents and others in their region have seen their air quality fall to disgusting levels thanks in large part to this "toothless little fellow." You've read state records documenting that these wells caused aquifer pollution in Colorado. These are just the tip of the documented problems. Your "little fellow" is our biggest lobbyist, contributing astounding $$ influencing Colorado politics.

Yet your fixation remains that anyone who points out such facts is the true villain in this affair. Your argument is so incomprehensible and so insistent on flawed character, it begs a fair question about you - what bidding and contracts has your company extended to this industry?


Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

A Hayden area resident handed a similar Sierra Club/Clean Water Action letter to the Pilot 2 weeks ago. He asked that they print it. Since they did not, I submitted this letter to the editor to get its information published.

Today I'm surprised that the Pilot, who regularly copies from the Denver Post, ignored the Post's article of yesterday pointing to greater well setback distances needed in Colorado. I posted a link above for this Post story yesterday at noon.

Will the Pilot go beyond quoting people's opinions and begin reporting the actual negative impacts that other newspapers are reporting. Or should residents begin a habit of using letters-to-the-editor to get important news into the Yampa Valley.


Steve Lewis 5 years, 1 month ago

End Note #15.

"States, such as Pennsylvania, North Dakota and New York recommend that each producing well be inspected at least once per year, and new wells, especially horizontal wells, be inspected multiple times during the drilling and completion process. (E.g., see Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Bureau of Oil and Gas Management. June 25, 2005. Compliance Monitoring of Oil and Gas Wells and Related Facilities and Activities. Document number 550-3000-001. dsweb/Get/Document-48286/550-3000-001.pdf )

To do an adequate job of inspecting new and active wells, all new wells should be inspected at least three times (e.g., twice during the drilling/ completion process, and once after drilling is completed), and each active well in Colorado should be inspected at least once a year. This means that COGCC should perform at least 55,000 inspections in 2012.

3 inspections x 2,700 new wells in 2012 (assumed to be similar to wells spud in 2011 and 2010)] + 46,800 inspections of active wells (number of active wells at beginning of 2012) = 8,100 + 46,800 = 54,900 inspections .

If COGCC inspectors continue to perform approximately 1,000 inspections per year (as they did in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010), then COGCC would need 55 inspectors to keep to this schedule. There are currently 15 inspectors. If each COGCC inspector conducted fewer inspections per year (i.e., spent more time on inspections like their counterparts in PA, NY and OH), e.g., 500 inspections per year, then approximately 110 inspectors would be needed to do the work. That is more than seven times the current inspection staff."


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