Energy policy — oil and gas: CPDHE reaches penalty settlements regarding Roan Plateau discharges

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Here’s a release from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment:

The Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has reached penalty settlements totaling $680,000 with three oil and gas companies regarding stormwater violations on the Roan Plateau near the town of Parachute, in rural Garfield County. In 2006 and 2007, the three companies, Enterprise Products Operating LLC, Marathon Oil Company and Berry Petroleum Company, began construction activities associated with oil and gas exploration and production on the Roan Plateau.

On April 15, 2008, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, on behalf of the department, filed a complaint for injunction and penalties and requested the state District Court to issue a temporary restraining order against the companies for failing to control construction-related stormwater runoff in waterways north of the town of Parachute. The uncontrolled discharges were to Corral Gulch, Garden Gulch and Parachute Creek, which are state-regulated waters.

The complaint outlined that road and pipeline construction activities lacked the necessary stormwater control and stabilization practices to minimize sediment runoff caused by rainfall and snowmelt. As a result, loose soil was washing from an access road and pipeline project into Corral Gulch, then over a cliff into Garden Gulch. The sediment-laden water then washed into Parachute Creek, a stream that serves as habitat for trout and other cold-water aquatic life.

While the companies did obtain stormwater discharge permits for the construction activities, they did not meet the permit requirements for implementing best management practices for stormwater pollution prevention, nor for the development of functional and effective stormwater management plans.

While the oil and gas industry is vital to our state, it is important that oil and gas exploration and production companies employ sound stormwater management systems to protect the environment of the state, said Martha Rudolph, director of environmental programs at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. If not properly managed, stormwater discharges from construction activities can impact the biological, chemical and physical integrity of receiving waters.

On April 22, 2008, the department executed an agreement (joint stipulation) on the injunctive requirements requested in the District Court complaint, and the oil companies agreed to expeditiously implement proper stormwater management systems for their operations.

Under terms of these settlements, the following civil penalties will be paid to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and deposited into the states Water Quality Improvement Fund:

Berry Petroleum Company $150,000

Enterprise Products Operating LLC $182,000

Marathon Oil Company $98,000

These penalty monies will be used to provide grants for the improvement of water quality in the impacted communities; for the planning, design and construction of stormwater and domestic wastewater treatment facilities; and for nonfederal matching funds for non-point source projects, said Rudolph.

In addition, Berry Petroleum Company has agreed to donate a total of $250,000 for the following supplemental environmental projects:

$100,000 to the United States Geological Survey to be used for its Common Data Repository and Water Resource Assessment project

$150,000 to hire a third party contractor to perform water quality data collection from streams and springs on the Roan Plateau, in areas where little or no water quality data exist, for contribution to the USGSs Common Data Repository and Water Resource Assessment project

Prior to becoming fully effective, the proposed settlements will be noticed for a 30-day public comment period that will begin in October. Copies of the proposed settlement documents and Compliance Orders on Consent, can be found on the Web site of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, listed under the compliance orders on consent heading at

More oil and gas coverage here.

Glenwood Springs: Tamarisk cleanup this weekend

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Goulding):

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers is seeking volunteers for an all-day tamarisk-removal project Saturday. In addition to removing the trees, the nonprofit group will revegetate trees and shrubs indigenous to the banks. Volunteers will start at Two Rivers Park, focusing on both banks of the Colorado River between West Glenwood and the Hot Springs. The event is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

EPA to take another look at Atrazine

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The EPA is going to look at the effects of the Bush administration policy regarding the use of Atrazine. Here’s a report from Dina Cappiello writing for the Associated Press via The Denver Post. From the article:

EPA monitoring of 150 drinking water systems in the Midwest, where the chemical is most heavily used, have not detected it at concentrations that would trigger health problems, including cancer. But new studies have shown that even at low levels atrazine in drinking water can cause low birth weights, birth defects and reproductive problems.

In 2003, under the Bush administration, the EPA allowed atrazine to continue to be used with few restrictions. “We are taking a hard look at the decision made by the previous administration on atrazine,” said Steve Owens, an assistant administrator, in a statement released Wednesday. “Our examination of atrazine will…help determine whether a change in EPA’s regulatory position on this pesticide is appropriate.”[…]

“The hope is that they will decide at the end of the day that they should be regulating it more stringently, or they will just take if off the market,” said Mae Wu, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which sued the EPA in 2003 for failing to adequately evaluate atrazine’s effects on endangered species. More recently, operators of drinking water systems in six Midwestern states sued manufacturers, seeking reimbursement for the cost of removing the chemical from their water supplies.

More water pollution coverage here.

Animas River: Low flows to end the water year

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FromThe Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

Statistics from the U.S. Geological Survey show the daily flow in the Animas last month averaged 194 cubic feet per second while the 2002 average flow was 317 cfs. A USGS graph shows the flow in the Animas last month was well below the 97-year average of 463 cfs for September. The 194 cfs of last month compares to a 97-year average that fluctuated from 400 to slightly more than 300 cfs. Since 2002, the September flow in the Animas had rebounded. In 2003, the Animas carried a daily average flow of 589 cfs. Then from 2004 through 2008, the average daily flow in September was 600, 344, 489, 656 and 343 cfs. The all-time low flow in the Animas in September apparently was in 1956, when the river carried a daily average of 161 cfs. Other years when the September flow averaged less than this year were 1974 (174 cfs), 1978 (201 cfs), 1959 (208 cfs) and 1953 (211 cfs).

More Animas River coverage here.

Conservation and urban water providers

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Here’s a look at water planning and conservation, from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

While the Colorado Water Conservation Board is looking at several ways to increase or share water supplies, cutting back on urban demand also will be a factor as part of the mix of strategies. “There really needs to be an effort to meld land-use planning into the availability of water,” Reed Dils, who represents the Arkansas River basin on the CWCB, said earlier this year in a discussion on urban conservation. “We’re just doing it piecemeal.”

Some of those pieces are coming together within Colorado, however, as urban use decreases and studies look at how to get by on even less water per person. The most noticeable effect has been the decline of use by individual water users in the cities since the drought in 2002. In some cases, it has been caused by continued restrictions and higher rates, although some cities, like Denver, have waged large education campaigns…

Last year, the Pueblo Board of Water Works found users are consistently watering their lawns less – outside watering accounts for about two-thirds of Puebloans’ water use. Surveys show customers are in favor of more conservation measures on the household level. Peak demand days were lower this year as a result, and it appears metered water sales might bring in less revenue than projected this year…

Meanwhile there are some communities being planned in a way that reduces water use, while allowing storm flows off new development to return to rivers in a more natural way, reducing the worst effects of minor floods and improving water quality. Two of those in Colorado were part of a recent study by Western Resource Advocates, a group that works for wise use of water, among other environmental causes. A neighborhood being developed at the former Stapleton airport site is being developed at a higher density than traditional suburbs – about 12 units per acre. That will allow for wetlands and improved drainage throughout the 12,000-unit development. About one-quarter of the homes have been built, and are selling well. The design of Stapleton houses, both inside and out results in a savings of water of about 40 percent per capita, according to the report. A proposed 3,000-acre, 12,500-unit development in Douglas County called Sterling Ranch is targeting supplying the needs of five households per acre-foot of water, almost twice the efficiency of nearby development…

Colorado State University-Fort Collins is studying how to recycle graywater – the product of sinks, showers and washing machines – directly on-site for irrigation and flushing toilets. Researchers are also studying how much water savings can be obtained from rainfall harvesting, reuse, conservation and graywater use.

More conservation coverage here.