Energy policy — oil and gas: The Colorado Oil and Gas Association to drop lawsuit over exploration and production rules

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

In a joint release from COGA, the state’s oil and gas industry lobbying group, and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, officials said the dismissal of the lawsuit stemmed from talks between COGA board members and newly appointed Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike King.

Even during the 2010 midterm elections, the new, more environmentally friendly drilling regs — which give higher priority to air and water quality, wildlife habitat and public safety — were held up by some Republican candidates as job-killing and unnecessary rules that were forcing the industry out of the state. Democrats and most state regulators countered that the industry was slumping due to the global recession, not the more balanced drilling regs.

COGCC director David Neslin previously told The Colorado Independent that industry complaints were on the wane as permit backlogs were being cleared up. State wildlife officials last summer announced a comprehensive wildlife mitigation plan — agreed to by the state’s top drilling outfits — that would streamline that process. Still, the COGA suit, which focused on what the industry group claimed was a flawed approval process, loomed over the public debate.

“This heralds what we hope will be a new era of collaboration and predictability in the development of our energy resources,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in the release. “It’s important to get beyond old fights and move ahead to develop Colorado’s abundant natural gas and protect our environment at the same time.”

Newly elected COGA Chairman Scott Moore, of Anadarko, echoed the sentiments of Hickenlooper, a former geologist: “Abundant, affordable, clean burning natural gas is a cornerstone of Colorado’s energy, economic, and environmental solutions moving forward. The Hickenlooper administration clearly recognizes this and is committed to a balanced and engaged dialogue moving forward.”

Some are afraid the new administration may be too friendly with the state’s oil and gas industry. That fear was not assuaged by comments Hickenlooper made recently in The New York Times: “We should drill the living daylights out of natural gas and cut regulation.”

From the Associated Press via Bloomberg:

The association sued the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission over the rules but said it is dropping the suit after discussions with the administration of newly elected Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former geologist…

COGA President and CEO Tisha Conoly Schuller said: “The new administration clearly recognizes the valuable contribution Colorado’s oil and gas industry makes to the economy and the importance of Colorado natural gas in reducing air pollution. We are confident that going forward we will have a place at the table and our concerns will be fairly considered.”

Colorado Environmental Coalition Executive Director Elise Jones applauded COGA’s decision to drop the lawsuit. “The rules have been very successful in reducing drilling impacts on Colorado’s communities, water supplies and wildlife even as permit review times have decreased,” she said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

‘Poudre runs through it’ forum recap

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

More than 300 people turned out Thursday night at the Larimer County office building in Old Town to consider the best ways to keep the various future needs of Poudre River water from being fodder for a fight as part of a UniverCity Connections-sponsored series of public forums called “The Poudre Runs Through It: Northern Colorado’s Water Future.”

Author Laura Pritchett suggested people find “the radical center,” the place where those with sometimes drastically different ideas about the river can meet to civilly discuss their views and find solutions to the region’s water needs without fighting. The radical center, she said, should be that middle ground where people discover there isn’t just one solution for the water – either store it in Glade Reservoir or not at all. Those in the radical center, she said, seek to find a “portfolio” of solutions…

The fundamental threat to the Poudre River is urban growth, said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University. “Much of the future water demand will be right here in the Front Range corridor,” he said. “We haven’t as a society decided if we want to control that growth yet.”[…]

Lynn Hall of Fort Collins said her biggest fear is losing the wildlife habitat along the Poudre River through the city. “To have a natural river with as much wildlife habitat as it has a few blocks from downtown is really a miracle,” she said. “We need to be really clear to figure out how we can make this accessible to humans, but not as an urban construction.”

The second part of the series of forums will be three education sessions scheduled for Feb. 24, March 10 and March 24 at the Larimer County office building, 200 W. Oak St. Those will be followed by two public dialogue sessions on April 11 and 16.

More coverage from the Rocky Mountain Collegian (Vashti Batjargal):

The public forum served as a place for residents to discuss the value the Poudre River holds and how water should be allocated to each of the region’s competing needs. “We have a fixed resource and it’s all about trade-off,” said Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute. “In everything we choose, we also choose not.”[…]

George Reed, owner of 62 acres of land 10 miles north of Fort Collins, said he’d like a reservoir. “We could learn a lesson from the squirrels: You have to put some water away,” Reed said. “I’ve never seen a reservoir I didn’t like.”[…]

The forum was designed to get community input for decisions on water distribution and conservation for growth and agricultural needs. CSU associate professor of history Mark Fiege said the decisions the community will ultimately make concerning water distribution will have an effect on future generations. “It will impose a burden and responsibility that we cannot fully predict,” he said.

More coverage from Bill Jackson writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

The initial session turnout surprised organizers, but only a small percentage of the crowd offered public comment. Organizers, including UniverCity Connections, Colorado State University and the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, collected comments from the crowd as they left. Those comments will be compiled and used at educational sessions later this year. MaryLou Smith, a policy and collaboration specialist with the CSU Colorado Water Institute, said the sessions were conceived as a city of Fort Collins event, but she realized, from the turnout, that other communities along the 126-mile stretch of the river should also be included.

Reagan Waskom, director of the water institute at CSU, said the Poudre River, as well as others in northern Colorado, face serious demands in the future. Much of those demands will come from expected growth along the Front Range. To meet those demands, he said, an additional 500,000 to 800,000 acre feet of water a year will be needed; an acre-foot of water is considered enough to supply two families with a year’s supply of water. The annual flow of the Poudre is about 275,000 acre feet…

Tom Moore is a local farmer and business owner who said cities in the area are willing to pay $10,000 an acre-foot for water. “It’s hard to put an agricultural value of one-third that,” he said, adding it is the quality of water in the region that draw people and businesses.

More Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.

Pueblo: No hexavalent chromium in water supply

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

esting was performed by MWH Labs, which can test for levels as low as 0.05 parts per billion. “You wouldn’t expect to find it in our water supply, since it’s usually found in groundwater,” Colalancia said. The water board last month learned that a lower threshold for chromium 6 testing is being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency. The water board has tested water routinely for total chromium in the past, with results well below standard limits. The national standard is 100 ppb for total chromium and Pueblo always has tested below 4 ppb.

More water pollution coverage here.