EPA Updates Rule for Pathogens in Drinking Water, Sets Limit for E. Coli


Here’s he release from the Environmental Protection Agency:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has updated the rule for pathogens in drinking water, including setting a limit for the bacteria E. coli to better protect public health.

The Revised Total Coliform Rule ensures that all of the approximately 155,000 public water systems in the United States, which provide drinking water to more than 310 million people, take steps to prevent exposure to pathogens like E. coli. Pathogens like E. coli can cause a variety of illnesses with symptoms such as acute abdominal discomfort or, in more extreme cases, kidney failure or hepatitis.

Under the revised rule, public drinking water systems are required to notify the public if a test exceeds the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for E. coli in drinking water. If E. coli or other indications of drinking water contamination are detected above a certain level, drinking water facilities must assess the system and fix potential sources and pathways of contamination. High-risk drinking water systems with a history of non-compliance must perform more frequent monitoring. The revised rule provides incentives for small drinking water systems that consistently meet certain measures of water quality and system performance.

Public water systems and the state and local agencies that oversee them must comply with the requirements of the Revised Total Coliform Rule beginning April 1, 2016. Until then, public water systems and primacy agencies must continue to comply with the 1989 version of the rule.

The Safe Drinking Water Act requires that EPA review each National Primary Drinking Water Regulation, such as the Total Coliform Rule, at least once every six years. The outcome of the review of the 1989 Total Coliform Rule determined that there was an opportunity to reduce implementation burden and improve rule effectiveness while at the same time increasing public health protection against pathogens in the drinking water distribution systems. EPA’s revised rule incorporates recommendations from a federal advisory committee comprised of a broad range of stakeholders and considers public comments received during a public comment period held in fall 2010.

For more information: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/tcr/regulation.cfm

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

COGCC to consider groundbreaking new oil and gas rules — Todd Hartman


Here’s the release from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (Todd Hartman):

State oil and gas regulators today [December 31, 2012] completed groundbreaking proposals for groundwater protection and the reduction of drilling impacts near homes for consideration next week before the nine-member Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

The draft rules follow months of stakeholder meetings and public participation, including nearly a year of presentations and comment on the issue of how best to balance energy production with the need to minimize impacts on residences from nearby oil and gas development.

The two sets of rules were developed with extensive input from local governments, farmers and ranchers, the environmental community, homeowners, the energy industry, homebuilders, mineral owners, environmental health specialists and business leaders. COGCC staff has spent much of 2012 engaging these stakeholders in order to develop rules that protect the public health and environment while providing the flexibility needed to allow for production of energy that all Coloradans depend upon in everyday life, creates and sustains thousands of jobs and is critical to the state’s economy.

“These proposed rules reinforce Colorado’s role as a national pacesetter in the comprehensive and progressive regulation of oil and gas exploration and production,” said Matt Lepore, director of the COGCC, the state’s regulatory agency that staffs the Governor-appointed Commission. “These proposals contain mitigation standards unprecedented nationally and mark yet another step forward in fashioning a model regulatory framework that strikes a balance that’s right for Colorado.”

“At the same time, we understand that our draft rules will leave no one set of interests completely satisfied, and provide various targets for those who want to see it done differently,” Lepore said. “And yet, we expect most everyone who participated will see elements and concepts in these proposals that they helped initiate and push forward.”

Components of the proposals include:

  • The new rules will require operators to meet enhanced mitigation, notice and outreach requirements when drilling near residences beginning at 1,000 feet. Setbacks in previous rules of 350 feet (urban) and 150 feet (rural) will now be 500 feet statewide.
  • New measures to limit impacts may include pit-less drilling, steel berms and underground liners, strict dust and lighting controls and capture of gasses to reduce odors and emissions.
  • Operators must engage in expanded notice and outreach efforts with nearby residents and conduct additional engagement with local governments about proposed operations.
  • Operators must conduct sampling of water wells near drilling sites both before and after drilling activities to ensure drinking water aquifers are protected. This would make Colorado the only state to require sampling both pre- and post-drilling.
  • Operators cannot operate within 1,000 feet of buildings housing larger numbers of people, such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals without a hearing before the Commission.
  • These proposals will be considered during public hearings scheduled for January 7, 8 and 9 before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The Commission can modify the proposal, or pursue other options, based on testimony during this hearing, and in previous hearings that have taken place on these matters in recent weeks.

    The upcoming hearings will take place at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, 1550 Court Place, beginning at 9 a.m. each day. The Commission includes representatives from across Colorado. Seats are filled by members with expertise in environmental and wildlife protection, agriculture, soil conservation, oil and gas production and regulatory oversight.

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

    The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Monday unveiled its proposal for new oil and gas drilling rules that would mandate expanded setbacks and groundwater testing around new oil and gas wells. The commission will deliberate the rules during a three-day hearing Jan. 7-9 in Denver…

    The proposed rules will not affect how closely homes can be built to existing oil and gas wells.

    In a statement, COGCC director Matt Lepore said the rules make Colorado a “pacesetter” for oil and gas regulation, calling the rules “unprecedented nationally.”[…]

    The Colorado Oil and Gas Association has long opposed increased setbacks. Last week, the group issued a statement opposing a 1,000 foot setback, which did not end up in the proposed rules.

    The group claims new setbacks will cause greater environmental and economic damage to the region by pushing new oil and gas wells into undeveloped agricultural and open space lands.

    COGA’s statement said increased setbacks will increase the cost of accessing oil and gas resources while reducing the amount of land available for farming, hurting farmers’ economic viability in coming years.

    Northern Colorado environmental groups say the proposed rules don’t go far enough. Save the Poudre’s Gary Wockner, speaking for Clean Water Action and the Sierra Club, called the 500 foot setback rule “a farce,” and that oil and gas wells should be drilled no closer to buildings than 2,000 feet.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Duffy Hayes):

    As in 2009, when Colorado put in place the nation’s strictest rules regulating oil and gas extraction, the state appears poised to raise the regulatory bar once again with new, more-stringent rules. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — the state’s regulatory authority over energy development — on Monday released new draft rules that will be the focus of public hearings next week in Denver.

    Among the proposed regulations: water sampling of wells before and after drilling activities, setbacks extended to 500 feet, exclusion from areas within 1,000 feet of schools and hospitals, and new community outreach requirements that drilling companies will be compelled to follow.

    Enhanced mitigation by operators could be required as well. Those mitigation requirements were called “unprecedented nationally” and “mark yet another step forward in fashioning a model regulatory framework that strikes a balance that’s right for Colorado,” said COGCC director Matt Lepore in a press release.

    Colorado in 2009 adopted groundbreaking regulatory rules, then the strictest in the nation. Since then, a number of states have enacted oil and gas rules that have exceeded Colorado’s in terms of strict controls. The new proposals were again called groundbreaking by the COGCC in terms of groundwater protection and the reduction of drilling impacts near people.

    Last year, the COGCC agreed to re-open the details of the state’s regulatory framework, and held months of stakeholder meetings and presentations on the topic. The draft rules released Monday are the result of that process, COGCC said.

    New setback requirements are central to the new proposed rules. Previous rules of 350 feet in urban areas and 150 feet in rural places would be extended to 500 feet. Operators will have to meet enhanced requirements for mitigation, notice and outreach to residents within 1,000 feet of drilling,as well. Also, drilling would be excluded from areas within 1,000 feet of buildings that house large numbers of people — such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes.

    Further, Colorado would become the only state to require water testing both pre- and post-drilling, according to the proposed rules.

    COGCC also said new measures “may include” strict dust and lighting controls, capture of gases, pit-less drilling, steel berms or underground liners.

    The nine-member COGCC will hold public meetings on the new rules over three days, Jan. 7–9. The meetings will be held at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, beginning at 9 a.m. each day. The commission said that during those hearings, the group can modify the proposal, or even pursue other options, based on the testimony.

    From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat) via the Boulder Daily Camera:

    The hearings will begin at 9 a.m. Jan 7, 8 and 9 in the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, 1550 Court Place…

    The commission can adopt, alter or reject the proposed changes.

    The discussion comes in the midst of a COGCC lawsuit against the city of Longmont, which adopted tougher regulations of its own. The city has maintained that its new rules are part of its traditional land use and zoning powers; the commission argued that Longmont was trespassing on the state’s authority to regulate oil and gas. Longmont’s rules include a restriction on any drilling in residential zones, and allow the city to require water-quality monitoring until five years after the well is abandoned. A contract between the city and TOP Operating, the main drilling company in the area, requires a 750-foot setback between well sites and occupied buildings.

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.

    Say hello to Conservation Colorado


    Say hello to Conservation Colorado. Here’s the announcement from Pete Maysmith:

    2013 – New Year – a new era for conservation in Colorado. Conservation Colorado makes its debut today. This is the beginning of an exciting, next chapter in protecting Colorado’s air, land, water and people.

    Colorado is a place we are lucky to call home. Our stunning mountains, roaring rivers, clear blue skies, and spectacular landscapes make Colorado a fabulous place to live, work and play. Our mission is to protect the Colorado we love and the people who live here. My promise to you is that we will bring passion, energy, smarts, and an old fashioned “get it done” ethic to our work.

    Take a look at our brand new website, ConservationCo.org, to get a sense of what we are going to be working on and how we plan to win.

    Here’s the rub though – we can only succeed by working in partnership with you. Our strength and ability to win victories in the Legislature, the Congress, or with other key decision makers comes from our supporters, donors, activists, and allies.

    That’s you.

    In the coming months we will talk with you in the all the ways we know how to – via emails such as this, on Facebook and Twitter, at our events, and in one-on-one conversations.

    We will advocate for our decision makers to finally tackle climate change, demand Congress and President Obama protect our last remaining wildlands, work to keep our rivers flowing free and deep, renew the state’s leadership in clean wind and solar power, and fight to minimize the impacts of oil and gas drilling.

    Our work starts now. And we couldn’t be more excited to roll up our sleeves and get going. Look for a rollout of our legislative agenda soon and stay tuned for the latest developments on our wilderness and public lands campaigns.

    In the meantime, poke around on our new website: ConservationCo.org. We love it and hope you will too. While you are there, take your first action with Conservation Colorado and tell Governor Hickenlooper that drilling and neighborhoods don’t mix and Colorado needs common sense safe guards to protect our air, water, and people.

    Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook so you can get the latest information first and magnify your voice.

    We could not be more excited about this new chapter in the conservation movement in Colorado. Thank you for all you do you for Colorado’s environment and quality of life. We look forward to forging many victories together in the months and years to come.

    Because the Future is Worth the Fight.

    Snowpack news: Statewide snowpack = 68% of average, Gunnison Basin up 7% since 12/20 #COdrought


    It’s been snowing on and off for a good while now. December precipitation has been sufficient enough to bump snowpack across Colorado. Click on the thumbnail graphic for the Upper Colorado basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Upper Colorado snowpack = 70% of average for this date.


    Click on the thumbnail graphic for the South Platte basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. South Platte snowpack = 62% of average for this date.


    Click on the thumbnail graphic for the Arkansas basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Arkansas snowpack = 58% of average for this date.


    Click on the thumbnail graphic for the Gunnison basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Gunnison snowpack = 69% of average for this date.


    Click on the thumbnail graphic for the Rio Grande basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Rio Grande snowpack = 62% of average for this date.


    Click on the thumbnail graphic for the Laramie and North Platte basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Laramie and North Platte snowpack = 76% of average for this date.


    Click on the thumbnail graphic for the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan snowpack = 62% of average for this date.


    Click on the thumbnail graphic for the statewide basin high/low graph from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Statewide snowpack = 68% of average for this date.

    Drought news: ‘Everything is so dependent on late winter, early spring’ — Russ Sands,


    From the Boulder Daily Camera (Carol O’Meara):

    “It’s a case of we don’t know what we don’t know,” says Russ Sands, City of Boulder’s Water Conservation Program Manager. “It’s way too early to say if we’ll have restrictions. If we have a few good storms, we won’t have to; everything is so dependent on late winter, early spring.”

    Coming off of a record hot season, Sands says decisions Boulder made in 2012 to ramp up treatment plants and storage kept the city in good shape to meet needs heading into 2013…

    Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District isn’t ready to push the panic button either, says Brian Werner, public information officer for the supplier of water to 33 cities and towns and 640,000 acres of farmland in northeast Colorado. “We’re always cautioning people to wait until March and April, because those are our wettest months.”

    Werner acknowledges concerns, especially after last year’s low rainfall and this winter’s piffle of snow. After all, memories of the 2002 drought cast a shadow over the hearts of gardeners. “2012 was the second worst runoff year for us; you don’t want to put another year like that on top of it. But it’s followed three of the wettest years — 2009, 2010, and 2011. This is why we have water storage in this state.”

    Yet storage is 25-percent below average in the district’s reservoirs, making the district cautious in its planning. “We have some big months (of moisture) ahead of us; Mother Nature’s given us that before. But with the way things are now, we’re casting a wary eye to the sky.”[…]

    As one of the older cities in the region, Longmont has managed its water portfolio to ride out weather downturns like the current dry spell. Between its reservoirs and shares in the Colorado Big Thompson project, the city currently has plenty of water to meet needs for 2013.

    “We track our water over a two year period and manage it conservatively, in case of dry year scenarios,” said Ken Huson, Water Resources Administrator with the city. “We project having 144-percent of need for 2013 and 136-percent for 2014. Our drought trigger is 135-percent or less, so right now we’re not projecting going into mandatory water restrictions.”

    From The Washington Post (Brian K. Sullivan):

    Forecast models suggest an area from parts of western Kansas south into Texas and west to New Mexico will probably see the drought continue until at least March, said David Unger, a meteorologist at the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

    “The climate models have been quite consistent for below- normal precipitation amounts,” Unger said today in a conference call with reporters. He said he wasn’t confident about what will happen in other parts of the country, though there may be some relief in the Ohio Valley…

    The drought reduced the corn harvest to the smallest in six years and sent prices up as much as 68 percent since June. The dry conditions also lowered the waters of the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi rivers, shrinking shipping channels and crimping the flow of goods along the nation’s largest inland waterway, which carries more than 14.5 million tons of agriculture products, chemicals and coal.

    Dryness is expected to persist through March from Nevada to western Missouri and from southern North Dakota to Texas, according to the prediction center.

    Drought conditions now cover 61.79 percent of the 48 contiguous U.S. states and 51.7 percent of the entire country, including Puerto Rico, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor in Lincoln, Nebraska…

    The drought is one of 11 natural disasters that cost more than $1 billion in 2012, said Adam Smith, an applied climatologist at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

    From KRDO.com:

    While the additional snowfall has helped, Colorado Springs Utilities said it is not enough to bring the state out of the drought. “It has helped some, but we are still in drought, and so we’re still looking at a very dry year,” said Abby Ortega, Colorado Springs Utilities water rights administrative supervisor.

    Ortega said reservoirs that serve Colorado Springs are at 49 percent of capacity, adding that ideally they should be at 75 percent of capacity.

    According to Ortega, the mountains would need to receive several feet of snow to prevent water restrictions this spring. She said that while the forecast indicates below-average precipitation chances for the first couple of months, there is still a chance the season could take a turn for the better. “We’re not running out of time at all. Typically, Colorado sees most of our snowpack in March, April and sometimes even in May.