— NOAA (@NOAA) December 17, 2013
From the Prowers County Journal (Russ Baldwin):
John Stulp, former Prowers County Commissioner and current Director of the Interbasin Compact (IBCC), and Special Policy Advisor to the Governor for Water, met with the Prowers County Commissioners on December 12 to provide an update on the water plan. Stulp was accompanied by another former commissioner, Leroy Mauch, who also represents the region on water issues.
Representatives from nine different water basins throughout the state have been meeting for the past several years, providing updates on each basin’s water needs, best use policies and how those future needs will interact with each other. Stulp said that some trends have been evident for years such as gaps between water supplies and water demands, agricultural water has been undergoing a buy and dry policy to meet municipal demands along the Western Slope and Front Range and water supplies are uncertain in light of the continued drought which has impacted much of the state for the past decade. He added that the various Basins in the Compact will have their own areas of focus, “The Rio Grande will look at wells and the Arkansas is concerned about wells and surface water. The North Platte is nearly all surface and some wells,” he explained.
Stulp said, “We could see our state population double in the next 40 to 60 years and we need to know where we can find the water to supply those needs.” Reports have shown that with a widening gap between supply and needs, the state could face a shortfall that exceeds 500,000 acre feet annually. “We don’t want to see a buy and dry situation that hit Crowley County,” Stulp explained. That county had over 92% of its water go away and supplies were also used by two prison systems that located there. The end result was dry land and brush fires, one that was fatal to responders several years ago.
“Water conditions became critical on the Western Slope due to the drought that’s lasted about 12 years now and our interests along the Front Range and the eastern portion of the state takes about half the water from the Slope,” Stulp explained to the commissioners. “We drilled from 20 to 30 tunnels through the Continental Divide over the years to bring in about 550,000 acre feet a year from parts of the Western Slope to the Front Range. Half of that is junior to the Colorado River Compact. There could be concern over various obligations and a potential for a water call on the Colorado River. The junior diverters will have to reduce their diversions.” He added that Denver is getting half its water from the East and the Western Slope.
Conservation measures could help reduce the demand in metro areas, Stulp stated. He said Front Range communities along with Denver have done well, cutting back demand per capita by 20% the same time the population has increased by about 10%. There may be more restrictions pertaining to lawn watering and there’s grey water legislation being considered which will reuse shower and similar used water to flush toilets, all within municipal water use decrees. The system that recycles water in that fashion won’t be mandated for household use, but will be an option. Other legislation will require water-“sense” fixtures for additional efficiency such as lavatories, shower heads, aeration toilets and urinals and other flush systems. “The big box retail outlets will be the first point of sale for such items, and will be the only type available for sale in the future if this legislation is approved,” he explained. “We’re not going to be seeing toilet cops running around, but according to Denver water, we could save from 20 to 40,000 acre feet a year with these changes,” Stulp added. He thinks the legislature will see these measures introduced next year…
Stulp also touched upon the status of the Ark Valley Conduit, first proposed in the 1960s to bring water by pipeline from Pueblo to Lamar. Funding for environmental studies has become available from Congress over the past several years, but the 120 mile long project is still years away. Over 30 entities along the route would be served by the water stored in Pueblo. STulp said because of water quality concerns for the Arkansas River, there have been several groups from western Kansas that have expressed interest in having the pipeline extended across the border.
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.
From the Associated Press (Matthew Perrone) via Loveland Reporter-Herald:
The Food and Drug Administration says there is no evidence that antibacterial chemicals used in liquid soaps and washes help prevent the spread of germs, and there is some evidence they may pose health risks.
The agency said it is revisiting the safety of chemicals like triclosan in light of recent studies suggesting they can interfere with hormone levels and spur the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.
The government’s preliminary ruling lends new credence to longstanding warnings from researchers who say the chemicals are, at best, ineffective and at worst, a threat to public health.
Under its proposed rule released Monday, the agency will require manufacturers to prove that their antibacterial soaps and body washes are safe and more effective than plain soap and water. If companies cannot demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of their products, they would have to be reformulated, relabeled or possibly removed from the market. The agency will take comments on its proposal before finalizing it in coming months.
More water pollution coverage here.
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
State oil and gas personnel are trying to determine whether hydraulic fracturing of a horizontal well outside De Beque is responsible for water and gas flowing from a non-producing vertical well a half-mile away. Todd Hartman, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, said fluid at the surface has been captured in a trench and contained in a pit on site.
“No surface waters have been impacted and the nearest known water well is roughly six miles away. (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) personnel will be working to determine any potential impact on groundwater,” he said.
“COGCC is investigating the possibility the hydraulic stimulation of the horizontal wellbore communicated with the vertical wellbore.”
He said Black Hills Exploration & Production was doing the horizontal drilling and fracturing operation on Bureau of Land Management property. Its well reached about 6,000 feet deep and the fracking was done within the last few weeks. The vertical well, owned by Maralex Resources Inc., is 7,300 feet and was drilled in 1981. It hasn’t produced for many years, Hartman said.
He said COGCC field inspection personnel were on the site Monday and more, including environmental specialists and engineers, would be arriving Tuesday to determine what happened and assess and remediate any impacts. The agency is collecting water samples as part of its investigation. Representatives with both companies also are involved in the investigation.
Horizontal drilling involves drilling down and then out horizontally to follow geological formations. The practice has taken off as companies have combined it with hydraulic fracturing to successfully produce significant quantities of oil and gas.
The practice also has led to some concerns about the possibility of impacting pre-existing vertical wells that may not be designed to withstand the kind of pressure associated with the fracking, which involves pumping fluids into a formation to create cracks and foster oil and gas flow. In October, Encana said its fracking of a horizontal well in New Mexico may have been responsible for releases of fluid from a nearby vertical well, according to a report by KRQE in Albuquerque.
Meanwhile, a group of 9-15-year-olds have delivered a petition asking the state to stop issuing permits for oil and gas exploration and production. Here’s a report from Cathy Proctor writing for the Denver Business Journal. Here’s an excerpt:
A group of eight 9-15-year-olds from Boulder, Lafayette and Englewood have asked state regulators to stop issuing permits for drilling oil and gas wells, or for fracking them, “until it can be done without adversely impacting human health,” safety, or Colorado’s climate, water, earth and wildlife.
The petition was filed Nov. 15 by the Boulder-based Earth Guardians with the Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state agency that regulates the state’s multibillion-dollar oil and gas industry. It’s available here, on the COGCC website.
“The COGCC will consider initiating this rulemaking at the January 27-28, 2014 Hearings,” the agency said in a note posted on its website.
COGCC Executive Director Matt Lepore said the petition was posted to the COGCC website Monday, after the commissioners decided to hear the children’s request for a new rule. The petition was filed under a state law that allows individuals to ask the state to make rules, change them or repeal them.
Finally, here’s a look at finding common ground in the oil and gas debate from Allen Best writing for the Mountain Town News. Here’s an excerpt:
In a lecture on Dec. 10 sponsored by the Center of the American West, oil-and-gas attorney Howard Boigon called this “the latest reel in a long-running movie.”
This latest reel can be distilled into one word: fracking. Short for hydraulic fracturing, it’s a technical process, just one component in the broader activity of drilling. But the word is now fraught with additional meanings, depending upon who is using it.
The rift has become so deep that, like gang colors, sides can be differentiated by how they spell the word. To drillers, the abbreviated word is spelled “frac.” To most everybody else, including those more neutral about the practice, it is “frack.”
If we can’t agree how to spell the word, there’s even deeper division as to what it refers. Until a few years ago, it was clinically called a “downhole completion procedure,” one done only after a drilling rig had been laid down. So far, as Boigon noted, there are no confirmed cases of fracking fluids sullying potable drinking water — this after a million fracks during the last 60 years.
In the language of some, thought, fracking involves much more—and is much more sinister.
“In its most pointed form,” he said, “it is used to describe in a pejorative way the injection of known carcinogens underground which can percolate into groundwater, with the resulting production of large quantities of toxic fluids which are often spilled on the surface before having to be disposed of in underground wells that cause earthquakes.”[…]
Boigon was at his best in dissecting the oil and gas industry. It is, he said, “an industry that in many ways is bolted to the past…A stubborn reliance on property rights as the sacred foundation of the industry underlies attitudes and actions. Oil and gas is found where it is found, therefore we must go and get it wherever it is, and our right to do is inalienable and must be protected…. Independence and self-reliance, the willingness to take risk, an aversion to interference by government or neighbor—these are the attributes of the oilman…Oilmen are competitive and notoriously self-confident, sometimes to the point of arrogance and dismissiveness, believing they know best how to do their business and that there is nothing they can’t do. “
His acknowledgement of the technological prowess of drillers also bears citation:
“The fact is that the oil and gas industry is one of the most innovative on the planet, and our civilization has benefited greatly from this. Think about the basic technology of the business, drilling a hole several inches in diameter miles below the surface to targets imperfectly identified, through virtually impenetrable rock under conditions of high heat and pressure, under surface conditions ranging from extreme cold to thousands of feet of water to dense jungle to challenging topography to fragile environments to urban surroundings, in political and regulatory contexts all over the world ranging from highly developed to primitive. The imperatives of meeting these challenges have generated extraordinary creativity and innovation, from deepwater platforms to multi-well pads to horizontal drilling to multi-stage hydraulic fracturing to pitless drilling, to water recycling, to fracking without fresh water, to name just a few. Technology is constantly evolving. You give them a challenge, and they figure out a way to meet it.”[…]
I have made the argument that it wouldn’t hurt to have a few more drilling rigs in our midst, to retain an element of reality in our lives. Those drilling rigs are our rigs, after all. Our giant houses, 12 mph pickups, weekend flights to Las Vegas – we’re all part of this story. It’s not them vs. us. It’s us.
Does this drilling give us the illusion of sustainability? The late Randy Udall probed this in a presentation at the Colorado Renewable Energy Society in March. We’ve chained ourselves to the drilling rig, he said, and thrown away the key.