COGA statement on new COGCC rules

Here’s the release from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (Dan Haley):

Mr. Chairman and Commissioners – my name is Dan Haley, President and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA). Thank you for allowing me a few minutes to speak to you regarding the important and complex rules that are before you today.

COGA is not new to rulemakings and engaging in our state’s ever-changing regulatory process. Over the last several years, COGA has stepped up to work with the administration, local governments, citizens and, other stakeholders to achieve constructive, meaningful, and practical solutions to tough issues faced in setback, groundwater, enforcement, citizen complaint, spill reporting, and floodplain rulemakings by this Commission. The outcome of these rulemakings resulted in the oil and gas industry operating under one of the most stringent regulatory environments in the nation.

Again, we find ourselves working in coordination with numerous stakeholders in yet another significant rulemaking – this one geared to the implementation of two of the unanimously approved recommendations by the members of the Governor’s Task Force, many of which are parties you will hear from today.

COGA fully supported the 9 recommendations submitted by the Governor’s Task Force in March 2015. In fact, our members said yes when the Governor asked industry to serve on the Task Force to help find ways for state and local governments to better collaborate and coordinate efforts for oil and gas operations. It was in the interest of all parties on the Governor’s Task Force to have a meaningful dialogue and work hard to seek ways in which the concerns of local jurisdictions, operators, and the state could be addressed and to provide constructive recommendations for policy on how best to achieve these goals.

In the end, all 21 task force members voted to adopt the language in Task Force Recommendations 17 and 20. Those recommendations were thoughtful and meaningful in approach and, by their unanimous support, addressed many of the issues before you today. These recommendations would bring a big change in the way oil and gas locations are permitted in Colorado. The changes proposed in Recommendation #17 are significant because for the first time:

  • The State would have a process and a standard for reviewing whether operators have worked in good faith to achieve agreement with local government on issues of concern about large facilities in urbanized areas.
  • There would be a record of negotiation to help the State decide what site specific mitigations may be necessary to respond to local concerns.
  • There would be established expectations that provide all parties with an understanding of when and with what conditions state permits will be considered.
  • These are meaningful changes.

    And with regard to Recommendation #20, for the first time, the State would identify parameters for industry to share longer-term planning information with local governments.

    COGA supports this rulemaking, however, maintains that the COGCC proposed rules must be modified to uphold the intent, meaning, and integrity of the task force recommendations.

    If Recommendations 17 and 20 were written the same as the draft rules before you, the industry representatives and maybe even a few non-industry members would NOT have voted in favor of the recommendations, and as such would not have passed out of the Task Force. In fact, as you will hear during the Industry presentation, there are certain elements of the rules that were outright rejected by the task force.

    That is why today, COGA, along with CPA and CPC, will be presenting an alternative rule that is based on the COGCC’s proposed rules, but reflects needed modifications in order to respect the intent, meaning and integrity of the actual recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force. The industry’s alternate proposed rule is based on the 3 C’s of Clarity, Consistency, and Certainty – you have heard this in prior rulemakings and we will explain in later testimony how our alternate rule follows the 3 C’s. Industry’s proposed rule maintains the intent and purpose of the unanimous recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force, while providing language that allows for the practicable and realistic application of an early evaluation process.

    Please keep in your mind that, in addition to the two recommendations before you today, industry task force members voted to support the other 7 recommendations, and COGA communicated and supported those recommendations to the legislature, as necessary. A lot is getting done, and today we are talking about two additional important recommendations to be implemented for further improvements in the responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas resources.

    COGA recognizes that this is a very important hearing and that you have heard and will hear a lot of testimony, from many perspectives. We appreciate your patience and consideration and also want to say thank you to the staff for their very hard work on these tough issues. COGA asks that you strongly consider our alternative rule as presented later today by Ms. Jost as we do believe our proposal provides clarity, consistency, and certainty for all stakeholders, not just Industry.”

    Oil and gas well sites near the Roan Plateau
    Oil and gas well sites near the Roan Plateau

    #ColoradoRiver: Cloud-seeding supporters are hopeful efforts will fill aquifers and reservoirs — The Durango Herald

    Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters
    Cloud-seeding graphic via Science Matters

    From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

    To seed a cloud in Southwest Colorado, employees with Western Weather Consultants light generators that send vaporized silver iodide up to the base of clouds. The silver iodide forms an artificial ice nuclei and attracts supercooled water to form snowflakes.

    In an ideal situation, the cloud would release excess water that would otherwise pass over the region, said Eric Hjermstad, co-owner and director of field operations for the company.

    “It’s meant to add just a little bit more per storm,” Busto said.

    A study in Wyoming conducted from 2005 to 2014 found cloud seeding can add 5 to 15 percent more precipitation.

    During a dry storm or a dry year it’s harder to make a difference, he said.

    Seeding during El Niño can help build snowpack to replenish aquifers and help fill reservoirs such as Lake Powell, Hjermstad said.

    It’s an investment that is supported by regional water agencies and ski resorts that paid $237,900 this season, according to the Southwestern Water Conservation District. In this area, Western Weather operates about 36 generators from Pagosa Springs to Telluride, Hjermstad said.

    This winter, the cloud-seeding supporters are looking to upgrade their efforts through better generators and potentially a radiometer that helps gauge the water and temperature of clouds before seeding, said Ken Curtis, engineer for the Dolores Water Conservancy District.

    While he said there’s always skepticism around cloud seeding, the Wyoming study showed that cloud seeding can work if the silver iodide is delivered in the right place under the right conditions.

    “We know it works, but you need to do best practices,” Curtis said.

    Last week, the Southwest Basin Roundtable granted the group about $55,600 to hire a consultant to help select equipment and the right areas to place it.

    The state will review and finalize the grant in the coming months, he said.

    The strategic plan to upgrade equipment will likely take two years because there are 12 agencies and companies involved in funding.

    EPA blamed for delay on Superfund in Silverton — The Durango Herald

    Cement Creek aerial photo -- Jonathan Thompson via Twitter
    Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo)

    Frustration for failing to meet a Jan. 31 deadline to be considered for a Superfund listing this spring was evident Tuesday night in Silverton, but the town’s hired attorneys assured elected officials negotiations have not derailed.

    Meetings early this week were supposed to lead up to a Thursday decision on whether Silverton Town trustees and San Juan County commissioners would direct Gov. John Hickenlooper to request Superfund status for the mining network north of town responsible for degraded water quality in the Animas River.

    Instead, that vote was canceled Monday, and a Town Hall hearing on Tuesday saw much of the same rhetoric in meetings past: the need for more information.

    Jeff Robbins and Paul Sunderland, attorneys representing the town of Silverton in Superfund negotiations, chalked up the delay to the Environmental Protection Agency’s slow-moving bureaucracy.

    “We’ve given them our position,” Sunderland said. “The ball is now in the EPA’s court.”

    Three points of contention stand between federal intervention on the mines loading heavy metals into the Animas watershed: the actual boundaries of the Superfund, a reimbursement for costs associated with the Gold King Mine blowout, and an assurance local entities will have a say in future decision-making.

    Robbins said the chance of making the EPA’s March review of Superfund sites is “very much still in play,” but the process is solely contingent on hearing back from the federal agency on the unsettled terms.

    Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

    Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through January 24, 2016.
    Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through January 24, 2016.

    Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

    #ColoradoRiver: Navajo Nation Could Settle Years-Long Water Rights Issue — KJZZ

    Navajo Nation map via
    Navajo Nation map via

    From KJZZ (Stina Sieg):

    An agreement to settle water rights claims by the Navajo Nation is going before tribal lawmakers this week, and it’s been a long time coming.

    The Navajo Nation’s proposed settlement for claims to water from the upper Colorado River Basin in Utah has been in the works since 2003. The plan would give the tribe more than 80,000 acre-feet of water per year that could be drawn from aquifers, Lake Powell and the San Juan River. It would also mean the Navajo Nation would waive any future claims to water from the basin.

    The settlement calls for the federal government to set aside $200 million to develop water infrastructure. Utah has agreed to chip in $8 million. The Navajo Nation’s water would come from Utah’s unused share of the Colorado River under a multi-state compact that left tribes out.

    From the Associated Press via the Scottsbluff Star-Herald:

    The bill passed 13-7 Tuesday without any debate and with few people in attendance at the Navajo Nation Council chambers in Window Rock. Lawmakers debated the settlement in executive session Monday and held a work session last week.

    The settlement would give the tribe 81,500 acre-feet annually of Utah’s unused share of water. The Navajo Nation could draw the water from aquifers, and the San Juan River and its tributaries. It also could divert water from Lake Powell, although it has no plans to do so.

    The Navajo communities in Utah currently use only a fraction of the water allocated in the settlement. But the agreement will allow for economic development and leasing of water to entities off the reservation, and the tribe wouldn’t lose any water it did not put to use, according to the settlement.

    The bill now goes to tribal President Russell Begaye. It also needs approval from the Utah Legislature, which has passed a resolution in favor of the settlement, and the U.S. Interior Department. It would not take effect until Congress appropriates about $200 million for water infrastructure projects, including wells, pipelines, and water treatment plants.

    “If the amount of water allocated is finalized, then we would support the general idea,” Begaye said earlier Tuesday. “We do not intend to only utilize the water for drinking or housing purposes. We would also like to see it benefit business startups, tribal offices, schools and other programs on the Navajo Nation.”

    American Indian water rights settlements nationwide have cost the federal government $4.3 billion, the Interior Department said. Congress enacted most of the 31 settlements, while the others came about through federal agencies or court order. Four are pending in Congress for tribes in Montana, Oregon and California, the Interior Department said.

    The Navajo Nation settlement would resolve one of the largest outstanding water rights claims in Utah, officials said.

    Navajos living on the Utah portion of the reservation are served by a mix of groundwater and surface water. But tribal officials say it’s not good quality. Much of the groundwater is contaminated with arsenic, and it’s costly to treat water from the San Juan River, said Jason John, principal hydrologist with the tribe’s Department of Water Resources.

    For Utah, the settlement provides certainty in planning for future water uses, said Boyd Clayton, deputy director of the Utah Division of Water Rights. The settlement’s share for the Navajo Nation is not being used by the state and is flowing down the river, he said.

    “We feel like we gave up a fair share of water,” Clayton said. “We’re putting some money in the settlement to actually develop projects so they can physically get drinking water.”

    Utah agreed to chip in $8 million, some of which already has been set aside.

    The pact faced little opposition publicly, a stark difference between water rights negotiations in Arizona and New Mexico. Navajo efforts to secure water from the lower Colorado River basin in Arizona and the Little Colorado River through settlements have failed. Navajo lawmakers who represent communities in the lower Colorado River basin in Arizona were among those who voted against the Utah settlement Tuesday.

    A massive pipeline project in New Mexico that would draw from the San Juan River is moving forward under a settlement, although non-Indian water users have an appeal pending in the state Court of Appeals.

    The Navajo Nation’s alternative to settling in Utah would have been to take its case to court.
    “People will say, ‘Let’s wait, things will get better,'” said John, the tribal hydrologist. “That’s one opinion, but the facts right now show there will be more demand on these water supplies in the future.”

    SDS: Water treatment plant nearly finished — the Colorado Springs Independent

    From the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zebeck):

    It won’t be long before the new Edward W. Bailey Water Treatment cranks up to filter water coming from Pueblo Reservoir through the Southern Delivery System pipeline…

    …a few weeks ago, we got the royal tour of the water treatment facility on Marksheffel Road from two operators — Chad Sell and Jay Hardison — who are as excited as little kids who just got new bicycles for Christmas. They’re happy because a redesign of the project placed most treatment processes under one roof, making it not only more efficient but much more convenient to be monitored by Colorado Springs Utilities staff.

    SDS project manager John Fredell explains how Utilities got a good deal from bidders: “What we said is, ‘We want to see your value engineering ideas right up front.’ One said, ‘We can shrink this way down, put it all under the same roof and still deliver the same quantity and same quality of water, and we can do this with four miles less piping.’ Four miles!”


    There’s nothing extraordinary really about the Bailey treatment plant, named for a former long-time Utilities water division employee. The plant uses a traditional processes of flocculation, sedimentation and ozone to filter water and deal with any taste and odor problems.

    But there are certain design features that take the operators into account. For one thing, the plant can be controlled off-site by an operator using a mobile device. Also, access to the pipes below the various stages of treatment are readily accessible for maintenance and repairs. And, the plant will require only six employees on duty at any given time. It has a 10-million-gallon holding tank.

    The plant is built so that it can be easily expanded from 50 million gallons a day to 100 million gallons, Hardison notes. “Here’s a pad for a future generator,” he says. “We can add another generator and go to 100, like for our great grandkids.”

    While the whole system could become operational within just a few months, for now, operators are running it through the rinse cycle to be sure all is in working order. “So we’re currently testing all the processes out,” Hardison says. “We’re stopping and starting the plant, trying to get it fine-tuned. Plants run really well when they’re run all the time, continuously. If you stop and start, they’re not very good. We’re almost to the point where we will run it continuously.”

    He adds that one thing operators will learn during the testing is the “bookends of the low end and high end” of what the plant is capable of.

    Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities
    Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities

    #Colorado Farm Show recap

    From The Greeley Tribune (Kelly Ragan):

    Water seeped into several presentations Tuesday at the annual Colorado Farm Show at Island Grove Regional Park for Colorado Produce day.

    Dennis Nuxoll, vice president of federal government affairs for Western Growers braved east coast storms, trudged through the snow and caught a plane to tell attendees how congressional action could affect them this year.

    “Trying to do something around water is a big thing,” Nuxoll said. “Every producer can benefit.”

    Robert Sakata, president of the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and owner of Sakata Farms in Brighton, moderated the presentations. Here’s some of what they discussed:


    Sakata said he believes protecting the current system of water rights is instrumental to maintaining inter-industry order and cooperation.

    “The key is to protect the prior appropriation system because we have a long history of that, and it would send the whole thing into turmoil if we got rid of that,” Sakata said.


    “Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet have been working to identify and push for ideas to benefit Colorado,” Nuxoll said.

    The senators are working to facilitate a multi-state water package to bring to the floor in 2016. Any water legislation will be finished within the first three months of the year, Nuxoll said.

    The problem is that people forget drought quickly when snowpack is decent, Nuxoll said.

    A combination of short-term memory and a presidential election year will create a tumultuous climate for water legislation. Once presidential candidates are chosen, Nuxoll fears issues that don’t draw a crowd will fall by the wayside.

    “You talk to farmers, and they remember the difficulties of recent drought,” Nuxoll said. “We’ve got to make our politicians remember. It won’t be on TV.”

    Colorado is a focal point for water discussion as all aspects of heavy water users — urban, agriculture, energy and recreation — coexist.

    “Colorado is a good spot because it has good advocates and a well-vetted water plan,” Nuxoll said.


    Mike Bartolo, director of Colorado State University Arkansas Valley Research Station in Rocky Ford spoke on water research.

    Bartolo expects research in efficient drip irrigation and high-selenium water usage to be explored in 2016.

    Integrating quality water with crop production links the more abstract concepts of water to the consumer.

    “The quality aspect is something new and exciting,” Bartolo said. “We’ve got a health-conscious population in Colorado. We’ve got consumers becoming more engaged in how their food is produced. They want to understand, and they’re asking about farmers.”

    Westwide SNOTEL map January 26, 2016 via the NRCS.
    Westwide SNOTEL map January 26, 2016 via the NRCS.