2019 #COleg (SB19-181): Ten Things You Should Know About #Colorado’s Oil and Gas Industry — @ConservationColorado #KeepItInTheGround

Directional drilling from one well site via the National Science Foundation

From Conservation Colorado (Audrey Wheeler):

Here in Colorado, the oil and gas industry has had too much influence for too long while our communities and environment suffer.

Over the last decade, communities across the state have found themselves with no power to stand up to the industry when drilling comes to their neighborhoods. The very agency that is supposed to regulate the industry also has a dual mission to “foster” industry growth. And hundreds of oil and other toxic spills related to drilling occur in Colorado every year.

At the same time, the oil and gas industry has cut corners when it comes to Coloradans’ health and safety. They’ve built industrial operations in residential neighborhoods, ignoring community complaints even during the most egregious examples, such as in Battlement Mesa, with a pad 350 feet from homes. Companies have spent tens of millions on public campaigns and elections. As a result, nearly every commonsense policy to keep the industry in check has failed.

But with new leadership in the governor’s office and the state legislature, we have the chance to make a change.

A bill announced [February 28, 2019] by Governor Polis, Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, and House Speaker KC Becker would protect public health and safety, give more power to local governments, and enact new protections for our environment. We’re overdue for reforms like this to our state laws.
Here are 10 reasons why these reforms are urgent for Colorado:

Oil and gas operations pose a threat to our health and safety.

1. Our state has had at least 116 fires and explosions at oil and gas operations from 2006 to 2015.

2. After the deadly explosion in Firestone that killed two people, former employees of Anadarko accused the company of sacrificing safety to boost profits. In court documents, they claimed company culture was cavalier with regard to public safety and oversight.

3. Coloradans who live close to oil and gas operations face health risks including cancer, birth defects, and asthma.

Colorado’s current oil and gas regulations are too weak to protect our communities, workers, and environment.

4. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has a nearly uninterrupted, 68-year history of failing to deny permits for oil and gas companies to drill—regardless of the risks that wells pose to health, safety, and the environment.

5. Fifty-one oil and gas workers were killed on the job in Colorado between 2003 and 2014. Several more have been killed since then.

The industry has blocked commonsense reforms time and time again.

6. Oil and gas companies have a successful history of defeating regulations: only four of twenty-five bills that would have protected health and safety were passed by the state legislature since 2013.

7. In 2018 alone, the oil and gas industry opposed six bills aimed at increasing protections for communities and the environment, including those to put oil and gas rigs further away from school playgrounds, improve accident reporting, and facilitate mapping of underground pipelines that run near homes—a direct response to the tragedy in Firestone.

And they spend millions to influence the public and legislators at every step of the political process.

8. Oil and gas companies invest heavily in defeating citizen efforts to improve our state laws or implementing those that help their bottom line. In 2018, they spent $37.3 million to defeat Proposition 112, a ballot initiative for larger setbacks for oil and gas development, and advance Amendment 74, an effort to guarantee company profits in the state constitution.

9. The industry donates big money to elections, both traceable and dark money. In the 2018 election cycle, oil and gas interests gave close to $1 million to just one electoral committee, the Senate Majority Fund (known as the “campaign arm for Republican senators” in Colorado).

10. Oil and gas interests paid at least $200,000 on lobbying to sway decision-makers at the Capitol in 2018.

This story isn’t about one irresponsible company, but about a well-funded campaign to maximize profits over public safety and stop at nothing to get there. It’s past time we adopted common-sense rules that make the industry a better actor in Colorado — and we need to seize that chance.

ACT NOW: Tell your legislators to protect our neighborhoods and put health and safety first! >>

Earthquake reported at the Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility — @USBR

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Marlon Duke):

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that an earthquake occurred at 10:22 a.m. MST, on Monday, March 4, 2019, near Reclamation’s Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility near Bedrock, Colorado. Reclamation maintains a comprehensive network of seismic monitoring instruments in the area, which indicated a preliminary magnitude 4.1 for this earthquake. The quake was felt by employees at the Reclamation facility and residents in surrounding areas.

The Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility injects highly pressurized, concentrated salt water (brine) into a 16,000-foot-deep well, preventing the brine from entering the Dolores River. The well was not operating at the time of the earthquake due to routine maintenance. Operations will not resume until Reclamation completes a thorough assessment of the situation.

High-pressure brine injection has been known to trigger small earthquakes in the past, and today’s event was within the range of previously induced earthquakes. Reclamation’s seismic network in the area monitors the location, magnitude and frequency around the Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility. Reclamation will continue using that network to monitor earthquakes in the area.

The Paradox Valley Salinity Control Facility substantially benefits downstream water quality in the Colorado River Basin, and helps the United States meet treaty obligations with Mexico for allowable salinity levels in the river. Historically, the Dolores River picked up an estimated 205,000 tons of salt annually as it passed through the Paradox Valley. Since the mid-1990s much of this salt has been collected by the Paradox Valley Salinity Control Unit in shallow wells along the Dolores River and then injected into deep subsurface geologic formations. The deep well injection program removes about 95,000 tons of salt annually from the Dolores and Colorado rivers.

Judge denies @EPA motion to dismiss #GoldKingMine spill lawsuit — The Farmington Daily Times #AnimasRiver

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

From The Farmington Daily Times (Noel Lyn Smith):

A federal judge has denied a motion to dismiss claims brought by state, federal and local governments and private entities related to damages caused by the Gold King Mine spill.

U.S. District Court Judge William P. Johnson denied the motion on Feb. 28 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, its contractors and mining companies…

New Mexico, Navajo Nation and Utah, along with residents in Aztec and on the Navajo Nation, have filed lawsuits for environmental damages and tort claims against the federal agency and its contractors and mining companies since May 2016.

The defendants requested that the court dismiss claims, arguing sovereign immunity barred the litigation.

The two states and the tribe are seeking to recover the costs of their responses to the spill under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.

New Mexico officials commended the latest court decision.

James Kenney, secretary for the environment department, said the state will continue to hold the defendants responsible for the environmental and economic harms caused by the spill.

Among damages the state is seeking on its behalf and for agricultural and recreational operations is more than $130 million in lost income, taxes, fees and revenues…

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the tribe is pleased with the judge’s decision.

How George H.W. Bush’s EPA administrator saved the #SouthPlatte — The #Colorado Springs Gazette

William Reilly watches as President George H.W. Bush signs the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. By Carol T. Powers, photographer, The White House – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Archive, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57646185

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Paul Klee):

Thank you, William K. Reilly.

Thank you for saving our river from drowning.

Reilly, now 79, is the former Environmental Protection Agency administrator who vetoed the Two Forks project that in 1990 sought to dam the South Platte upstream from the one stop sign in the mountain town of Deckers.

“It was all systems go,” Reilly said last week, and the 20 miles of irreplaceable trout habitat where hundreds of kids like me learned to fly fish would be nothing more than a sad bedtime story.

This fragile, world-class trout fishery would have been flooded below the 615-foot Two Forks dam, a structure roughly the size of Hoover Dam. Twenty-five miles southwest of Denver and 42 miles northwest from Colorado Springs, six towns and a priceless outdoor recreation area would have been washed away.

So thank you.

“How’s the river doing, anyway?” Reilly asked before his keynote speech for Colorado Trout Unlimited’s annual River Stewardship Gala here Thursday.

Really well, considering. The Hayman fire was rough on everybody, and the trout populations are gradually returning. But here’s the real catch: At least this stretch of river still exists.

Thanks to Reilly.

As Reilly told it from his home in San Francisco, the Two Forks dam was “a foregone conclusion from every angle” when the late George H.W. Bush hired him as head of the EPA in 1989.

“You don’t bring the World Wildlife president into the EPA to just sit there. You want drive, action,” Reilly said. “I was determined in my authority to make him the environmental president.”

Damming the confluence of the north and south forks of the South Platte was long viewed as a solution to the water demands of the Denver suburbs that grew another neighborhood in the time you read this…

Reilly is not a fisherman. That’s the funny part. But he saw the water battles here in a different light. He observed a metro area that “had no real water metering at the time,” where the tradition of Western water waste ran wild, where sprinklers flipped on while it was raining…

One, “Nothing in our field is ever final. This could return, or something like it. There will be a future generation that believes the time is right and a project like this is worth it,” he said.

Two, “Lobbying, communication, data, analysis with details, honesty and integrity, it all works in our system. It really does. I know a lot of activists despair that it doesn’t, but it does.

“I don’t think we knew there were so many fishermen in the country. It seemed like half of them wrote to us,” Reilly said. “The government, they were a little bit taken aback. They had some negative blow-back, but then there was a cascade of positive mail from fishermen that came in.”

Proposals sought for inaugural Food-Water-Sustainability grant program — @ColoradoStateU

A center-pivot sprinkler near Wray, Colo. Photo/Allen Best

From Colorado State University:

The Colorado Water Center, the School of Global Environmental Sustainability and the Agricultural Experiment Station are announcing a request for proposals for 2019-20 for their first-ever Food-Water-Sustainability competitive grant program.

Jointly funded by the three complementary centers, the program seeks proposals from a broad range of disciplines that target a sustainability challenge at the food-water nexus currently faced by our community, region, country or world. Proposals should also help support the mission and goals of all partner entities through collaboration and creative scholarship.

Driven by a rising global population, rapid urbanization, changing diets and economic growth, demand for food and water resources is increasing around the world. Agriculture is the largest consumer of the world’s freshwater resources, and it is estimated that with a population of 8.3 billion people by 2030, we will need 40 percent more water and 35 percent more food. These resources already face mounting threats, including pollution, climate change impacts, the destruction and degradation of freshwater ecosystems and habitats, and agricultural intensification. Devising effective responses to these major challenges will require a systems-oriented, multidisciplinary approach to reshape the food-water nexus so that it works for all people sustainably. Yet many of the tools and approaches needed have yet to be developed or applied.

The Food-Water-Sustainability Research Team encourages any CSU faculty and staff with established research interests in food, water and sustainability, whose existing or planned research projects will be significantly enhanced by receiving the award, to apply. Applicants must demonstrate the ability and desire to address a relevant challenge through broad-based interdisciplinary research, education and engagement activities. Special consideration will be given to projects that include undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-doc researchers. Proposals are due April 1.

The awarded research team will have the opportunity to accelerate progress in a research area designed to meet global food, water and sustainability challenges, and to engage in the faculty, staff and practitioners of the Colorado Water Center, the School of Global Environmental Sustainability and the Agricultural Experiment Station.

The RFP is open to all CSU faculty and staff in good academic standing. For more information, visit http://watercenter.colostate.edu, http://sustainability.colostate.edu, and http://aes.agsci.colostate.edu.

#ColoradoRiver: #Drought Contingency planning effort creaks along #COriver #aridification #DCP

Las Vegas Lake Mead intake schematic, courtesy SNWA.

From The Nevada Independent (Daniel Rothberg):

The federal government initiated a comment period today for the seven states in the Colorado River Basin, after Arizona and California were unable to agree on a Southwest drought plan by a second “deadline” of March 4.

The Department of Interior is now giving the governors of the seven states, including Nevada, 15 days to offer recommendations on how federal water managers should proceed if the states can’t agree to a drought plan that they have been negotiating for years.

The expected Interior action sets a new target to complete the drought plan by March 19, a goal that many believe is achievable as Arizona and California come closer to resolving issues within their respective states that had prevented officials from signing onto the plan. The new deadline comes after water users missed a first deadline to finish the plan by Jan. 31.

“The states that share the Colorado River continue to work hard on finalizing negotiations of the Drought Contingency Plan, and Nevada’s representatives are confident that a final plan will be delivered to the United States Secretary of the Interior by the March 19 deadline,” Bronson Mack, a spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority said in an emailed statement.

The water authority has said it is prepared for the drought plan, which would require the states to make voluntary cuts to its allocation, because of conservation and reusing indoor water.

John Entsminger, who leads the water authority, serves as the governor’s negotiator on Colorado River issues.

Like those before it, this newest deadline is seen as a soft target. Even if March 19 passes, the federal government would not take an immediate action until later in the year when decisions have to be made about how to operate Colorado River reservoirs going into 2020. The Bureau of Reclamation, an Interior Department agency, operates those dams and reservoirs.

Paonia turns the water back on

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Paonia began restoring water service Monday to residents affected by an outage resulting from leaks and poor production from the springs that provide the town’s raw water supply…

The town began restoring service Monday morning but was doing so slowly to avoid pressure spikes. Knight expected that by the end of Monday most people who weren’t getting water would be seeing some water pressure, although that might not be the case for homes at higher elevations or at the end of water lines.

The town is expecting full pressure systemwide to be reached by this afternoon.

A notice to boil the water before drinking it remains in place as the service is being restored to allow time for lines to be flushed and chlorine to make its way through the system. Knight said if things go well, water samples may be able to be taken today. Still, it will take about 24 hours to get test results to the state to determine whether the notice can be lifted.

The town last week cut service first to about a third of the 1,800 people it serves, and then to about 200 more taps. That happened after it found and fixed some leaks, but its spring water supplies weren’t able to replenish the lost water in its main tank. Knight believes those springs were affected by last year’s drought.

The town continued service to what it considered essential areas, such as those serving school, urgent care center and nursing home facilities, and downtown businesses.

The town is now restoring cut-off service thanks to a number of factors. Mount Lamborn Ranch agreed to make water available from Roeber Reservoir, and state officials helped the town find additional water in the town’s springs, Knight said. Also, a few more large leaks were found.

Knight said a leak-detection crew from the city of Westminster found one of them, and the city of Montrose sent a construction crew to fix it. It’s one of numerous examples of support Paonia has gotten from state, county and local governments. Others who have helped include plumbers who have offered to check residents’ pressure relief valves on their hot water tanks in preparation for water service to be restored.

Knight said the town had been processing as little as 135 gallons a minute, but now is up to 550 gallons a minute, which far exceeds even normal usage of the system and is letting the town refill tanks. Still, its springs are producing about half of normal for this time of year, so it is continuing to encourage conservation.

The town is planning another community meeting today at 6 p.m. at the Paradise Theatre to update residents on the situation.

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

The problem started on Feb. 17, when Paonia’s water operators noted a loss of water in a 2 million gallon storage tank. A team went out looking for a leak, but could not locate it. As the leak continued, the town’s water system lost enough pressure that the state of Colorado imposed a boil order. In response, town officials declared a state of emergency.

A potable water tank arrived soon after, on loan from the National Park Service, which affected residents could use to fill up vessels to take water back to their homes. A team, aided by the city of Westminster, was sent out to locate the leaks. They found one in a supply pipe that was spilling into the North Fork River. After locating the leak, the town’s water delivery system came back online on Feb. 22.

Four days later, town officials discovered that its water customers were consuming more than what was being produced at its water treatment plant. A series of 22 springs at the base Mount Lamborn serves as the town’s raw water supply. Because of record-breaking dry conditions during much of 2018, the springs are running at half their normal volumes for this time of year.

To avoid seeing the town’s entire supply dip to a dangerous level, town administrator Ken Knight chose to shut down some water users to allow the system to recharge. First he denied water to 27 mostly rural providers who purchase water from the town to deliver to customers within Delta County. Then Knight turned off the majority of the town’s residential users, choosing to maintain service at Paonia’s schools, town buildings, downtown business district and other facilities deemed critical to the town’s operations.

Since then, Knight says the town has been working with a local rancher association to tap into a privately-held reservoir to fill the town’s system. That’s allowed most of Paonia’s downtown core to keep receiving water while the rest of the community has been out of water or on a boil notice.

Even when water service returns, which could come as early as Monday, the town will remain on a boil order until the town can flush its system, pull samples of the treated water, and send them to a lab for testing. If those samples show the water is safe to drink, Knight says Paonia residents could get service back without a boil order in place by Wednesday afternoon.

If samples come back positive for contaminants, that process would be delayed until the water is deemed safe.

The #ColoradoRiver is a Reliable Source of Water for #Utah — @UTAHSavesH2O #LakePowellPipeline #COriver #aridification

Upper Colorado River Basin map via the Upper Colorado River Commission.

From the Utah Department of Natural Resources:

Falling storage levels at both lakes Powell and Mead have highlighted the potential effects of climate change on the Colorado River, causing some to question its future viability as a reliable water supply source for the state of Utah.

“All water providers, including the State of Utah, understand the level of concern some have regarding the perceived uncertainty associated with the use of Colorado River water,” said Eric Millis, director of the Utah Division of Water Resources. “The Colorado River is reliable. We work closely with our federal partners and other basin states to plan for future needs and mitigate potential impacts. The drought contingency plans recently outlined by the Upper and Lower Basin states serve as an example of such planning.”

When looking at whether the river can meet future needs, scientists, water providers, and those who manage the river look at its past performance during varying weather conditions. Colorado River flows are cyclical, as are weather patterns.

The system’s reliability is documented in the benchmark Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) 2012 Colorado River Basin Study. The study reports that, in the 10 years preceding its issuance, which had been some of the driest of the last century, the Upper Basin states (Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah) have delivered more than 92 million acre feet of water to the Lower Basin states (Nevada, Arizona and California)—that’s 17 million acre feet more than the minimum required by the Colorado River Compact.[1]

“In both wet and dry cycles over the past century, the river has always provided enough water to meet established uses and compact requirements,” said Don Ostler, former Executive Director and Secretary of the Upper Colorado River Commission. “Recent hydrologic modeling, based on projected drought scenarios, has shown the river to be capable of remaining a reliable supply for the Upper Basin into the future, especially if the basin states continue to work cooperatively on sensible drought contingency plans.”

The 2012 Basin Study and associated climate model projections indicate a potential decrease in mean natural flow of the Colorado River of approximately 9 percent over the next 50 years. In

addition, some scientists predict that as a consequence of continued warming in the basin, the decrease in river flows could be even greater.

Modeling conducted by BOR in August 2018, taking into account future water uses in the Upper Basin including the Lake Powell Pipeline, indicates a near 0 percent probability of a declared 1922 Compact shortage for the Upper Basin through the year 2050 presuming hydrology remains similar to what the basin has experienced over the last 100 years. On the other hand, if the future hydrology of the basin is similar to drier, hotter climate change predictions, more closely resembling the last 30 years including historic drought, the risk of a declared 1922 Compact shortage rises to less than 13 percent through the year 2050.

“The BOR and the basin states are planning for the possibility of a long-term imbalance in supply and demand on the Colorado River. To mitigate the risks and uncertainties associated with these water supplies, Utah has worked with the other states in the Upper Basin to develop an agreement on drought contingency development. Since the river provides water to some 40 million people, it is imperative that the western states, including Utah, all do their part to protect this river,” said Millis.

Utah receives 23 percent of the Colorado River water supply available to the Upper Basin. Utah is using approximately 72 percent of the current annual reliable supply of 1.4 million acre feet, including evaporation and system loss. The reliability of the Colorado River gives Utah the opportunity to develop its water for the benefit of Utah.

Even though Utah may be developing its water rights later than some of the other basin states, it does not mean there will not be enough water for projects like the Lake Powell Pipeline. There is water available for the Lake Powell Pipeline, which is currently being permitted to meet the needs of the fastest growing region of the state. The Lake Powell Pipeline would transport 86,249 acre feet of Colorado River water from Lake Powell through a buried pipeline to Washington and Kane counties.

Utah’s share of the water is not subject to a prior appropriation or “first in time, first in right,” administrative scheme among the states. The compacts that guide each states’ use of Colorado River water were expressly developed to ensure that faster growing states would not be able to claim all of the available basin water.

“The Utah Board of Water Resources can develop a portion of Utah’s Colorado River in a manner consistent with the Law of the River,” Millis said. “Utah’s right to develop water for the Lake Powell Pipeline is equal to, not inferior to, the rights of all the other 1922 Compact signatory states.”

With the projected need for more water in southwest Utah as early as the late 2020s, the Utah Division of Water Resources continues to advance the permitting for the Lake Powell Pipeline. The Environmental Impact Statement is the next step with a Record of Decision estimated to be issued in the fall of 2020.

Click here to read the annual report from the Upper Colorado River Commission.

This $2+ billion project would pump 28 billion gallons of water 2,000 feet uphill across 140 miles of desert to provide just 160,000 residents in Southwest Utah with more water. Graphic credit: Utah Rivers Council