Colorado residents near oil and gas sites have long worried about health impacts. A new state study bolsters their concerns — @COindependent #KeepItInTheGround #ActOnClimate

From The Colorado Independent (John Herrick):

Study says drilling can increase risks of short-term health problems under worst-case scenarios.

Natural gas flares near a community in Colorado. Federal rules aim to lower risks of natural gas development. Photo credit the Environmental Defense Fund.

Rep. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, a pharmacist and organic farmer from unincorporated Boulder County, said she can see oil and gas companies burning off excess gas into the air across the county line.

“You can smell it. You get a burning sensation,” Jaquez Lewis told The Colorado Independent.

She suspects the emissions from these oil and gas operations have caused the nosebleeds, nausea, headaches and respiratory issues her neighbors experience. Some have had their blood tested to find high levels of toxic chemicals, such as benzene, she said.

Residents living atop Colorado’s reserves of oil and gas have for years contacted state health officials to report these ailments. And now, a study published Thursday further bolsters what they have long argued: Living near oil and gas drilling could put their health at risk.

The $600,000 study conducted by the consulting firm ICF International showed people living within 2,000 feet of oil and gas drilling could be exposed to short-term health risks under worst-case scenario conditions, such as in the early stages of drilling when emissions are highest or when the wind blows toward a home.

The study estimated the risk and potential health impacts of exposures based on emissions data. The estimates are used to predict, or “model,” how pollutants might move through air.

Oil and gas operations emit volatile organic compounds, including benzene, a known human carcinogen. The study found cancer risks fall within acceptable federal exposure limits.

In response to the peer-reviewed, 380-page study, which former Gov. John Hickenlooper commissioned, state health officials and oil and gas regulators said more monitoring is needed to determine a causal relationship between exposure to oil and gas emissions and health impacts. A key limitation, state officials said, is that the study used data dating back to 2014, prior to Colorado’s adoption of limits on methane emissions. The study also did not measure health impacts near multiple well pads.

“The study indicated the possibility for short-term health impacts,” Jeff Robbins, the director for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, told reporters in Denver Thursday. “We will undertake efforts to determine causation.”

Robbins said he would put in place “stricter review measures” for all drilling location permit applications that fall within 2,000 feet of an occupied structure. Robbins also wants to ramp up monitoring of current drilling activity to test emissions.

Regulators made clear that they do not plan to halt drilling in light of the new study. In the near term, it remains unclear what will change for residents living near oil and gas operations.

“I think today’s study is at least an acknowledgment by the state of what people living with oil and gas already knew,” said Sara Loflin, the executive director for the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Citizens (LOGIC), a nonprofit organization representing residents near oil and gas drilling.

In 2018, residents filed 548 complaints over drilling near their homes, citing noise, odor and air quality concerns, according to state data. There are more than 53,000 active wells in Colorado, and the state has approved more than 1,800 drilling permits so far this year.

Several environmental groups have been advocating for a drilling permit timeout until the state updates its rules for issuing permits to reflect new protections for public health, safety, welfare and the environment, as required by Senate Bill 181, which was signed into law in April. The rulemaking process is expected to take until the summer of 2020.

In light of the report, Colorado Rising, the Sierra Club and Earthworks called for drilling permits to be put on hold.

“If more research is needed to determine the level of harm how can Jeff Robbins ensure new permits are ‘sufficiently protective?’” Anne Lee Foster, communications for Colorado Rising, said in a statement. “This study also highlights the insufficiencies of oversight and enforcement of oil and gas extraction in Colorado.”

Lawmakers who wrote Senate Bill 181 responded to the study by calling for more monitoring and studies.

“This new CDPHE study is valuable, but what we really need is a comprehensive epidemiological study that looks at real health impacts on real people who live near oil and gas wells,” said Majority Leader Steve Fenberg of Boulder.

Environmental groups and some Democratic lawmakers, including Fenberg and Jaquez Lewis, want to see permits that fall within 2,000 feet of a home delayed until new rules for permitting are completed.

Jaquez Lewis stopped short of calling for greater setbacks.

“I think many of us are watching this issue closely and waiting to see the final rulemaking. Then we will be making some final decisions,” she said.

That neither lawmakers nor state officials pitched the possibility of increasing the state’s current setbacks for drilling rigs, currently at 500 feet from occupied buildings, speaks to how politically dicey the subject is. The industry touts its $30 billion contribution to the state’s economy.

Environmental groups attempted in 2014, 2016 and 2018 to pass ballot measures to increase setbacks up to 2,500 feet. All were voted down. Protect Colorado, an industry-backed political campaign committee, has spent about $60 million on advertisements and messaging in order to defeat the measures.

Such an outcome at the ballot box has likely spoiled any prospects of lawmakers passing setbacks at the state Capitol anytime soon. When lawmakers were writing new oil and gas laws earlier this year, oil and gas representatives said they were usurping the will of voters.

The study is a follow up to a 2017 health impacts study that concluded there is a low risk of harmful health impacts when living more than 500 feet from a well. That study was not peer-reviewed.

A separate 2018 peer-reviewed study by researchers with Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus found that people living in the Front Range within 500 feet of an oil and gas were at risk of cancer. When lawmakers were hearing testimony on Senate Bill 181, a representative of an oil and gas trade group cast doubt on the 2018 study, criticizing its sample size.

The oil and gas industry likewise has concerns about the study published Thursday. Lynn Granger, executive director of the Colorado Petroleum Council, said the group will evaluate the results.

“Thorough review of existing scientific research shows that the current, robust standards and stringent state and federal regulations are in place to protect public health,” Granger said. “Using modeled exposures instead of measured air quality data introduces uncertainties and limitations that may result in erroneous estimates of risk for a population.”

#Climate Lawsuit Targets 130 Oil Leases on #PublicLands in #Utah — @CenterForBioDiv #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Here’s the release from the Center for Biological Diversity (Steve Bloch, Landon Newell, Diana Dascalu-Joffe):

Conservation groups sued the Trump administration today for failing to consider the climate pollution from 130 oil and gas leases spanning 175,500 acres of public lands in Utah.

Today’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, says the Bureau of Land Management violated the National Environmental Policy Act by approving five lease sales from 2014 to 2018 without accounting for the climate pollution that would result from oil and gas development. It asks the court to invalidate all five approvals and their 130 leases.

The lawsuit comes as climate scientists urge drastic cuts to greenhouse gas pollution over the coming decade. New oil and gas leases, whose production can last decades, commit public lands to more pollution. Nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas pollution results from fossil fuel development on public lands.

“The climate crisis is being exacerbated by the BLM’s reckless and uninformed oil and gas leasing and development on public lands,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The development of these leases will push us closer to the point of no return on climate, while sacrificing some of the most wild, scenic and culturally significant public lands in America.”

Most of the challenged leases resulted from the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda. In addition to slashing environmental reviews to hasten oil and gas leasing, the administration has attacked federal development and reliance on climate science in agency decisions and reports.

“Each new oil and gas lease commits us to more greenhouse gas pollution that our planet can’t afford,” said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are already more fossil fuels under development in the world than can be safely burned. New leases dangerously disregard urgent climate warnings from scientists. These leases were irresponsible and illegal, and we’re hopeful that a court will agree.”

The leases also threaten public lands and endangered species, including the Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker. Fracking sucks up enormous amounts of water and threatens to pollute the Colorado River and tributaries where the fish live.

“Several accidents involving water pollution have already happened on the Green River and its tributaries,” said John Weisheit, a professional river guide in eastern Utah and a representative of Living Rivers and Colorado Riverkeeper. “Combined with diminished flow volumes for these rivers, the multimillion-dollar investment already made to ensure a successful endangered fish program must not be further compromised.”

Background

Federal fossil fuel production causes about a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Peer-reviewed science estimates that a federal fossil fuel leasing ban would reduce CO2 emissions by 280 million tons per year, ranking it among the most ambitious federal climate policy proposals in recent years.

Federal fossil fuels that have not yet been leased to the industry contain up to 450 billion tons of potential climate pollution. Those already leased contain up to 43 billion tons.

Existing laws provide executive authority to stop federal leasing on public lands and oceans. Hundreds of organizations have petitioned the federal government to end new onshore and offshore federal fossil fuel leasing.

Map of challenged oil and gas leases. Credit: Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance/Esri ArcMap 10.6.1.9270

Victims if Colorado adopts California’s zero-emissions standard for cars, and victims if it does not — The Mountain Town News @MountainTownNew

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Victims testified left and right at the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission hearing on Wednesday.

Gov. Jared Polis directed the commission to consider adopting provisions of the California zero emission vehicle standard. This would require vehicle manufacturers to increase the number of electric vehicles delivered to Colorado for sale beginning in 2023. With more variety, according to the thinking, consumers will be more likely to purchase electric vehicles.

Why electric vehicles? Two good reasons.

One is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Colorado has adopted aggressive goals of GHG reduction. The second reason is to reduce precursors of the ground-level ozone that blankets the northern Front Range from Denver to Fort Collins and Greeley on hot summer days. This area is out of attainment with federal standards.

The standards are based on adverse health impacts. A new study has found that air pollution— especially ozone—can accelerate the progression of emphysema of the lung. Researchers found that bad air pollution can have as much impact as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

The Denver-based Regional Air Quality Council testified why electric cars will help the metropolitan area to improve air quality. What the agency calls “on-road mobile sources” contribute 31% of nitrogen oxides and 16% of volatile organic compounds, two contributors to ozone pollution.

Local government groups—including representatives of both Eagle County and Aspen—as well as environmental advocacy groups testified why they supported the ZEV standard.

Then, as the afternoon wore on, two groups with very different opinions took turns at the microphones. First was a collection of groups collectively called the Environmental Justice Coalition. Several identified themselves as being from along Interstate 70 as it passes through Globeville and other communities north of downtown Denver, east of Interstate 25. One woman, speaking in Spanish, which was interpreted, told about the injustice of sending her children to an elementary school there, near the intersection of the two interstate highways, and the pollution from the vehicles that caused harmful health effects such as asthma.

They opposed the widening of I-70, what one speaker, Drew Dutcher, called a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem. They lost that battle. But Dutcher suggested that electric vehicles will reduce the pollution to low-income areas such as his.

Ean Tafoya, from the Colorado Latino Forum, broadened that thought to include those who live along all busy highways. He said that Polis had visited poorer Latino communities and said that prioritizing public health was a high priority. “That’s what makes this an environmental justice issue,” he said.

Then came a group called Freedom to Drive Coalition. It includes Mesa County, Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, Colorado Motor Carriers Association, Colorado Wheat Growers, Colorado Petroleum Association, and others.

They reject mandates and argued that electric vehicles will be subsidized by purchasers of internal combustion engines, a cost one speaker said would amount to $500 per vehicle. They argued that upper- and middle-class residents of metropolitan Denver as well as places like Aspen would be burdening Colorado’s rural residents.

Elise Jones, a Boulder County commissioner who is also on the Air Quality Control Commission, asked the wheat industry representative if wheat farmers were worried about the effects of climate change. They were worried, he replied, but that was a long-term threat, whereas earning a profit on next year’s crop was an immediate concern. Wheat growers only make money in one out of five years, he said.

The testimony went on and on, and as the afternoon grew long, John Medved, talked. “I have never had anyone tell me they are going on a mountain adventure with an electric car except maybe in the summer,” he said.

Medved also shared this detail: He makes only $400 when sale of a car. All of his significant profits come from other arms of his car dealerships.

It’s perhaps useful to note here that electric vehicles have a reputation of requiring much less maintenance than internal combustion engines, because they have few or no moving parts. As such, they don’t need to be returned to a dealer or some other mechanic for servicing.

What was hard to digest was the argument that rural Colorado would be forced to subsidize urban Colorado. “Simple economics,” one of the Freedom to Drive Coalition. He tried to explain, but the explanation was completely lost on me. Those simple economics also overlook the projections that electric vehicles will reach price parity with internal-combustion engines by 2024-2027.

The Freedom folks also testified that accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles in Colorado will simultaneously raise the price of electricity and raise the price of diesel. Perhaps cause dandruff and bad breath, too?

As I write this, late Thursday afternoon, more than two days after testimony began, the testimony and the questions continue. By the time you read this, a decision will probably have been rendered by the Air Quality Control Commission.

Leaf Byers Canyon August 21, 2017.

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission did pass the standards. Air Quality Control Commission adopts a zero-emission vehicle standard (Jessica Bralish):

The new standard will provide Coloradans with more vehicle choices

DENVER: The Air Quality Control Commission adopted a zero-emission vehicle standard for Colorado early today in an 8-1 decision. The move is directly aligned with the commission’s mission to achieve the cleanest air practical in every part of the state.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is pursuing aggressive strategies to reduce ozone pollution as quickly as possible, as the state continues to work to meet the federal ozone pollution standard. Fossil-fuel vehicles are a major source of ozone pollution, along with the oil and gas industry. Ozone pollution can cause asthma and other adverse symptoms. Fossil-fuel vehicles also emit greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.

“We are charged up and ready to roll,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the department’s executive director. “The adoption of the zero-emission vehicle standard is a clear demonstration of our unrelenting commitment to making sure every Coloradan has clean air to breathe.”

John Putnam, environmental programs director at the department, said, “We are committed to a state where Coloradans can zip up into the mountains in a zero-emitting vehicle and go for a hike without coughing and wheezing from ozone. It’s what Coloradans rightfully expect and deserve. We’ve made a lot of progress on cleaning up our air over the past several years, but the standards are getting more stringent. We have to rise to the challenge.”

The new zero-emission standard requires automakers to sell more than 5 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2023 and more than 6 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2025. The standard is based on a matrix of credits given for each electric vehicle sold, depending on the vehicle’s zero-emission range.

The new requirement does not mandate consumers to purchase electric vehicles, but experts say it will result in manufacturers selling a wider range of models in Colorado, including SUVs and light trucks.

“The zero-emission standard does not compel anyone to buy an electric vehicle, said Garry Kaufman, director of the Air Pollution Control Division at the department. “It only requires manufacturers to increase ZEV sales from 2.6 percent to 6.23 percent. It’s a modest proposal in the face of a critical threat. Where the federal government refuses to act, states must lead. Time is of the essence.”

The Air Quality Control Commission prioritizes stakeholder engagement and public input.

The commission invited public comment at various hours of the day and evening, and also invited remote testimony by telephone to make it easier for those who could not travel to the Front Range. The commission’s decision came after a robust public comment period, as well as significant written and oral testimony from parties providing information on all aspects of the standard.

“The commission was impressed by the overwhelming amount of public support for electric vehicles from urban and rural areas throughout the state,” said Trisha Oeth, the department’s director of environmental boards and commissions. “They noted that the public want these vehicles, want them more quickly, and want more choices.”

Electric vehicles can reduce the #Colorado’s emissions more than anything else #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Leaf, Berthoud Pass Summit, August 21, 2017.

From Vox (David Roberts):

The Colorado legislature has had an extraordinarily productive year so far, passing a stunning array of climate and clean energy bills covering everything from clean electricity to utilities, energy efficiency, and a just transition. The list is really pretty amazing…

It got me thinking: Just how big a role are EVs going to play in decarbonization? How should policymakers be prioritizing them relative to, say, renewable energy? Obviously, every state and country is going to need to do both eventually — fully electrify transportation and fully decarbonize electricity — but it would still be helpful to better understand their relative impacts.

Nerds to the rescue!

A new bit of research commissioned by Community Energy (a renewable energy project developer) casts light on this question. It models the carbon and financial impacts of large-scale vehicle electrification in Colorado and comes to two main conclusions.

First, electrifying vehicles would reduce carbon more than completely decarbonizing the state electricity sector, pushing state emissions down 42 percent from 2018 levels by 2040 — not enough to hit the targets on its own, but a huge chunk. Second, electrifying vehicles saves consumers money by reducing the cost of transportation almost $600 a year on average.

Rapid electrification is a win-win for Colorado, a driver of decarbonization and a transfer of wealth from oil companies to consumers — but only if charging is managed intelligently.

EVs bring carbon and consumer benefits

First, the headline: Electrifying EVs…reduces emissions a lot.

In the EV-grid scenario, electricity sector emissions fall 46 percent — the number is lower because about a third of the additional electricity demand from EVs is satisfied by natural gas — but overall state emissions drop 42 percent, more than two and a half times as much, representing 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s thanks to an 80 percent drop in transportation emissions…

As I said, that in itself is not enough to meet the state’s emissions target. The state will have to force some additional cleaning of the electricity sector (and deal with other sectors) to do that, as this year’s package of legislation reflects. (I asked Clack if Vibrant ran a scenario without any new natural gas. Yes, he said. “It was $1 billion per year more expensive [around 1¢/kWh, or 15.9 percent more] and decreased emissions by an additional 14.8 metric tons per year.”)

But the drop in transportation emissions in the EV-grid scenario is sufficient to reduce more overall emissions than the entire Colorado electricity sector produces. EVs are a vital piece of the decarbonization puzzle.

The effect of all the new EVs on electricity generation is pretty simple: There will be more of it…

As you can see, in the cleaner-grid scenario, lost coal generation is replaced by a mix of natural gas, wind, and solar. In the EV-grid scenario, it’s roughly the same mix, just a little more of each — the addition of EVs raises total electricity demand by about 20 percent.

Bonus result: “The increase in generation capacity increases employment in Colorado’s electricity sector by approximately 68 percent by 2040.”

[…]

And now, here are the fun parts.

Shifting from internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV) to EVs would save Colorado consumers a whole boatload of money, for the simple reason that electricity is a cheaper fuel than gasoline. Here are the average savings for a Coloradan that switches from ICEV to EV between 2018 and 2040…

So the average Coloradan will save between $590 and $645 a year — nothing to sneeze at. “The total savings between 2018 and 2040 are estimated to be $16 billion,” Vibrant says, “which equates to a savings of almost $700 million per year.”

You might think, with all the new EV demand added to the grid, electricity rates would go up. In fact, relative to the cleaner-grid scenario, the EV-grid scenario has an extremely small impact on rates (0.7 percent difference at the extreme)…

EVs are a climate triple threat

What this modeling makes clear is that when it comes to clean energy policy, EVs are a triple threat for Colorado (and, obviously, for other states, though the impacts will vary with weather and electricity mix).

For the electricity sector, as long as their charging is properly managed, EVs can provide much-needed new tools to help manage the influx of renewable energy…

For the transportation sector, EVs can radically reduce carbon emissions and local pollution. (Yes, EVs reduce carbon emissions even in areas with lots of coal on the grid.)

And for consumers, EVs save money, not only because the fuel is cheaper (and getting cheaper all the time) but because EVs are much simpler machines, with fewer moving parts and much lower maintenance costs.

Especially in states with electricity sector emissions that are already low or falling, transportation is the next big place to look for emission reductions, and EVs are one of the few options that can reduce emissions at the necessary scale and speed. Colorado is right to encourage them.

2019 #COleg: SB19-181 — Protect Public Welfare Oil And Gas Operations #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Here’s an in-depth report Mark Jaffe that’s running in The Colorado Sun. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Colorado is quickly becoming a patchwork of oil and gas rules after a major law change — The #Colorado Sun: Boulder County wants to enact tougher regulations. Weld County wants to make it easier to drill. And the state is scrambling to keep up.

[Senate Bill 19-181: Protect Public Welfare Oil And Gas Operations] requires a host of new rules at the state level for things such as air emissions and assessing cumulative impacts of oil and gas projects, and at the same time local governments are moving ahead with their own rules…

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on July 31 adopted the first of these new rules, putting limits on the use of “forced pooling,” the ability of drillers to consolidate mineral rights even if the owners object. It did not come, however, without noisy demands from protesters to halt all permitting until the new rules are made.

On the local level, Boulder and Weld counties may be at the extremes. Boulder is looking to tighten already tough regulations while Weld is setting up its own oil and gas department to expedite permitting. But other counties and municipalities in the middle are also wrestling with the issue.

“Home rule is defined in law and case law,” said Kevin Bommer, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League. “Local control is an amorphous thing and wildly inconsistent.”

Until passage of the new law, the state, through the COGCC, held primacy in all key areas of oil and gas regulation, including siting.

The new law emphasizes that local government has the land use authority to regulate and site oil and gas locations to minimize adverse impacts to public safety, health, welfare and the environment.

Local governments also gain the ability to regulate impacts, including the ability to inspect facilities, issue fines for leaks, spills and emissions and impose fees to fund oversight.

It remains to be seen how these powers will be used, but the fact that two counties and six municipalities have enacted moratoriums on oil and gas permits while they review local controls has spawned worst-case-scenario fears among critics and the industry…

The COGCC is, however, at the beginning of developing new rules that could impact local decisionmaking, including a cumulative impact assessment, which could account for environmental impacts, and alternative site analysis, calling for operators to consider sites away from urban areas, for any drilling application…

Jeff Robbins, the COGGC executive director, said that the state working with local governments is the way to resolve these issues as they emerge.

“I want to be partners with local government,” Robbins said. “There are a lot of jurisdictions; we are all trying to make rulemakings.”

Robbins said he has met with Weld County staff and with Boulder County, as well with Adams County and other local governments.

Adams County is eyeing increased oil and gas facility setback limits #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Drilling rig and production pad near Erie school via WaterDefense.org

From The Denver Post (John Aguilar):

County to consider 1,000-foot standard for all new oil and gas wells

Adams County could become the first community in Colorado to require a larger separation between new wells and occupied buildings than the state mandates, as leaders at both the state and local level wrestle with how to implement a historic oil and gas reform law passed this year.

The Denver Post got an early look at a draft of the county’s oil and gas regulations, which the commissioners will likely vote on at the end of the month. They call for a 1,000-foot buffer between wells and homes, schools and day care centers — doubling the distance the state presently requires.

The issue of well setbacks became the topic de jour during the 2018 election, when voters were asked to increase the distance between new wells and homes and schools to 2,500 feet statewide. The ballot issue, Proposition 112, was soundly defeated.

But after the passage of Senate Bill 181 in April, which ended state preemption over energy extraction matters and tasked state regulators with putting health and safety ahead of industry expansion, local governments now have the opportunity to increase setbacks on their own.

Adams County in March put a six-month moratorium on any new drilling so that it could rewrite its rules for the industry. There are hundreds of pending permits for wells in the county…

It’s likely communities that have taken an even firmer stance against oil and gas activity in the past, such as Boulder and Larimer counties, may put in place even larger setbacks than what Adams County is proposing…

Just two years ago, when the state did have total authority over setbacks, Thornton was successfully sued by oil and gas industry groups when the city attempted to enlarge setbacks by 250 feet over the state’s minimum.

The judge, in casting aside Thornton’s rules, found that municipalities “cannot authorize what state law forbids or forbid what state law allows.” That has all changed in the wake of SB 181 becoming law.

The state is just embarking on what is expected to be a months-long process to write rules to implement the new oil and gas law. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission held two days of public hearings last week, which were marked with repeated disruptions from fracking opponents in the audience.

Meanwhile, communities continue crafting or revamping their own rules.

“A fundamental obligation of local governments is to mitigate incompatible land uses,” Adams County Commissioner Steve O’Dorisio said. “Large-scale oil and gas facilities are often intense industrial uses, which can be incompatible with residential neighborhoods.”

But O’Dorisio said the 1,000-foot buffer being considered is not a “hardline” threshold, as there is language in the proposed rules that would allow oil and gas operators to apply on a case-by-case basis for a waiver to drill closer.

Matt Samelson, an attorney with Western Environmental Law Partners, said Adams County’s proposed setback shouldn’t come as a shock to many of the energy companies that operate in the congested and mineral-rich north suburban corridor.

Many communities, like Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield, have already gotten drillers to agree to setbacks greater than 500 feet as part of voluntary operator agreements that the municipalities have hammered out with the industry over the past few years.

Analysts hit plan to dump oilfield pollutants into #WindRiver — WyoFile #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Boysen Reservoir in 2009. By Charles Willgren from Fort Collins, Colorado, United States – Boysen ReservoirUploaded by PDTillman, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7063709

From WyoFile (Angus M. Thuermer Jr.):

In the first publicly released independent review of a 637-page modeling report and 113-page application for a “produced water” discharge permit, consultants hired by four conservation groups let loose on the science in Aethon studies describing methods and results as “misleading,” “very odd,” “questionable and unrealistic,” “surprising,” and “unwarranted and wrong,” among other things.

Aetheon and Burlington Resources seek permission from the BLM to expand the Moneta Divide oil and gas field by 4,250 wells and need a DEQ permit to discharge up to 2,161 tons a month of total dissolved solids at a rate of 8.27 million gallons a day. The effluent from oil and gas wells would flow through Alkali and Badwater creeks, into Boysen Reservoir in Boysen State Park and into the federally protected Class I flows of the Wind River — the source of Thermopolis’ drinking water.

“The draft permit violates the Clean Water Act, the Wyoming Environmental Quality Act, and the Department [of Environmental Quality’s] rules and regulations implementing those laws,” the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Powder River Basin Resource Council, National Audubon Society and Natural Resource Defense Council wrote the DEQ. “The discharge of produced water from this facility has damaged and continues to damage surface waters of the state and threatens downstream communities with undisclosed health risks,” reads the groups’ cover letter, signed by representatives in Lander, Sheridan, Washington, D.C. and Livermore, Colorado.

They urged the state regulatory agency to encourage the Texas-based energy company “to consider other, less environmental damaging alternatives to the discharge.” In the meantime, “the permit should be denied,” the letter reads.

Yet in the arid West, new water can be valuable, if it is properly treated. “Water resources in the West are a topic of great importance and these issues are currently being studie[d] by a multitude of governmental agencies and research institutes,” wrote Peter Jones, a consulting geochemist from Houston, Texas. He reviewed the Aethon proposal and made the seven-page review available to WyoFile.

“As planned, the Moneta Divide development will be on the forefront of technology and may well be a model for how produced water may be converted into a valuable resource,” he wrote.

Wyoming rivers map via Geology.com