by Dave Kisker

I’m pretty disgusted.

I attended two Weld County Commissioners’ oil and gas related work sessions on Tuesday, and while there were some very interesting developments, this was also a source of disappointment, frustration, or, even disgust. 

As many of you know, part of the mission of PURG is to keep an eye on government activities at any level. While much of our focus since our formation in 2017 has been Weld County, the truth is that things are getting better in Weld County when it comes to transparency and other related issues. The same cannot be said for other governmental functions.

At yesterday’s work sessions, there were several reports that leave me very frustrated because of the pure intellectual dishonesty and complete disregard of economic realities by the officials here in Colorado, especially the legislature. 

I don’t have sufficient space to describe everything that was reported, but here are a few key points:

  1.  Legislation has been introduced that would require 25% of all natural gas delivered by a utility company to be “biogas”;  i.e. methane that is not extracted from the massive reservoirs underneath us, but rather generated by the decomposition of organic waste products. Aside from the fact that biogas is not economically viable and will result in price increases to consumers, this mandate completely ignores the concept of incentive-driven developments. Although I’m skeptical that subsidies of any sort should be used to pick winners and losers, mandates are ALWAYS inferior to incentives since they invariably ignore economic reality.
  2. There is a major question of where the funding for transportation is going to come from.  Apparently, the plan is to reduce general funds allocation for this purpose from $300M to $50M. It’s almost as if this is in retaliation for the voters rejecting Proposition CC in November.  
  3. Commissioner Kirkmeyer related an incident that occurred at the January meeting of the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization. During a presentation by Executive Director Mike Silverstein of the Regional Air Quality Council, he made the statement that no further regulations should be needed for Colorado to become compliant with the ozone standards by 2024. However, as he was saying  this, his slide was suggesting the opposite. MPO member Commissioner Tom Donnelly questioned this statement and Silverstein confirmed it.  But, then Mr. Donnelly observed that the comments were recorded for posterity, and suddenly Silverstein changed his tune and back-pedaled from his statement. I was at this meeting and can confirm that this event happened exactly as Kirkmeyer said it did. 

It was also reported by the Ramboll consulting team that at the rulemaking session in December, the RACQ commissioners essentially ignored any science/economics based discussion regarding the viability and approach to oil/gas site monitoring, and instead, followed their political agenda. Generally, the result of the rulemaking was to implement new requirements for monitoring and control of all oil and gas activities independent of their size or economic impact, despite concerns raised by the industry that overregulation was occurring.  In sum, the Commission approved the following:

  1. Eliminating the existing 90-day permitting deferral on new oil and gas facilities – under the new rule, these facilities must be permitted before they can begin exploration and production activities.
  2. Requiring at least twice-a-year leak detection and repair at well production facilities throughout the state with volatile organic chemical (VOC) emissions of greater than two tons per year.
  3. Requiring either quarterly or monthly leak detection, depending on the size of the facility, at sites within 1,000 feet of occupied structures.
  4. Requiring oil and gas operators to provide a comprehensive annual emissions report for oil and gas facilities.
  5. Further reducing emissions of VOCs from storage tanks by setting more stringent control requirements across the state.
  6. Requiring new oil and gas facilities to control hydrocarbon emissions from sampling and measurement activities and from the load out of storage tanks to trucks.
  7. Enhancing recordkeeping requirements for emissions at wells across the state.
  8. Expanding new inspection requirements – currently in place within the ozone nonattainment area – for pressure valves or “pneumatic controllers” at oil and gas sites across the state.

(Source:  North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization)

My problem with all of this is the continuing thread of intellectual dishonesty. This stuff is not just the result of ignorance of technical details, or even just pushing a particular viewpoint. Rather, it’s purely and simply dishonest. This emperor has no clothes, yet the current powers that control Colorado are willing to ignore this fact and continue to admire his robes. 

We need to awaken by November and hopefully take steps to reverse this situation. For me, at least, it’s not about one view or the other. It’s about objectively and honestly evaluating concepts in the marketplace of ideas and jointly adopting the best for the benefit of all Coloradoans.