Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mon. Sept 26: Josh Joswick talk on "County Rights to Regulate Oil & Gas Development"

CHC Presents: Josh Joswick
Staff Organizer, Colorado Energy Issues, San Juan Citizens Alliance, talk on:
"County Rights to Regulate Oil & Gas Development"
Monday, Sept 26th
7 PM
La Veta Community Center

La Veta, CO

Josh brings nearly 20 years of experience in dealing with the oil and gas industry to the position of Oil and Gas Issues Organizer. He served three terms as a La Plata County Commissioner from January 1993 to January 2005; in that capacity, locally he worked to see that La Plata County’s oil and gas land use regulations were not only enforced but expanded to protect surface owners’ rights. Josh has dealt with numerous agencies, and legislative and Congressional elected officials, to uphold the rights of local governments to exercise their land use authority as it pertained to oil and gas development, and to assert the right of local government to address the environmental impacts of oil and gas development.

Huerfano county commissioners and planning and zoning commissioners have been invited to this informative talk to learn about what  county officials can and have done in other counties.

There will be a Q&A period after the talk.

For more information on San Juan Citizens Alliance see their website:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

SEPT 28: Denver No Frack Rally & EPA Public Hearing

State-wide NO FRACK Rally 
& Public Hearing 
on the EPA Proposed Air Pollution Rules
NEXT WEDNESDAY, Sept 28th, the EPA is holding a hearing on fracking (oil and gas extraction) and air quality.
The Oil and Gas industry has been exempt from EPA regulations that normally protect our air and water as well as our health, such as the Clean Air Act and the Safe Water Drinking Act, since 2005. This exemption, called the "Halliburton Loophole," is allowing highly toxic chemicals into our air, water and land and causing serious health impacts all over Colorado.  The Halliburton Loophole urgently needs to be closed! 
Colorado Convention Center
700 14th Street


Wed, September 28, 2011

***NO FRACK RALLY: 8:30-9:30 am***

Philadelphia had a thousand people and we can do even better for a one hour rally:  LET'S SUPERSIZE IT to send a clear message to the press, Governor Hickenlooper, our elected representatives and all of Colorado!

Meet near the front entrance of the Convention Center by 8:30 am and rally along Speer Blvd and around the Convention Center until 9:30 am.   The people on their way into the EPA hearing (including EPA reps) and on their way to work will see us.  Press conference at 9 am with a few representative speakers. 

The proposed rule will require the first federal fracking air standards and reduce volatile organic compound (VOC), sulfur dioxide and other oil & gas air toxics emissions.
9-12:30 pm,  2-5 pm & 6:30 - 8 pm
RSVP to Joan Rogers, email: 
or call (919) 541-4487 no later than 2:00 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, 2011.

Please  provide the time you wish to speak (morning, afternoon or evening),
name, affiliation, address, email address and telephone.

Questions concerning the proposed rule should be addressed to Bruce Moore at: or call (919) 541-5460.

Oral  testimony will be limited to 5 minutesProvide EPA with a written copy of your oral testimony electronically (via email or CD) or in hard copy form. Written statements and supporting information submitted during the comment period will be considered with the same weight as any oral comments and supporting information presented at the public hearing.

If you would like free overnight housing in Denver email Sonia, here.

Can't attend or testify?
DEADLINE: Oct. 24, 2011

All comments should be referenced to:
Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0505:

To submit online comments:
Go to Federal eRulemaking Portal and follow the instructions:



Fax: (202) 566-9744

Snail Mail:
Attention Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0505
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, 

Washington, DC 20460
Please include TWO copies plus mail a copy of your comments on the information collection provisions to:

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, 

Office of Management and Budget
Attn: Desk Officer for the EPA
725 17th Street, NW., Washington, DC. 20503
More information:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Citizens protest BLM oil and gas lease sale

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing to lease over 8,000 acres in Huerfano County for oil and gas development in its November 10, 2011 quarterly lease sale in Denver (see the Sept. 1st post for details).  The lease sale places fourteen parcels in 4 areas of the county on the auction block, including much of Mount Meastas and Black Hills and several thousand acres near Wahotoya and Gardner.

Although this is the third BLM lease sale involving land in Huerfano County since 2008, the lease sale caught many residents of Huerfano County by surprise.   Citizens for Huerfano County (CHC) learned of the proposed sale only a few weeks before the Sept. 12 deadline to respond.

With little time to waste, CHC decided to file a formal protest on all 14 parcels being offered.  According to the BLM rules, parcels may be withdrawn or deferred if new information becomes available to the agency that was not previously identified prior to the lease sale.

In pouring over the draft BLM Environmental Assessment (EA), comments very generously shared by the Center for Native Ecosystems and Division of Wildlife and new information coming to light about impacts from oil and gas development,  CHC consultant Ceal Smith was able to identify numerous substantive reasons for the BLM to withdraw or defer all 14 of the Huerfano County parcels.  Most, however, centered around three main issues: 
  1. Inadequate analysis of impacts as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  One of the most glaring weaknesses of BLM's analysis is that it portends to only consider the effects of the lease sale, not the subsequent actions and impacts [i.e. potentially large scale oil and gas drilling!] enabled by the act of leasing as required by NEPA.  The BLM concluded there would be no significant adverse impacts on the local economy, air and water quality and other public health parameters yet they failed to provide concrete analysis or scientific evidence for such a conclusion.  Cumulative effects analysis and proposed safeguards and mitigation measures were also lacking.
  2. The need for BLM to take a "hard look" at new information concerning the environmental effects of the lease sale that were unknown or not included in the draft EA.  Here is where we asked the BLM to consider the mountains of new information coming to light about the health and air quality effects and earthquake hazards associated with fracking and drilling in the complex and unique geology of Huerfano County.
  3. Site-specific information that the BLM failed to consider in their initial analysis. For example, BLM didn't consider impacts on several sensitive species known to occur in Huerfano County including the endangered Canada lynx, Mexican Spotted Owl, Gray Vireo and greenback cutthroat trout.
In a great example of citizen science, Dale Lyons, a long-time resident of Gardner, rallied over 50 neighbors to file protests about the need to protect a Golden Eagle nest at Gardner Butte.  The nesting site has been known to the locals for as long as anyone can remember but missing from the BLM draft EA.

What happens next? 

The BLM is now required to resolve the issues raised in the protests.  They could defer or withdraw some or all of the parcels before the lease sale, or include them in the auction but notify bidders that the parcel is under protest and could be withdrawn at a later date.  It's difficult to predict what will happen, in some cases it can take the BLM years to resolve a protest issue, in other cases they are entirely dismissed.  In any case, our hope is that should issues and concerns come up with these parcels in the future, we will have established a solid record of citizen concerns.

You can view and download the full 17-page CHC protest here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

County Claims No Duty to Inform Citizens of Gas Drilling Permits

News Release, September 15, 2011

La Veta, CO -- On September 8, 2011, the Huerfano County Board of Commissioners, through County Attorney Garrett Sheldon, filed motions in Denver District Court asserting they are under no obligation to inform local citizens when they learn of state-level permit applications by oil and gas companies to drill new wells in their county.

The County’s action comes in response to a lawsuit filed July 8, 2011, by Citizens for Huerfano County (CHC), concerning a permit to drill a “fracked” natural gas well that was granted on June 9, 2011 by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to Shell Western Exploration and Production Inc (SWEPI), a unit of Royal Dutch Shell.

"CHC members are infuriated,” said Julie Kreutzer, CHC’s attorney, “that neither the COGCC nor the County Commissioners think they have any obligation to inform the public, or to allow them any meaningful role in the permitting process -- even though it is the residents of Huerfano County who will be dealing with well impacts."

The citizens want the permit vacated and the permit process restarted, so that they may provide public comment and have a public hearing with the COGCC to propose additional safeguards as conditions to the permit. Neither the public comment period nor the hearing were allowed in this case, although the public comment period is part of the COGCC’s rules governing the permit process, and citizens have a right to a public hearing according to a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling in June, 2010, on a similar case, Grand Valley Citizens Alliance v COGCC.

While the Huerfano County citizens were scrambling to learn about the COGCC rules and how they missed being informed, the COGCC maintained that it couldn’t  find emails it had sent notifying  Huerfano County Administrator John Galusha of Shell’s application dated April 27, 2011, or of the subsequent June 9 approval.

Then the COGCC admitted that it failed to notify Galusha, but now Galusha states, in an affidavit attached to the County’s September 8th filing, that he was informed about Shell’s application on April 27th.   The filing also states that the citizens “mistakenly assert that notice to Mr. Galusha should trigger further notice to the citizens of the County. Notice to Galusha is notice to the Board of County Commissioners and no one else.”

For more information, contact Sandy Borthick with Citizens for Huerfano County, 719-742-5702 or

Also see:

Sept. 15, 2011 - Summit County Citizens Voice:  Colorado: County denies public comment on gas drilling

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Huerfano Frack Forum this Sunday

with guest speakers:
Wes Wilson, Phil Doe & Shane Davis
 Sunday, Sept 11, 2011
2:00 - 4:00 PM
La Veta Library Meeting Room
La Veta, CO

Weston Wilson-the EPA employee that blew the whistle on EPA's faulty 2004 report on hydraulic fracturing.  He will be presenting: "Environmental Risks of Fracking for oil in Colorado -- The rush for oil from Niobrara Formation in Huerfano County."

Phil Doe-is a member of the Be the Change in Denver.  He will be presenting: “Cumulative demands for water for fracking in Colorado and the effects on communities and streams.”

Shane Davis - is a biologist and environmental researcher from Firestone, CO.  He will be presenting: “How to use the COGCC website to track drilling plans and spills-examples from Huerfano County.”
There will be a question and answer period at the end of the program.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Huerfano on the BLM oil and gas auction block

Unbeknownst to most people, the oil and gas industry has been nominating and buying up federal mineral rights all over Huerfano County over the last 3 years.   As of the end of 2010, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had auctioned more than 32,500 acres of federal mineral rights (including "split-estate").  Another 8,000 acres have been vetted for the upcoming Nov 10, 2011 BLM quarterly oil and gas lease sale.

The lease rush started out small.  In 2008, 1,080 acres in seven separate plots in a single parcel (#COC72467) between La Veta and Cuchara was auctioned by the BLM. The entire parcel was purchased by Wells Petroleum, in Golden, CO. for $75/acre.  These leases are "split-estate" because the surface is owned by a private entity while the federal government (or another private party) owns the rights to the subsurface mineral estate.

More information on this lease sale is available on the BLM oil and gas lease website here, and at:

More information on split-estate is available here, or on the BLM website here.

The May 2009, BLM offered over 34,000 acres in Huerfano County (see map below) of which 31,537 acres were sold.  The vast majority of parcels were bought by or awarded to Hannon & Associates, Inc. in Denver, CO, but Wes State Lands Inc. in Casper, Wy and Spoon Valley Energy in Roswell, NM also purchased leases.

According to a 2009 report in the Huerfano World Journal, the sale, "Included over 3,000 acres west of La Veta, about 5,000 acres around Silver Mountain, and thousands of acres in the Gardner area both north and south of Hwy 69 and east and west of Gardner.  Also included is a 40-acre parcel owned by Deane and Patricia Merryman in about the middle of Navajo Ranch Resorts".

According to the Journal's report, "The Huerfano County Commissioners sent a letter to BLM protesting leasing 'near wilderness areas and environmentally sensitive areas within our county."

MAP KEY:  Yellow = BLM surface and minerals, Blue = State surface/federal minerals, White =  private surface/federal minerals, also called "split-estate" (see above).  

If you want more specific information about the size, location and buyer of the parcels sold in the May 2009 BLM Oil and Gas Lease, contact us here, or download the lease sale notice and final sale results from the BLM oil and gas leasing webpage here, or at:

We just learned that the Nov. 10th, 2011 BLM lease sale includes another 8,000 acres in Huerfano CountyThe parcels are grouped into 4 main areas shown on the 4 maps below: Group 1: Gardener, Group 2: Mt. Maestas, Group 3: Black Hills and, Group 4: Wahatoya.

(Map source: page 118-121 of the Royal Gorge Nov 2011 Oil and Gas Lease draft EA:  

This is the first BLM lease sale where the agency has conducted an Environmental Assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) prior to the actual lease sale.  This is a move by the Department of Interior to reduce the number of public complaints and formal protests generated by lease sales which have risen steadily over the last few years.  According to a 2010 EE News report, "Protesters -- including conservation and hunting groups, state and local governments, businesses and private individuals -- [said] protests are the only means for raising public concerns over impacts leases could have on wildlife habitat, air or water quality, or the loss of recreational or agricultural opportunities".

The 2011 Nov. Draft Oil and Gas Lease Sale EA, is available for download here, or go to:

Unfortunately, the public scoping and the comment period for the draft EA ended on July 8, 2011, before the CHC was organized as a public interest nonprofit.  Filing a formal protest is the only recourse Huerfano County citizens have left to raise concerns about the proposed 8,000 acre lease sale.  But time is short;  Lease protests must be received by 4:00 pm on Sept 12, 2011.  

How to File a Protest
on the Nov. 10, 2011 BLM Oil & Gas Lease Sale
§  Protests for the Nov. 10, 2011 Competitive Oil & Gas Sale must be received by 4:00 PM on Sept. 12, 2011.
§  The protest must include any statement of reasons to support the protest. BLM will dismiss a late-filed protest; a protest filed without a statement of reasons, or a protest listing the internal 4-digit parcel ID number.
§  A protest must state the interest of the protesting party, their mailing address, and reference the specific COC 5-digit serial ID numbers that are being protested.
§  You may file a protest either by mail in hardcopy form or by telefax. You may not file a protest by electronic mail. A protest filed by fax must be sent to 303-239-3799. A protest sent to a different fax number or a protest filed by electronic mail will be dismissed.
§  If the party signing the protest is doing so on behalf of an association, partnership or corporation, the signing party must reveal the relationship between them. For example, unless an environmental group authorizes an individual member of its group to act for it, the individual cannot make a protest in the group’s name.
§  Mail protests with delivery confirmation in plenty of time to reach the BLM office by 4 PM on Sept. 12th, to:                                                                                                                                           
Bureau of Land Management
2850 Youngfield Street
Lakewood, CO  80215

For details on each parcel, go to the Lease Sale Notice, 2011, November 10 at:

And to the Royal Gorge Public Comment Environmental Assessment, available here, or at:

For additional information on filing a protest and what it must include, see pages 6-7 (the pages are not numbered) of this document: