Thursday, October 25, 2012

Huerfano County Commissioner candidates respond to CHC's oil and gas development questions

On October 11, 2012, each candidate was given the following 8 questions, and asked to use no more than 200 words, at their discretion, to answer all of them by noon on October 19. CHC already had agreement from one of the local newspapers to publish the results, but only if we could hold to a 1200 word limit. That gave us 200 words for the intro and all the questions, and it gave each of the five candidates 200 words. The candidates were clearly informed that they would be cut off after 200 words. (We also offered the candidates the opportunity to write a second, lengthier set of responses to one or more or all the questions, which we are publishing here, but no candidates took this option.)

Here are all five candidates' responses, in their entirety, including the words beyond the 200-word limit that were deleted to meet the newspaper's word limit. Look for the three dots (elipses) … to see where the three candidates were cut off for the newspapers.

Answers are coded JA (Joe Albano), LB (Lonnie Brown), RG (Ray Garcia), MV (Max Vezzani), NV (Nick Vigil).

1. Will you appoint a local government designee (LGD) to interface between the public and the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission (COGCC)?
 JA - Yes. A panel of three is more appropriate. All Districts should be represented.
 LB - Yes.  An active LGD is essential.  If county revenues increase from O/G production, more    time would be budgeted toward LGD.
 RG - I am now researching the duties of the LGD as to how that interfaces with COGCC. It is the responsibility of COGCC to keep the public informed and I understand that the LGD is only a go-between to help the COGCC keep the public informed. I need to be better informed before I can fully answer this question.
MV - I support selection of a qualified volunteer to work in concert with Planning and Zoning to serve as the Local Government Designee.
NV - Yes I will appoint a LGD. Why? because local governments are strongly encouraged to appoint LGDs with knowledge and experience with the oil and gas industry. LGDs are encouraged to visit regs and understand the workings of the industry. Operators are strongly encouraged to contact the LGD prior to filing Form 2a to determine if substantive concerns relative to public safety, health, welfare or impacts to the environment exist. So I think this is a vital position. COGCC - ensure that our permitting decisions consider and address local concerns through our local government designee program. I believe this person should be unbiased and take all the data and make prudent decisions. 
2. Do the benefits of fracking for oil and gas outweigh the risks? Y/N, explain
JA - No. In my opinion, The risks always outweigh the benefits. When we are dealing with people's lives, property, and generations of hard working families,  everything possible must be done to ensure the public's safety and livelihood. I want facts, and facts only, concerning fracking, and the immediate as well as long term impacts in our county.
LB - There is not yet enough information available from the deep mineral formations in Huerfano County to conclusively evaluate risks vs. benefits.
RG - If the benefits of fracing (there should not be a 'k' in the word) contaminate even one domestic well or public water source, then it's not worth it. If it increases energy supply without contamination, then it is worth it.
MV - Governor Hickenlooper stated 6,000 wells in Colorado have been hydraulically fractured without a known incident of contamination. I support the responsible development of our oil and gas resources if appropriate baseline water testing occurs. I do not support coalbed methane development with current technology.
NV - This question is being debated right now. I do think with our unique underground formations we should proceed with caution. Because of where we are at in the process, I think we should concentrate on making sure that we do all we can to make sure that it is done right, if not, mitigation mitigation mitigation.
3. How will you strengthen county oil and gas regulations?
JA - By working closely in a stubborn yet productive manner with the state regulatory agencies in regards to our County's interests.
LB - Continue search for methods to financially encumber O/G companies to any catastrophic damages.  Enact additional O/G regulations for CBM:  prohibit pits, require all produced CBM water to be purified and re-injected.
RG - The county oil and gas regs are already as stringent as they can be without usurping State regulations.
MV - County regulations are being revised by Planning and Zoning for recommendation to the County Commissioners. The County developed comprehensive oil and gas regulations based on other counties' experience and legal advice. I believe the County should work closely with state regulatory agencies and the Legislature to assure proper environmental concerns are addressed.
NV - By appointing a responsible LGD and working with the citizens of Huerfano county. We need to have communication with citizens to make sure all concerns are addressed so right now I'm not sure if …the benefits outweigh the risks, but if elected I will do everything in my power to make it as safe as possible. I will listen to the concerns of  the citizens. I WOULD LIKE TO SEE WHAT THE COUNTIES THAT ARE BANDING TOGETHER AGAINST FRACKING ARE DOING.
4. In April, Shell's water plan comes up for review. How and when will you involve the public in this process?
JA - Starting in January, meetings that pertain to this particular subject, as well as other important matters, will be held at one of the community centers where there is room to accommodate interested and involved citizens. There is no reason why the public should not have the proper access and conveniences of a open yet controlled environment.
LB - Huerfano County 1041 regulations allow for public input.
RG - Actually the review is due to the State DWR Division 2 Engineer 90 days before it's due for renewal. It's up to the Division Engineer to ask for public input, not the County.
MV - If "injury or impacts" result from Shell's proposed water supply plan, a public process would be appropriate and concerns forwarded to the State Engineer from the County.
NV - I  will invite the public to meetings on the water plan as soon as possible. We're all in this together. 

5. Will you hold interactive public meetings whenever a developer approaches the county about any type of industrial development, including oil and gas? Y/N
JA - Yes
LB - Yes.  Preliminary meetings should be held to explore new proposed industrial developments.  All meetings should be open and transparent. 
RG - Yes, I believe interactive meetings are required.
MV - Yes, major developments requiring either a conditional use or a 1041 regulation permit will receive public review and input.
NV - Yes, I will have interactive public meetings whenever any industrial development including oil and gas. No secrets -  the public has a right to know what's going on in their county. Communication is the key to success.
6. Will you disclose to local newspaper(s) any financial interest you have in any industrial development, including current oil and gas leases, and will you abstain from voting on such matters? Y/N
JA - Yes
LB - Yes.  I have no industrial development interests.
RG - I don't have any financial interest with any industrial development, and I will only abstain if there is a direct conflict of interest, otherwise the voters that elected me would not be well served if I were to abstain otherwise.
MV - Yes
NV -  Yes,  I will disclose to everyone any financial interest I have in any industrial development including oil and gas leases. I believe elected officials have a moral if not legal obligation to abstain from voting on such matters.

7. Will you advertise county-level job openings -- e.g., County Administrator, County Planner -- in local newspaper(s)? Y/N
JA - Yes
LB - Yes.  All county-level job openings will have standard equal opportunity --- job announcement with job duties, training or education requirements; standard selection process.  All transparent.
RG - Yes
MV - Yes
NV - Yes, I will advertise for all county job openings not just county land job openings, county administrator or county planner in both local newspapers, it's our duty to advertise job openings. I cannot see any reason not to advertise. This goes back to communication.
8. Will you put an immediate moratorium on oil and gas permits until EPA study results of Pavillion and River Ridge Ranch are known and until county regulations reflect these results? Y/N
JA - Yes
LB -  Recent reports of EPA testing at Pavilion indicate inconclusive or arguably flawed results.  Any moratorium imposed based on those results would have poor legal standing.  River Ridge:  Huerfano County should consider all CBM exploration as an already flawed process.  All CBM applications must be met with the position that all permits will contain the strictest water conditions possible.  All produced water will have to be purified and re-injected.
RG - Again, I don't… believe the County can usurp State rules and regulations.
MV - Hydraulic fracturing is a downhole issue and is the jurisdiction of State government. I support Governor Hickenlooper's effort to strengthen oil and gas regulations. The County should work with regulatory agencies and the legislature...when concerns warrant.
NV - I'm not sure that we have the power to put an immediate moratorium on oil and gas permits. In our meeting I will explore all options for the better of Huerfano county and its citizens. I will take the public's input on all decisions made by the BOCC. In closing I am for having citizens input on all oil and gas decisions.

Monday, October 15, 2012

CSU Well Water Sampling is back!

If you have a well and are interested in having your water quality tested, take advantage of this great opportunity and program being offered to Huerfano County by the Colorado Water Institute and CSU-Extension Pueblo.

Fall 2012 Sample Collection Dates:  
October 22 - November 9. 

Be sure of your well water quality.  CWI/CSU will follow proper Colorado Oil and Gas Association sampling and chain-of-custody protocols and adhere to EPA drinking water test protocols.

Colorado State University students and staff will be in Huerfano County to collect water well samples using Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) Voluntary Baseline Groundwater Quality Sampling Program protocols for three weeks in October-November. The samples will be delivered to and analyzed by ACZ laboratories, an EPA certified laboratory in Steamboat Springs.

Three tiers of test packages are available: $350/$650/$950. By participating in this county-wide program -- one of the first to be offered in Colorado -- you will be receiving a bulk discount off the usual price of these lab tests, and the sampling work is offered by CWI/CSU for free. Your personal test results will be reported only to you and will be stored securely with the Colorado Water Institute.

By appointment only – sign up and pay by October 19

Signup sheets and information are now available at the La Veta and Spanish Peaks libraries and at the Wildflower Café in Gardner. 

Questions? Call (719) 545-1845 and ask about the "Huerfano County Well Water Sampling Project".

Well Water Testing Program for Huerfano County is sponsored by the Colorado Water Institute (CWI) and CSU Extension Program. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

CSU Tests Huerfano County Residential Wells

CSU PUEBLOFaculty and students from Colorado State University-Pueblo Department of Chemistry, in collaboration with the Colorado Water Institute conducted their sampling program for private wells in Huerfano County between May 12 and June 21 of this year.

Dr. Perry Cabot, Prof. Dave Lehmpuhl and Prof. David Dillon supervised the program. A total of 31 wells were sampled for subsequent water quality analysis by ACZ Laboratories in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. To the right is a gross-scale map showing the spatial range of the sample locations.

Citizens for Huerfano County (CHC) proposed the baseline water testing project to the Colorado Water Institute due to the pending exploratory oil and gas drilling in Huerfano County and served as a local contact during the project. Dr. Cabot provided updates regularly via the public Shell-Huerfano Community Forum held monthly at the Community Center in Walsenburg.

The sampling protocol adhered rigorously to a peer-reviewed quality assurance project plan (QAPP) that was developed using the Voluntary Baseline Groundwater Quality Sampling Program document prepared by the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA). Participants in the program were asked to select from three tiers of analysis for their water samples, with 42%, 35%, and 23% of well-owners opting for Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3, respectively. Samples were collected by teams of three, each led by a CSU-Pueblo faculty member and assisted by two students, who helped to maintain records, prepare sample bottles and preserve chain of custody. After collection, samples were preserved in coolers at temperatures below 4°C (on ice or refrigerated) and driven overnight to the analytical laboratory in order to adhere to the 48 hour analysis window suggested by the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA).

The results of the analyses are the sole property of the well owners, but the basic results can be generalized. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) concentrations averaged 383 mg/L. The EPA secondary standard for TDS is 500 mg/L and 3 of the 31 samples exceeded this standard. The TDS level is basically the sum of all minerals, metals, and salts dissolved in the water. It is a good general indicator of water quality.

Another analysis of interest in the area is arsenic, which was undetected in all but one sample, which also did not exceed the maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 0.010 mg/L. Iron was not detected in 18 of the 31 samples, averaged 0.118 mg/L in detectable samples, and exceeded the secondary standard of 0.3 mg/L in one sample. Samples for methane were collected at each of the 31 wells using zero-headspace guidelines. Methane was undetected in 24 samples, averaged 2.45 mg/L in the remainder of samples, and exceeded 10 mg/L in one sample, for which the well owner was notified.

Although dissolved methane in drinking water is not currently classified as a health hazard for ingestion, the defined action level for hazard mitigation recommended by the US Office of the Interior is 10 mg/L.

Each well was also sampled for the presence of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX). With the exception of one sample which found toluene, BTEX concentrations were below the method detection limit (MDL) of 0.2 micrograms per liter (μg/L) in any of wells. The single toluene sample was only just slightly above this MDL and is considered satisfactory because it is less than the primary standard of 1000 μg/L.

Lastly, gross alpha emitters in the samples averaged 4.02 pCi/L with 2 samples slightly exceeding the primary standard of 15 pCi/L.

The Colorado Water Institute (CWI), an affiliate of Colorado State University, exists for the express purpose of focusing the water expertise of higher education on the evolving water concerns and problems being faced by Colorado citizens.

Eltschlager KK, Hawkins JW, Ehler WC, Baldassare F. 2001. Technical Measures for the Investigation and Mitigation of Fugitive Methane Hazards in Areas of Coal Mining. Pittsburgh: US Dept of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.