Click here to go to the USGS website with links to their publications about hydraulic fracturing since 2013.
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):
The Bureau of Reclamation is making funding available through its WaterSMART program to support new Water and Energy Efficiency Grant projects. Proposals are being sought from states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to partner with Reclamation on projects that increase water conservation or result in other improvements that address water supply sustainability in the West.
The funding opportunity announcement is available at http://www.grants.gov using funding opportunity number R14AS00001.
Applications may be submitted to one of two funding groups:
Funding Group I: Up to $300,000 will be available for smaller projects that may take up to two years to complete. It is expected that a majority of awards will be made in this funding group. Funding Group II: Up to $1,000,000 will be available for larger, phased projects that will take up to three years to complete. No more than $500,000 in federal funds will be provided within a given fiscal year to complete each phase. This will provide an opportunity for larger, multiple-year projects to receive some funding in the first year without having to compete for funding in the second and third years.
Proposals must seek to conserve and use water more efficiently, increase the use of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, benefit endangered and threatened species, facilitate water markets, carry out activities to address climate-related impacts on water or prevent any water-related crisis or conflict. To view examples of previous successful applications, including projects with a wide-range of eligible activities, please visit http://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/weeg.
In 2013, Reclamation awarded more than $20 million for 44 Water and Energy Efficiency Grants. These projects were estimated to save about 100,000 acre-feet of water per year — enough water to serve a population of about 400,000 people.
The WaterSMART Program focuses on improving water conservation, sustainability and helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. It identifies strategies to ensure that this and future generations will have sufficient supplies of clean water for drinking, economic activities, recreation and ecosystem health. The program also identifies adaptive measures to address climate change and its impact on future water demands.
Proposals must be submitted as indicated on http://www.grants.gov by 4 p.m., Mountain Standard Time, Jan. 23, 2014. It is anticipated that awards will be made this spring.
To learn more about WaterSMART please visit http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART.
More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.
Here’s a recap of a presentation about the future of oil shale at Rifle Community College on November 19, written by Mike McKibbin for the Rifle Citizen-Telegram. Here’s an excerpt:
The long sought-after petroleum product is infamous for its long-held promise of economic benefits, high-paying jobs and what sounds like an almost non-ending supply to meet America’s growing energy needs.
But while that reality has proved elusive for centuries, some, such as Glenn Vawter, executive director of the National Oil Shale Association, are ever optimistic. The nonprofit group promotes factual information about oil shale…
“I firmly believe we will some day see oil shale become a reality, and 75 percent of the world’s oil shale is in the U.S.,” Vawter said. “It’s already been produced commercially for decades in Brazil, Estonia and China.”[...]
The underground mining processes used by companies such as Unocal, which produced 10,000 barrels of shale oil a day during its limited operation, totaled five-million barrels and was proven feasible, Vawter said.
The in-situ process that companies are now developing has the advantage of no mining, Vawter said.
Currently, research, design and development projects on Bureau of Land Management leases are underway by American Shale Oil, ExxonMobil and Natural Soda in western Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, along with Red Leaf Resources and Enefit American Oil in Utah.
“It was discouraging that Shell recently announced they were pulling out,” Vawter said. “But Red Leaf plans to start commercial production of up to 10,000 barrels a day in Utah next year. There’s a lot going on over there in Utah. They have policies that are more welcoming to energy and oil shale industries.”
Enefit has operated shale oil projects in Estonia for decades, Vawter pointed out, with a proven technology.
And Vawter pointed to a recent U.S. Geological Survey estimate of 4.3 trillion barrels of shale oil in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. Of that, Vawter said up to 1.14 billion barrels are now considered recoverable. That is up to six times more than the total oil reserves in Saudi Arabia and significantly more than known U.S. conventional oil resources.
“There are places in the Piceance Basin that are estimated to have one million barrels in just one acre,” Vawter said. “The Piceance Basin could have up to 152 trillion barrels.”
Water used in the oil shale process has often been cited by opponents as a large hurdle, Vawter said, but current processes for a 1.5 million barrel per day project would require just 2 to 3 percent of an estimated 8 million acre feet per year of water in the Colorado River.
“That’s not an insignificant amount, but it’s far less than some still believe,” he said…
Allen Best: The risk is that water may not be there some years. Or a lot of years. #ColoradoRiver #COWaterPlanDecember 8, 2013
Here’s a guest column about the possible effects of low flow into Lake Powell, written by Allen Best that is running in The Denver Post:
Skimpy-clothed people splashing amid the red sandstone canyons of Utah define our images of Lake Powell. But six months ago, engineers and water officials from the seven states of the Colorado River Basin quietly met in Santa Fe to consider a more serious possibility: Continued drought could leave too little water in the reservoir for the eight giant turbines in Glen Canyon Dam to produce electricity.
The turbines can produce great amounts of electricity, 1,320 megawatts at full throttle, or roughly twice as much as the Cherokee power plants north of downtown Denver. In practice, the volume runs half that. Most rural electrical cooperatives in the Rocky Mountains states buy power from Glen Canyon through their wholesale supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, as does Xcel Energy.
The average $150 million in revenues from this power generation are a federal cash cow. The money paid for construction of Glen Canyon and other dams authorized by Congress in 1958, but also funds salinity control such as in the Paradox Valley west of Telluride and the endangered fish recovery program, including the 15-mile segment of the Colorado River from Palisade into Grand Junction.
What if the Colorado River Basin has another bum year for snow? Inflows into Lake Powell during the last two years were 25 percent and then 47 percent as compared to the rolling 30-year average. If the years 2001-2003 were about as bad, here’s the difference: in 1999, Lake Powell was full. In recent years, despite a few big snow years, the reservoir has often displayed big “bathtub rings.” Right now, it’s 43 percent of capacity. Drought has been our more steady companion of the 21st century. This extended drought, in duration and depth, surpasses any since gauges were installed in the Colorado River Basin in 1906. However, extensive study of tree rings in the basin suggest worse and even longer drought sequences have occurred in the Southwest, especially 900 years ago. Whether this drought will also continue is anybody’s guess, but Colorado and other states decided it best to plan in case it does. On Thursday, at a meeting in Golden, officials for the first time shared some of their pending strategies.
John McClow of Gunnison, who is Colorado’s representative on the Upper Basin Compact Commission, said if snow lags again this winter, reservoirs on two tributary rivers — Flaming Gorge Reservoir on the Green and Navajo on the San Juan — can be tapped to allow the Glen Canyon generators to produce electricity. The trio of reservoirs near Gunnison — Blue Mesa, Curecanti and Morrow Point — are already too low to be of much value, he said. Other federal reservoirs — Ruedi near Basalt, Green Mountain near Kremmling, and Granby — are not part of the same system.
If the drought deepens, other small-gain strategies can be deployed: stepped-up cloud seeding and more aggressive efforts to remove water-gobbling salt cedar, i.e., tamarisk, an invasive species, from river banks. Still other strategies being weighed include idling of agriculture land —even crimping of some transmountain diversions, which normally divert 450,000 to 600,000 acre-feet of water each year in Colorado from the Colorado River Basin to the Front Range and eastern plains. But whatever strategies are adopted, McClow stressed, Colorado alone wouldn’t bear the burden.
Why not just forego the electricity? That remains an option, but it would invite the federal government to become a decision-maker in water matters. Almost fiercely, the states prefer to chart their own course.
This newest twist at Lake Powell is different from a curtailment under the 1922 Colorado River Water Compact. Colorado and other upper-basin states are in no imminent danger of failing to deliver the water specified for delivery at Lee’s Ferry, at the head of the Grand Canyon, as required by the compact, said McClow, nor is that likely to occur at any time soon. For that matter, the prospect of a Lake Powell “dead pool”- too little water to generate power – isn’t high probability next summer. Computer modeling suggets a 5 to 7 percent chance.
Yet this sharpening razor’s edge at between water supply and demand may be instructive. At one level it represents the intersection of water and energy. In California, one-fifth of all energy is devoted to moving around water. In Colorado, it’s lower. But everywhere, particularly the West, water is dependent on energy, and producing energy is dependent on water.
More immediately, this reminds us of risk. Some people think that Colorado’s growing urban areas need to develop the state’s remaining raw water supplies from the Colorado River Basin. The risk is that water may not be there some years. Or a lot of years. We just don’t know.
Allen Best of Arvada publishes Mountain Town News (http://http://mountaintownnews.net/).
Eagle River Watershed Council: Hydraulic Fracturing & Water an informational panel, Wednesday December 11thDecember 7, 2013
From KUNC (Maeve Conran):
There’s popular launch site for rafters a few miles east of Glenwood Springs. It’s right beneath Interstate 70, and is in front of an old tan brick building, set back into the canyon wall. Chances are, highway drivers might not even see this place. But it’s the reason the rafting is so good here all the time.
The Shoshone Hydro Plant, built to harness Colorado River water and turn it into 15 megawatts of electricity has two nine-foot tall turbines, which were manufactured and installed in 1906 and are still humming along today. It’s the linchpin of the river, according to Jim Pokrandt, Education and Outreach Specialist with the Colorado River District.
“Not because of producing electricity,” said Pokrandt. “But because it takes water to produce that electricity, and that water is supplied via a 1902 water right for 1250 CFS. That’s the biggest, oldest water right on the river.”
1250 CFS, or cubic feet per second, is a lot of water. It’s labeled “non-consumptive use,” which means the water is not taken out of the river to grow food or flush toilets. It flows onto the turbines and right back out—sustaining an important part of the local economy: rafting, kayaking and fishing.
Maintaining that primary water right is critical to keeping flow levels adequate for the turbines, and to help create rapids.
Pokrandt says Shoshone also helps towns that draw water from the river, because the high flows the plant requires helps keep the water cleaner.
“Silt, Rifle, Parachute and Clifton are all taking drinking water out of the Colorado River,” said Pokrandt. “The greater the flow, the less intensive you have to treat the water.”
Agriculture in the Grand Valley also benefits from Shoshone’s water right.
Mel Rettig is a vegetable and fruit farmer in Palisade, about 80 miles southwest of the Shoshone plant. Rettig says the higher flows due to Shoshone help keep salinity levels low…
Some West Slope water irrigators who depend on Shoshone would love to buy the plant and its water right to protect the interests of the Grand Valley. A 15-megawatt output is small by today’s standards — modern power plants produce hundreds of megawatts. But Xcel continues to invest millions in maintenance at the plant and the utility says they have no plans to sell Shoshone or its water rights…
“This little, old, two turbine, 15-megawatt 1905 vintage power plant in Glenwood Canyon,” said Pokrandt. “It doesn’t look like much but it’s a big dog on the river.”
From The Greeley Tribune (Sharon Dunn):
Like the crime scene investigators on television, researchers in northern Colorado will be taking an intense look at water wells throughout the oil patch in a demonstration study in the coming months to determine changes in the water over time. Conducted through Colorado State University in partnership with Noble Energy, the Colorado Water Watch demonstration project will soon begin water table monitoring in test wells at roughly 10 Noble production sites in a real-time look at how the water changes.
“It was conceived not so much as a research project but as a tool to provide information to the public,” said project lead researcher Ken Carlson, an associate professor Civil and Environmental Engineering at CSU. “The oil and gas industry is taking the initiative here to provide some visibility.” Read the rest of this entry »
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Call it a wet-headed stepchild. Colorado has puzzled for years about how to account for its underground water resources, with about the same impact as water sloshing in the bottom of a precariously carried bucket. A state water plan will attempt to incorporate groundwater management, including possible aquifer storage, even though the relationship between surface water and well water is not fully understood.
“Groundwater will be a part of the state water plan,” John Stulp, the governor’s water adviser, told about 80 attendees of a groundwater conference this week. “There are a number of studies and plans that will go forward as the state water plan is developed.”
The conference, organized by the American Groundwater Trust, was designed to address policy as a follow-up to more technical reports generated from a 2012 conference.
While Colorado water rights stretch back to the mid-1800s, groundwater in the state was of little concern until more high-capacity wells were drilled in the 1950s and 1960s. It wasn’t until 1969 that well use was incorporated into the elaborate web of prior appropriation water right, explained Steve Sims, a water lawyer who once defended the state’s water rights in the attorney general’s office. But since then, a tug-of-war between the General Assembly and water courts has muddied how groundwater is treated. Non-tributary wells are regulated by a separate commission.
“What we got was a hodgepodge of rules,” Sims said. “It’s been driven by real estate developers.”
Key court cases eroded the jurisdiction of water courts themselves as well as the power of the state engineer to regulate wells, he said. The Empire Lodge case triggered a legislative fix to substitute water supply plans in 2002. The 2009 Vance case changed the way the state accounts for water produced by oil and gas drilling.
Geography also plays a part. Alluvial well regulations differ in all of the state’s major river basins, as well as in non-tributary basins. There is little scientific understanding of the relationship of groundwater levels to surface flows, other than the common wisdom that surface irrigation or flooding increase the levels, while pumping and drought decrease them. But the timing of return flows, availability of underground storage sites and long-term effects of pumping are still unknown.
“It’s not a precise science,” said Reagan Waskom of the Colorado Water Institute, which is completing a study of the South Platte basin mandated by the state Legislature in 2012. “If you had a valve and could put water back into the river when you need it, it would be great.”
More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.
‘Keeping the last wild river in the [#ColoradoRiver] Basin intact is important to a healthy environment’ — Susan BruceDecember 2, 2013
Here’s a post arguing to keep the Yampa River riparian system as a baseline for a healthy river from Susan Bruce writing for the Earth Island Journal. Here’s an excerpt:
Governor John Hickenlooper’s directive to the Colorado Water Conservation Board earlier this year to create a Colorado Water Plan by 2015 has put the Yampa, which has the second largest watershed in the state, under the spotlight.
Efforts to dam the Yampa go back to the proposed construction of Echo Park Dam, which Congress vetoed in 1952, bowing to a groundswell of public outcry led by David Brower, then with the Sierra Club. But in a compromise he later regretted, Brower supported the construction of two other dams: Glen Canyon on the Colorado River and Flaming Gorge on the Green River. The Green and Yampa rivers used to have similar flows and ecosystems. The construction of the Flaming Gorge Dam in 1962 modified the Green’s hydrograph, reducing sediment flow by half and tapering its seasonal fluctuations to a slower, more consistent flow, opening the way for invasive species like the tamarisk tree to crowd out native ones.
More recently, in 2006, there was a proposal to build a reservoir near Maybell, CO, and pump water from the Yampa to a reservoir about 230 miles away for municipal and agricultural use on the Front Range. But the plan was scrapped due to environmental and cost concerns; the reservoir would have cost between $3 billion and $5 billion.
The oil and gas industry is also eyeing the Yampa. Shell Oil had plans to pump about 8 percent of the Yampa’s high-water flow to fill a 1,000-acre reservoir, but it shelved the proposal in 2010, citing a slowdown of its oil-shale development program. Still, oil production in Colorado is at its highest level since 1957 and gas production at an all-time high. While industrial and municipal water needs are projected to increase with population growth, the largest water user, agriculture, will continue to divert the lion’s share of Colorado’s water, around 80 percent. All of which mean the pressure to suck up Yampa’s water is only going to grow.
The most unique characteristic of the Yampa is its wild and unimpeded flow, in particular the extensive spring flooding that washes away sediment, giving the river its brownish hue. This “river dance” helps establish new streamside forests, wetlands, and sandy beaches, as well as shallows that support species like the endangered Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker. By late fall, the water barely covers the riverbed in some stretches…
The rafting industry, which contributes more than $150 million to Colorado’s economy, has a strong voice when it comes to the Yampa’s future. Although damming the Yampa would provide a more consistent flow over a longer season, George Wendt – founder of OARS, the largest rafting company in the world – speaks for most outfitters when he says he would rather see the Yampa retain its natural state.
Conservationists also argue that the Yampa’s full flow helps meet Colorado’s legal obligation to provide water to the seven states within the Colorado Basin and Mexico. Measures being considered to protect the Yampa include an instream flow appropriation by the Colorado Water Conservation Board that would reserve Yampa’s water for the natural function of rivers, and a Wild and Scenic River designation by Congress.
Many proponents of keeping the Yampa wild point to its value as a baseline – an ecosystem naturally in balance. “If things go awry on dammed rivers, which they do, we have a control river, so to speak,” says Kent Vertrees of The Friends of the Yampa. “Keeping the last wild river in the Colorado Basin intact is important to a healthy environment and so future generations can experience in situ millions of years of history little changed by man.”
Proposed oil and gas methane rules: Gov. Hickenlooper makes some headway with the environmental communityNovember 29, 2013
From The Colorado Statesman (Peter Marcus):
…the governor — who has experienced an increasingly tense relationship with environmentalists, a core base of his Democratic Party — still has a lot of work ahead of him if he’s to win the trust of the environmental world.
Much of the controversy rests with Hickenlooper’s support of hydraulic fracturing. The governor, a former geologist, has unequivocally stated his support for so-called “fracking,” despite five local communities having banned or imposed moratoriums on the drilling process. First, Longmont voters banned fracking last year. Then this year, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Boulder joined with five-year moratoriums. Lafayette passed a ban on new oil and gas activities. The bans passed despite big spending by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Proponents of the bans, a largely grassroots uprising, spent about $27,500 in the four municipal elections, as of the last filings before the election. COGA, however, spent about $883,000 to fight the proposed bans…
Hickenlooper says he is listening. At a news conference on Monday, he said the issue is about striking a balance between the energy needs of the state and the concerns expressed by citizens and communities.
“What we’ve done is work with the environmental community and oil and gas community to try and find compromises and use common sense to say, ‘How can we make sure we get to the cleanest possible outcomes in terms of air quality?’ Yet at the same time recognize that we have businesses here that employ our citizens and are helping solve the energy challenges that we face as a country,” Hickenlooper said, as he proposed new pollution rules for the Air Quality Control Commission to adopt.
The commission met on Thursday when it set a public hearing for February 2014. The tentative date is for a three-day hearing from Feb. 19-21. The commission heard about two hours of public comments from a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including industry leaders and environmentalists, as well as concerned citizens, such as mothers worried about the health of their children.
The thrust of the public comments was on whether the commission should set the proposal for a public hearing. Most of the witnesses agreed that even if the draft isn’t perfect, it should move forward so that the process can evolve.
When the commission conducts its public hearings in February, the comments will focus more on the rules themselves after stakeholders have had a chance to thoroughly review the recently released proposal.
Several elected officials testified in support of setting a hearing for the rules, including Democratic Reps. Su Ryden of Aurora, Mike Foote of Lafayette, and Max Tyler of Lakewood, among others…
Former Sen. Dan Grossman, regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund, represented the environmental side of the debate.
“What you see today here is a remarkable coalition of earnest individuals who came together and decided to try and make something work and address air pollution from the oil and gas sector in a meaningful and reasonable way,” explained Grossman.
Conservation Colorado is also “encouraged” by the proposed rules specifically that it includes methane.
“The proposed rule is a strong step forward to capture emissions from oil and gas facilities of harmful air pollutants that hurt all Coloradans,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado.
“Oil and gas development is booming in Colorado and the state must move aggressively to protect our climate, public health and communities,” he added. “Given the devastating impact on Coloradans from climate change and increased ozone pollution, there is no margin for error.”[...]
But not everyone in the environmental and oil and gas worlds is currently on board with the proposals. Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, pointed out that his organization was not included in the stakeholder meetings and did not see the rules until Monday.
“We’ve expressed our disappointment that it wasn’t a larger, broader stakeholder process,” said Dempsey, who added that his organization is currently speaking with members to decide how to proceed…
‘[Governor Hickenlooper] should talk to the people who approved the bans, not the people who oppose them’ — Dan RandolphNovember 28, 2013
From Colorado Public News (David O. Williams/Dale Rodebaugh) via The Durango Herald:
“The fracking ban votes reflect the genuine anxiety and concern of having an industrial process close to neighborhoods,” Hickenlooper said recently in a prepared statement. The statement came after a tally of final votes showed residents in Broomfield successfully passed a fourth so-called “fracking ban” in Colorado.
Fort Collins, Boulder and Lafayette voters passed similar bans by much wider margins earlier this month, but Broomfield’s vote was so close (10,350 to 10,333) that it has triggered an automatic recount.
Christi Zeller, director of the La Plata County Energy Council, said the votes in Boulder and Lafayette are symbolic. Boulder County has some production, but the city of Boulder’s last gas well was plugged in 1999, she said.
“The bans are an emotional response,” Zeller said. “A lot of professional agitators are manipulating people’s response.”[...]
Hickenlooper said mineral rights need to be protected and that the four communities can work with the state’s chief regulatory agency, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, to mitigate environmental and health concerns.
“Local fracking bans essentially deprive people of their legal rights to access the property they own. Our state Constitution protects these rights,” the governor said. “A framework exists for local communities to work collaboratively with state regulators and the energy industry. We all share the same desire of keeping communities safe.”
But Dan Randolph, director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said that Hickenlooper, as a former gas and oil industry employee, doesn’t get it.
Randolph said there are legitimate concerns tied to gas and oil production. He cited health, water quality and noise.
“There is no question that there is an increase of volatile organic compounds in the air during gas and gas development,” Randolph said. “There are and have been serious concerns elsewhere. This is not unique to Colorado.
“He should talk to the people who approved the bans, not the people who oppose them,” Randolph said. “His credibility on oil and gas issues is very low with the general public.”
This small hydroplant, tucked away behind I-70 in Glenwood Canyon can be hard to spot-- many drive right past without knowing its there-- but, thanks to its water right, Shoshone has a big impact. Listen to our latest show in the radio series Connecting to Drops to hear about the critical role Xcel Energy's Shoshone plays on the upper Colorado.
From the Cañon City Daily Record (Christy Steadman):
Jennifer Opila, Radioactive Materials Unit Leader for the CDPHE, explained how the 1988 pumpback system at Cotter functions. Opila said the cause of the Nov. 5 spill was that a joint in the pipeline of the pumpback system broke. She described it as a “catastrophic break,” meaning it was not a “slow and seeping” spill.
Opila said employees found “water coming out of the ground” just north of well No. 333 and “that’s how they knew the pipe had ruptured.”
According to Cotter’s Environmental Coordinator/Radiation Safety Officer Jim Cain, the spill was measured within a 12-hour window and based on inspection times and flow, an estimated 4,000 to 9,000 gallons of water was spilled. A water sample was collected and the analysis reported that .03 pounds of uranium and .15 pounds of molybdenum was found, according to Cain.
Cotter made the required oral report of the spill and provided a requested written report, Opila said, and the pipe was repaired and operable by the next day.
The pipeline is three feet underground and consists of 3,856 linear feet of six-inch schedule 90 PVC pipe and 3,053 linear feet of four-inch schedule 90 PVC pipe.
Vice President of Cotter Mill Operations John Hamrick said there have been three leaks “in three different years, all for different reasons.”
Here’s the release from US Senator Michael Bennet’s office:
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today announced that the Silverton-based San Juan County Historical Society’s small hydro project would be allowed to move forward without undergoing the burdensome and expensive federal permitting process thanks to the Hydropower Regulator Efficiency Act. The bill, which Bennet cosponsored, cuts red tape for noncontroversial hydro projects that are less than 5 megawatts.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission officially announced last night that the project would not be subject to the federal permitting process, thanks to the bill, which passed Congress unanimously in August. As a result, the 11-kilowatt Silverton project will be the first small hydro project in the state, and one of the first in the nation to take advantage of this streamlined system.
“The Hydropower industry has tremendous potential to stimulate economic growth and job creation in Colorado,” Bennet said. “This common-sense bipartisan bill removes unnecessary regulations to help small projects like this one get up and running in communities across the state. We should continue to look for ways to cut through red tape and promote these types of clean, cost-effective energy sources.”
“The Feds had previously said that our project needed to apply for a hydropower license, but requiring a federal license for a tiny, non-controversial hydro project on an existing pipeline didn’t make sense,” Beverly Rich, Chair of the San Juan County Historical Society, said. The Historical Society operates the Mayflower Mill site where the new hydropower project is being built. “We’re grateful to Senator Bennet for helping us cut through this red tape.”
In addition to Silverton, projects in Telluride and Orchard City are working to take advantage of this reform under the new law.
The Hydropower Improvement Act was a companion bill to H.R. 267, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, sponsored by Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Cathy McMorris-Rogers (R-WA).
Background Info on the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act:
Prior to the new law, the costly federal permitting requirements had been a barrier to entry for small hydropower developments. In many cases, the cost of federal permitting exceeded the cost of the hydro equipment.
The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act solves this problem by creating a “regulatory off-ramp” from permitting requirements for small, non-controversial hydro projects on existing conduits, such as pipelines and canals. It doesn’t change any underlying federal or state environmental statute, it simply streamlines the federal approval process.
The Colorado Small Hydro Association estimates that 100 MW of new hydro development in the state could mean 500 new jobs in various fields including developers, engineers, plumbers, carpenters, and others.
For more details on the Silverton hydro project, feel free to call Beverly Rich, Chair of the San Juan County Historical Society, at 970-387-5488.
Governor Hickenlooper and US Rep. Jared Polis differ regarding Colorado regulation of hydraulic fracturingNovember 20, 2013
From The Denver Post (Allison Sherry):
On the U.S. House of Representatives floor Tuesday, Rep. Jared Polis ripped Colorado’s state regulations involving hydraulic fracturing, saying the growth of fracking in the state “without common-sense federal guidelines, without common-sense state guidelines” has caused friction for his constituents.
Polis, a Boulder Democrat, represents three municipalities — Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins — whose voters earlier this month approved moratoriums on the deep horizontal drilling technique. A fourth town, Broomfield, also had a moratorium proposal on the ballot, but officials are recounting that measure because the vote was so close.
Polis never took a position on the fracking bans, but Tuesday he said fracking “is occurring very close to where people live and work and where they raise families.”
“Yet our state doesn’t have any meaningful regulation to protect homeowners,” Polis said in a floor debate on a series of energy measures. “Unfortunately, the fracking rules are overseen by an oil and gas commission that is heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry. They don’t have at their disposal the independence or the ability to enact real penalties for violations of our laws and their charge is not first and foremost to protect homeowners and families and health.”
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office disagreed, saying ” the Colorado Constitution protects the rights of people to access their property above and below ground.”
Hydraulic fracturing has become a contentious issue-- no one is arguing with that. As of election day, a mere two weeks ago, three Colorado cities approved bans or moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing-- Boulder, Fort Collins and Lafayette-- while Longmont had already established a ban and is being sued by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. And don't forget about Broomfield, where the debate hasn't yet ended.
Colorado set to become first state to regulate detection, reduction of methane emissions associated with oil and gas drillingNovember 19, 2013
Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:
Proposed rules for air pollution released today would make Colorado the first state to directly regulate detection and reduction of methane emissions associated with oil and gas drilling and further Colorado’s efforts as a national leader in environmental-friendly energy production.
The rules, which cover the lifecycle of oil and gas development (from drilling to production to maintenance), reflect a collaborative effort by the Environmental Defense Fund and Noble Energy, Encana and Anadarko oil and gas companies as part of the Air Quality Control Division’s stakeholder process.
The plan, with Gov. John Hickenlooper’s support and active engagement, constitutes the division’s official proposed rules and will now go before the state Air Quality Control Commission, which will meet Thursday, Nov. 21, and will be asked to set a February 2014 public hearing on the rules.
“These proposed rules provide common sense measures to help ensure Colorado has the cleanest and safest oil and gas industry in the country,” Hickenlooper said. “The rules will help Colorado prepare for anticipated growth in energy development, while protecting public health and the environment. They represent a significant step forward in addressing a wider range of emissions that before now have not been directly regulated. We welcome the proposed rules and are grateful all of the interested parties worked together.”
The comprehensive set of rules were crafted after an extensive process in which the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) sought input from diverse stakeholders across Colorado. The rules will now be subject to further input as the Air Quality Control Commission considers them under CDPHE’s formal rulemaking process.
“Tackling smog and climate pollution from the oil and gas sector is a critical part of making sure communities are protected and that the lower carbon advantage of natural gas doesn’t simply leak away,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. “If this package is adopted, Coloradans will breathe easier, knowing they have the best rules in the country for controlling air pollution from oil and gas activities.”
Anadarko, Encana and Noble jointly stated: “As citizens of Colorado, we all want clean air, and we support this joint proposal initiated by Gov. Hickenlooper. This collaboration is a good model for developing effective regulations and activities to monitor, control and reduce methane leaks and VOCs. The process and increased accountability established by the proposal will provide transparency and build public trust. We remain committed to continuously improving industry practices and protecting our communities through responsible energy development.”
The rules will benefit Colorado’s public health, environment and economy by increasing the capture and use of clean burning natural gas. Highlights of the rules include:
A first-in-the-nation requirement for leak detection from tanks, pipelines, and other drilling and production processes, using instruments such as infrared cameras that can detect leaks that otherwise may not be discovered using other more conventional means. Instrument-based monthly inspections on large sources of emissions. An aggressive timeline for repair of leaks found using either these instrument-based methods or leaks found through sight, smell or sound. Leak detection and repair of storage tanks, at well-site production facilities and at compressor stations. Requirements for detection and repair of leaks of a wide variety of hydrocarbons, including VOCs and methane, another first in the country. Expanding provisions statewide for reducing emissions of pollutants that today apply only in nonattainment areas, so anyone living near a well site would benefit. New, more stringent limits on emissions from dehydrator units located near where people live and play.
“Colorado is fortunate to have a governor who is invested in protecting the state’s environment and who brought parties together to advance the draft regulations,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer at CDPHE.
CDPHE estimates the package will reduce volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions in Colorado by approximately 92,000 tons per year. That’s more VOC emissions than the VOCs emitted by all cars in Colorado in a year, and it would be a 34 percent reduction based on a 2011 inventory by CDPHE that showed oil and gas VOC emissions were approximately 275,000 tons. [ed. emphasis mine]
The draft rules also include elements that have the unique and additional benefit of significantly reducing methane emissions.
These kinds of significant reductions in VOC emissions will improve public health by decreasing asthma and other respiratory ailments.
Colorado’s unique state rules would complete the state’s adoption of EPA rules that further reduce air pollution associated with oil and gas operations. Interested individuals and parties can submit comments on the proposed rules to the Air Quality Control Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org. The proposal and related information may be found online here.
From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):
State health officials rolled out groundbreaking rules for the oil and gas industry Monday to address worsening air pollution, including a requirement that companies control emissions of the greenhouse gas methane, linked to climate change. The rules would force companies to capture 95 percent of all toxic pollutants and volatile organic compounds they emit.
This would cut overall air pollution by 92,000 tons a year — roughly equivalent to taking every car in the state off the road for a year, state health chief Larry Wolk said. Such reductions could help bring Colorado’s heavily populated Front Range, where smog and ozone are on the rise, back into compliance with federal air quality standards.
No state has adopted rules directly limiting methane emitted by oil and gas operations. Federal government and United Nations authorities are developing rules to try to reduce such emissions because they are a large factor in global warming.
“These are going to amount to the very best air quality regulations in the country,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said.
He credited executives from Anadarko, Encana and Noble Energy — the state’s largest producers — for compromising and helping minimize environmental harm from drilling before the cost implications are fully known.
“They understand it is a shared responsibility,” he said, “and they have really stepped up.”
Under the rules, companies would have to:
• Detect leaks from tanks, pipelines, wells and other facilities using devices such as infrared cameras.
• Inspect for leaks at least once a month at large facilities and plug leaks.
• Adhere to more stringent limits on emissions from equipment near where people live and play.
• Use flare devices to burn off emissions from facilities not connected to pipelines.
Noble Vice President Ted Brown said the prescribed practices are “the right thing to do” but added that “it’s a tough rule.”
He and counterparts from Anadarko and Encana said they support the proposed rules as a way to operate more safely and build public trust.
“Regulatory certainty is important to the company, and doing the right thing also is important to the company,” Encana’s Lem Smith said. Reducing industry air pollution will bring a “quantifiable environmental benefit.”
Colorado Petroleum Association president Stan Dempsey questioned the state’s authority and the need for new rules. Regulation of industry air pollution might better be done through the state’s overall air pollution control program or by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, he said.
The COGCC, part of the state Department of Natural Resources, has a dual mandate of promoting and regulating the industry and has been the primary overseer after contentious rule-makings over where wells can be drilled and protection of groundwater.
But state air pollution control division director Will Allison said statutes give the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment the authority to regulate hydrocarbons. “Volatile organic compounds are one type of hydrocarbon. Methane is another type of hydrocarbon.”
An industry study estimated the costs related to the new rules, assuming monthly inspections for leaks, could reach $80 million a year. A CDPHE study estimated costs at $30 million.
“I am very concerned that the costs — especially for small and midsize operations — will be quite significant,” said John Jacus, an attorney who represented five companies in CDPHE stakeholder sessions.
Environment groups, led by the Environmental Defense Fund, helped craft the proposed rules.
“First in the nation, direct regulation of methane from oil and gas production facilities is a big, exciting step forward,” Conservation Colorado director Pete Maysmith said.
Around the nation, state regulators have not dealt comprehensively with increasing air pollution from the oil and gas industry — a challenge as companies ramp up domestic energy production. And, when it comes to emissions of methane, the industry is largely unregulated, even though state data show oil and gas operations are a major source.
Colorado’s political landscape for oil and gas development has been toughening, however, with voters in four cities passing moratoriums and a ban on operations inside city limits.
The new air rules, to be hashed out at formal hearings in February, do not include a proposal to raise the threshold of air pollution above which companies would have to obtain permits from the state — 4,000 this year. State health officials had proposed reducing their administrative workload by raising the reporting threshold to 25 tons of air pollution per year from 2 tons to 5 tons. But state officials dropped the effort because the “messaging” to residents would be difficult, Allison said.
“It was going to distract from the overall process,” he said. “We want the focus in this rule-making to be on emissions reduction.”
From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):
Unveiled Monday, the proposed rule will be formally sent on Thursday to the Air Quality Control Commission, a division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Public hearings are expected to be held in February. The proposed regulation aims to reduce the amount of natural gas and methane leaking into the air at all stages of industry operations, such as the well itself as well as storage tanks, pipelines and other steps along the path to market.
At a press conference at the Capitol on Monday afternoon, Hickenlooper joined with representatives from EDF, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC), Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL) and Encana Corp. (NYSE: ECA) to praise the effort that went into the proposed rules…
If adopted as proposed, Colorado will be the first state in the nation to regulate methane — an element of natural gas that’s a powerful greenhouse gas…
Cutting those emissions, which contribute to asthma and other respiratory ailments, is expected to improve public health, according to the health department.
Hickenlooper said the proposed rules were a group effort, requiring compromise on all sides.
“We recognize, and the people should recognize, that the rules, while they will be enforced, they weren’t imposed,” he said, referring to the stakeholder group that worked with state officials to craft the proposal.
Industry and environmental representatives in turn credited the governor for pushing the group to make the rules tough…
Ted Brown, Noble’s senior vice president for the Rocky Mountain region, said his company also supports the proposal “because it’s the right thing to do.”
“It’s a tough rule, it’s an additional layer of regulations,” Brown said.
“But we wanted to develop a sound solution based on science. [ed. emphasis mine] We believe this proposal sends a clear message — we can have a health environment, clean air, and responsible energy development here in Colorado,” Brown said.
Gov. Hickenlooper to announce proposed first-of-its-kind air regulation rules for oil and gas drilling todayNovember 18, 2013
From email from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:
Gov. John Hickenlooper will be joined Monday by environmental groups and energy companies to announce proposed rules that would make Colorado the first state to directly regulate detection and reduction of methane emissions associated with oil and gas drilling. The rules would also further Colorado’s efforts as a national leader in environmental-friendly energy production.
WHEN: 1 p.m., Monday, Nov. 18, 2013
WHERE: West Foyer, state Capitol, Denver
The comprehensive set of rules were crafted after an extensive process in which the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sought input from diverse stakeholders across Colorado.
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
A woman living south of Silt urged Garfield County commissioners Tuesday to continue groundwater sampling there despite new tests finding no clear evidence of a link between methane and benzene in test wells and natural gas development. Lisa Bracken made her plea after representatives of the firm Tetra Tech presented the county with results from the third phase of a nine-year groundwater study in the area. It was conducted after the 2004 discovery of natural gas and benzene in West Divide Creek. The state blamed a faulty Encana well.
The latest tests involved three pairs of groundwater monitoring wells installed by the county, with each pair drilled to depths of about 400 and 600 feet deep in the Wasatch geological formation. The study found that methane in the shallower wells was biogenic, meaning from microbial sources, whereas methane in the deeper wells was thermogenic, resulting from geological heat and pressure. Thermogenic gas is what energy companies target for drilling.
The Tetra Tech consultants believe all the gas in the test wells is likely naturally occurring rather than a result of oil and gas development. Geoffrey Thyne, a longtime consulting geologist for the county, agrees that the research demonstrates that there is naturally occurring Wasatch formation methane that helps explain at least some of the methane being found in a number of domestic water wells.
But Bracken, who lives near the seep area, believes 600 feet is a suspiciously shallow level to be finding thermogenic gas. She said she also found “astonishing” the widespread detection of benzene, a carcinogen, in test well samples. Those detections were within safe drinking water standards in all but one case, and Tetra Tech theorizes the benzene also is naturally occurring.
County commissioners plan to seek a meeting with Thyne, and state oil and gas and health officials, before determining whether the county should undertake any more research.
Resident Marion Wells of Rulison said after Tuesday’s meeting that the latest research relies on several assumptions, including that carbon dioxide is present to allow for the kind of biogenic process believed to account for methane in the shallower test wells.
Northern Water to host meeting about reporting requirements for oil and gas production and exploration, November 18November 16, 2013
Here’s the release from Northern Water via The Greeley Tribune:
A meeting in Greeley next week will focus on water-reporting procedures for users providing water to oil and gas operations. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy is hosting the meeting, which will take place at 1:30 p.m. Monday in Columbine Room A at the University of Northern Colorado’s University Center, 2045 10th Ave.
As Northern Water officials explained in a press release, the significant increase in oil and gas activity in northern Colorado requires a portion of the region’s water supply. In response to the water needs, the Northern Water board adopted rules governing the use of its Colorado-Big Thompson Project water and Windy Gap Project water for such purposes.
The rules require water users providing project water to oil and gas development to periodically report usage information to Northern Water.
To further describe the reporting requirements, Northern Water officials developed water-use reporting and accounting procedures that became effective June 1, 2012. Northern Water officials are now proposing modifications to those procedures. The purpose of Monday’s meeting is to discuss the proposed modifications.
From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):
High Sierra, which has its roots in Greeley, has developed industry-leading treatment processes, allowing oil companies to turn over their used water to a High Sierra facility, where it is treated and transported back to the oilfields.
This year the company expects to recycle about 2,000 barrels of water daily at its Weld County facilities, up from some 1,500 barrels last year…
High Sierra has operations in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, which includes Northern Colorado, and also works in Wyoming, Oklahoma and Kansas. In Weld County, High Sierra owns two water-recycling facilities, one in Briggsdale and another in Platteville, which company representatives believe are the largest such facilities in Northern Colorado.
“The field seems to be moving toward recycling slowly but surely,” said Doug White, vice president of High Sierra Water.
Companies can use more than 3 million gallons of water per well during hydraulic fracturing, a well-completion technique that involves pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressures to crack tight shale formations and release oil and natural gas. After the well is complete, water flows back to the surface where it is captured and transported offsite. Most of this contaminated water still is disposed of via deep-injection wells, but growing amounts are treated and reused.
High Sierra Water owns nearly half of the 25 deep-injection wells operating in the greater Wattenberg area. These are designated specifically for wastewater and regulated by state authorities. The greater Wattenberg area spans nearly 3,000 square miles north of Denver and through a substantial portion of Weld County.
High Sierra has developed water-treatment systems that remove elements such as barium, calcium, magnesium, silica, strontium and iron so companies can reuse the water for hydraulic fracturing.
The company has the ability to treat water to match the quality of fresh water, company representatives said. In Wyoming, for example, the company operates a water-treatment facility that has recycled more than 32 million barrels of water and discharged more than 5 million barrels of highly treated water into the New Fork River, a tributary of the Green and Colorado rivers…
Noble Energy said in October that it had recycled about 2 percent of its water so far this year, or 600,000 barrels.
But Noble is in the midst of a major expansion of its water-recycling program. Today, about 80 percent of Noble Energy’s water comes from ponds and wells and 18 percent from cities, while 2 percent is recycled. Noble Energy plans to raise the capacity of its program to recycle 5.8 million barrels of water next year, nearly 10 times more than its current level.
Despite the efforts of companies such as High Sierra Water and Noble Energy, water recycling remains uncommon in Northern Colorado despite heavy drilling activity.
It is more common in Western Colorado, where about half of water used in oil and gas production is recycled, said Ken Carlson, a civil engineering professor at Colorado State University.
From Steamboat Today (Michael Schrantz):
At the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley’s 2013 Yampa Basin Water Forum, [Diane Mitsch Bush] and fellow presenters Kent Vertrees, Kevin McBride and Jay Gallagher talked through the issues and challenges ahead for the state as it races to meet the December 2014 deadline set out by Gov. John Hickenlooper’s executive order for a state water plan draft. Vertrees is a member of the Yampa/White Basin Roundtable, Gallagher represents the Yampa-White River Basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, McBride is on the board of the 2013 Colorado Water Congress, and Mitsch Bush serves on state house committees that oversee water issues. All four represent the interests of the Yampa River Basin in the complicated confluence of water and policy.
Their presentation Monday night at Bud Werner Memorial Library briefed attendees on geology, hydrology and water law as it applies to the Yampa River and Colorado.
The Yampa River, being largely a wild river with a natural hydrograph, is an anomaly among Colorado rivers, and as multiple members of the panel pointed out, that gives the basin a chance to buck the constraints of other basins across the state.
The amount of water in the Yampa River Basin is large compared to other basins, McBride said…
There’s pieces of Colorado water law that would push the Yampa toward developing the same constraints faced in the South Platte River Basin, McBride said, but there’s also opportunity to do something different.
There are many constraints on the future water plan outlined in the presentation, such as highly variable annual flows, climate change, existing water laws and interstate and international agreements, local control and balancing the impact on existing uses and future growth.
There are interests on the Front Range that would look to the Yampa as a reservoir for their needs, Mitsch Bush said, and if consensus can’t be reached with them, the Western Slope will have to stand by its interests…
“Here in Northwest Colorado, we can have that wild river in some ways,” Vertrees said about the best case scenario from the state water plan. “We can have smart storage. We can continue to provide for agriculture needs.”
From The Durango Herald (Brandon Mathis):
…La Plata County sheep and cattle rancher J. Paul Brown addressed a crowd of about 40 people at Christina’s Grill & Bar on Saturday morning to announce his plans to retake the House seat he lost by two percentage points in 2012 to Durango attorney Mike McLachlan. He called the district, which includes La Plata, Archuleta, Hinsdale, Ouray and a portion of Gunnison counties, one of the most beautiful places in the world and one of great importance to the state and nation.
“We are the pull of all of Colorado,” he said. “Tourism, mining, gas and oil, hospitals. It’s a wonderful district.”
While Brown, a Republican, said he is not yet ready to propose specific legislation, he did say he had a long list of issues and possible bills…
“Water is an issue here, and it always will be,” he said. “The Front Range is thirsty. They want our water, and they’ve taken it.”
Brown mentioned water-storage initiatives to keep water on the Western Slope and in the state.
“Six hundred thousand acre feet of water just went to Kansas and Nebraska,” he said. “That’s our water – we just don’t have any way to keep it.”[...]
La Plata County Planning Commissioner and beef rancher Wayne Buck supports Brown’s ideology. He called Brown a politician of moral fiber and character.
“He’s honest, and Lord knows we need honest politicians in Denver and in Washington, D.C.,” Buck said.
From The Denver Post (Kurtis Lee):</p.
Steve House, a healthcare consultant from Brighton, will announce his candidacy for governor Monday in Adams County…
House is now among five Republicans vying to unseat Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2014. Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, former state Sen. Mike Kopp and former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo have all announced their candidacies for governor.
More 2014 Colorado Election coverage here.