LOVELAND REPORTER-HERALD 10-31-19 Larimer County officials

Oct 31, 2019

Larimer County officials get bird’s-eye view of oil and gas development on EcoFlight tour

County is third in oil production, ninth in gas production in state

 

original story: https://www.reporterherald.com/2019/10/31/larimer-county-officials-get-birds-eye-view-of-oil-and-gas-development-on-ecoflight-tour/

A home and petroleum storage tank in Weld County are pictured from the cabin of a Cessna Turbo 210 airplane during an EcoFlight event on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (Max Levy/Loveland Reporter-Herald)

 

By | mlevy@prairiemountainmedia.com | Loveland Reporter-Herald

 

While many wish for a bird’s-eye view of the oil and gas industry, a few officials had the chance to view extraction facilities throughout Larimer and Weld counties from 7,000 feet on Thursday morning.

The event — which was coordinated by EcoFlight, Colorado Sierra Club and the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans — took groups on an excursion as far east as the Pawnee National Grassland in small passenger aircraft, with guides pointing out oil and gas operations and answering questions about the environmental impacts of the industry along the way.

All flights took off from the Northern Colorado Regional Airport, where participants were also briefed on the program’s purpose before takeoff.

According to data compiled by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, in 2018, Larimer County produced 3.75 million barrels of oil and 10.73 billion cubic feet of coalbed and conventional natural gas. Those numbers made it the third most productive county in the state for oil and the ninth for gas.

Weld County, which produced 158.13 million barrels of oil and 805.26 billion cubic feet of gas, led Colorado in the production of both.

Larimer County Commissioner John Kefalas and Windsor Town Board member Barry Wilson were among those who climbed aboard one six-seater Cessna Turbo 210 airplane to learn more about the industry reshaping the economic and physical landscape of Northern Colorado.

“I asked a lot of technical questions and they were answered about storage tanks and a variety of other things,” Kefalas said. “Of course my purpose in coming to this as a county commissioner was to become more informed as we consider our first draft regulations on oil and gas.”

Earlier this week, a draft of the county’s first-ever set of land-use rules regarding oil and gas operations was released. The rules were created by created by county staff and a volunteer oil and gas task force in the wake of a landmark state senate bill that expanded the power of local governments to regulate the industry.

“Senate Bill 181 has the power to change the whole game on oil and gas,” LOGIC Executive Director Sara Loflin said.

Loflin rode along with Kefalas and Wilson, and pointed out extraction operations as the group flew east over the plains, which were covered in snow.

As they passed over one area of activity in Weld County, she noted several large, brightly colored vehicles, which she identified as trucks carrying the materials used in hydraulic fracturing.

“That’s one sign of a fracking site, when you see a lot of red trucks like that,” she said. “From here they almost look like they’re getting ready to go to a carnival, but those are full of sand.”

One of the key points stressed by Loflin was how the pollution created by extraction operations does not stay put, especially in areas like Pawnee National Grassland. There the Bureau of Land Management manages oil and gas leases while the U.S. Forest Service manages the surface resources.

Rather, pollutants like methane and ozone go on to jeopardize air quality and cause public health issues throughout Colorado.

“The venting and pollution that has happened here has been a major contributor to air quality issues in the state,” she said, as the group flew over the grassland.

The federal government, including the Environmental Protection Agency and BLM, has relaxed restrictions on methane emissions in recent years.

The EPA also recognizes part of Larimer County as failing to meet national air quality standards for ozone concentration.

Loflin urged attendees to support her organization’s public health and safety goals by reaching out to the EPA and BLM to request stronger rules on methane and backing efforts by Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division to enact new air quality rules.

Others who attended the event included two representatives from the Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety and the Environment; former air resources director for the National Parks Conservation Association Susan Johnson; and Emily Gedeon of the Colorado Sierra Club.

 

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