Ten Western mountain towns feeling the effects of climate change are launching a campaign that targets the coal industry, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars a year from companies to help communities adapt.
The “Mountain Pact” towns in Colorado and neighboring states contend that, because coal is a major source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases linked to climate change, the industry should pay more to help deal with the impact.
In a letter being sent this week to federal officials, lawmakers and the White House, the towns demand changes in the federal government’s system for collecting royalties from coal companies, half of which flow back to states for local distribution.
Colorado on Friday joined a lawsuit by oil-producing states challenging the federal government’s new rules for fracking on federal public lands.
The lawsuit contends the U.S. Bureau of Land Management cannot impose regulations on hydraulic fracturing, arguing that federal law lets states regulate oil and gas operations. Wyoming and North Dakota launched the litigation.
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman issued a statement saying Colorado has robust regulations and that state regulators are doing a good job.
Earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater are 100 times more likely now than in 2008 in regions of Colorado and seven states that are hotbeds for oil and gas drilling, federal geologists said Wednesday.
This has prompted the government to prepare new seismic-risk maps for construction, insurance and public safety.
The question of who bears the costs of possible damage and quake-resistant construction has yet to be decided. But a U.S. Geological Survey team, based in Colorado, also has started a series of meetings with engineers and designers.
Oil and gas companies have yet to fully restore land around half of the 47,505 inactive wells in Colorado, and 72 percent of those un-restored sites have been in the process for more than five years, The Denver Post has found.
The state requires oil and gas companies to restore all sites completely — to reduce erosion, loosen compacted soil, prevent dust storms and control invasions of noxious weeds.
But Colorado does not set a timetable for getting the job done. Nor do state regulators track how long companies take to complete required work.
Oil and gas spills are happening more often in Colorado — at a rate of two a day this year — and usually without anyone telling residents.
Colorado has seen nearly as many spills so far this year as were recorded in all of 2013 — a reflection of greater drilling activity, new reporting requirements and, the state says, tougher enforcement.
While the American Petroleum Institute industry trade group recently announced new standards encouraging companies to communicate more robustly with communities, API says this doesn’t include conveying details of spills — a task left to government.
State rules require companies to report spills to a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission database, the owner of land where a spill happens, state health authorities if contaminants reach water, and a local government designee. But government officials generally don’t announce spills or otherwise notify nearby residents.
PLATTEVILLE — A cleaner kind of oil and gas production has begun at the epicenter of Colorado’s boom, where pollution threatens the state’s hard-won gains in air quality.
There are no storage tanks, a main source of toxic fumes.
Valves that hiss steadily at old-style facilities are replaced by “low-bleed” valves that pollute only in tight spurts.
Spills releasing PCE, the cancer-causing chemical used in dry cleaning and metal degreasing, have produced at least 86 underground plumes across Colorado that are poisoning soil and water and fouling air inside buildings.
Cleaning up this chemical is a nightmare — a lesson in the limits of repairing environmental harm. The best that Colorado health enforcers and responsible parties have been able to do is keep the PCE they know about from reaching people.
But based on a review of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment case files, people likely have been exposed.
Trucks rolling through Front Range communities thumping the ground in the hunt for oil and gas are riling some residents.
Seismic exploration so unnerved Aurora homeowners earlier this year that the city has imposed new permitting requirements on companies. State regulators also are looking at their own rules.
Colorado residents chafing at the rapidly expanding oil and gas operations along the Front Range are pressuring their local governments for protection from industrial light, noise, vibration and pollution within city limits.
But state officials insist they alone have the right to regulate how and where the industry does its drilling. State attorneys are fighting local governments that try to impose their own rules.
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The oil and gas industry on Monday hit Longmont with a lawsuit to kill voters’ recent ban on fracking within city limits.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association contends the ban is illegal because it denies mineral owners the right to develop their property and blocks operations that state laws allow.