Broomfield Set to Approve Extraction Drilling Application, Despite Opposition from Some
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To see an updated version of the Comprehensive Drilling Plan, Broomfield’s letter of intent to approve the CPD, oil and gas maps and other information visit broomfield.org/oilandgas
Broomfield City and County Manager Charles Ozaki is expected to approve a Comprehensive Drilling Plan submitted by Extraction Oil & Gas Inc., much to the outrage of residents who feel the decision was made too soon and without fully vetting the plan.
Since the first draft of the plan was turned over to Broomfield in December, five more have been reviewed by Broomfield staff and consultants with expertise in each of the areas covered in the now 1,502-page document.
Detailed comments were sent to Extraction after council, staff and the public discussed each draft of the plan, which proposes to drill 84 wells in Broomfield among six well sites.
Each time comments focused on the “protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources,” according to the letter from the manager’s office.
Broomfield submitted final comments to Extraction in a letter sent July 6, which was returned three weeks later with the company’s responses.
Ozaki intends to approve the final draft Thursday after final review to confirm all of the final comments, outlined in that letter, have been addressed.
Extraction Spokesman Brian Cain said the company was pleased with the outcome of the plan and “even more pleased” with what he called an outstanding collaborative process that Extraction has undertaken with Broomfield and other stakeholders.
“It took us more than two years, but we hope that our experience working with the city serves as a model for our industry in the amount of engagement that took place, as well as the innovative technologies we plan to use to protect the community and the environment,” Cain said. “Our facility design for Broomfield was recently rated by a third party to be among the best facility engineering designs in the United States oil and gas industry.
He said he anticipates initial operations will begin sometime in the next few months.
“We look forward to demonstrating the safe and responsible development of the energy resources that all Broomfield residents use each day,” he said.
Issues in the city’s letter range from asking Extraction for an updated and accurate drilling schedule and drainage reports to traffic and air quality concerns.
“One of the greatest concerns for the residents of Broomfield is ensuring the safety of these large-scale oil and gas operations next to residential communities,” Laurie Anderson, a member of Broomfield Clean Air and Water, said in a separate letter.
She said that Extraction agreed to a Risk Management Plan including a risk analysis, which Extraction has yet to submit.
“Approval of the (plan) and issuance of permits without a risk analysis and a sufficient Risk Management Plan goes against the Broomfield City Charter — against the protection of health, safety, and welfare — which is the law,” she said.
According to the operator agreement Broomfield signed with Extraction, the oil and gas operator is required to file an Emergency Response Preparedness Plan as part of the comprehensive drilling plan, but it does not mention a risk registry.
“Although the Operator Agreement does not require a quantitative or qualitative risk registry, Broomfield has consistently requested that Extraction indicate the various areas of risk, the mitigation measures and regulatory compliance that will address each of the risks, and an assessment by Extraction of the likelihood of such risk, once it is mitigated as set forth in the Risk Management Plan,” the city manager’s letter states.
Extraction showed all of this information in the latest version of the Risk Management Plan that will be a part of the final plan, the letter said.
The review of the plan began as a public process, and Anderson believes that came with the expectation that there would be a vote during an open council meeting. She said the action has “suddenly become a hidden process” and questioned where Ozaki was taking direction from council and whether a vote is “being taken behind closed doors.”
In November, Broomfield passed Charter Amendment 301 by a nearly 15-point margin.
Neil Allaire, co-chair of the 301 Committee that got that item on the ballot, said the news of the approval was “very disturbing,” especially after nearly two years of a “pretty open” public process. Broomfield had some issues with executive sessions where residents felt decisions were being made, he said, but overall the process has been good.
“Given that Special Counsel Phil Barber just yesterday at the commission Crestone Gottl Pad hearing cited the ruling in the Martinez case as current law in Colorado, it is appropriate that the city fully demonstrate in public to residents that the Extraction (comprehensive drilling plan) protects the health, safety and welfare of residents — as is required by both Colorado State law and Broomfield law,” he said.
About a month has gone by with no update on the plan, Allaire said, and his community group only learned about the decision when city officials responded to a letter they emailed Tuesday with suggested improvements for the plan.
“Then we find out right away they’ve been deciding this behind closed doors all along without any public input,” he said.
Allaire has no evidence that a council vote, whether formal or informal, had taken place, but said the move was a “complete about-face” from how the city has been discussing the plan in public meetings.
“It’s definitely a surprise at the must crucial point,” he said. “It’s just very troubling especially given the prior two years of a pretty open process... to go ahead and make the final decision without any public participation.”
He said he and other residents would have liked to comment on Extraction’s most recent responses, which he found insubstantial.
Jennifer Rios: 303-473-1361, firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.com/Jennifer_Rios