Media responds, state and industry scramble in wake of flood photos

September 17, 2013

Colorado, floods, oil & gas industry

WELD COUNTY, CO. - SEPTEMBER 16: A drilling derrick near Greeley stands in land flooded by the South Platte River. Aerial photographs of the Platte River flooding cities and farms in Weld County Colorado. [Photo By Tim Rasmussen/The Denver Post]

WELD COUNTY, CO. – SEPTEMBER 16: A drilling derrick near Greeley stands in land flooded by the South Platte River. Aerial photographs of the Platte River flooding cities and farms in Weld County Colorado. [Photo By Tim Rasmussen/The Denver Post]

ATTENTION: If you know the location of this well pad, call Tish Schuller at COGA.

East Boulder County United (EBCU) led the charge, fueled by Cliff Willmeng’s photos and videos. They activated hundreds of environmental activists up and down the Front Range and across Colorado and the country, and we pushed dozens of photos through blogs and social media sites to get the mainstream media’s attention to the unfolding environmental disaster in the gas fields.

Congratulations — we succeeded.

Under pressure from environmental groups on Monday, TV and newspaper outlets plastered state agencies and industry reps with questions about the flooding impacts in the gasfields. COGA’s Tish Schuller’s face is all over the Denver news as the industry and state agencies scramble to get a handle on the damage to the gasfields – and their image.

These are some of the top stories —

State and industry struggle to assess damage in flooded oil fields

Thousands of wells and operating sites have been affected — some remain in rushing waters, officials said …

… The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is setting up a clearinghouse to log the status of every well and operation, said Matt Lepore, the commission’s executive director.

The commission also is using its mapping technology to identify well sites along the South Platte River for inspection.

“Mapping is a really good first step — it locates where the problem could be,” said NRDC’s Rotkin-Ellman …

Pictures of flooded well and drilling sites and damaged or floating tanks have been appearing on several social-media sites.

“We’ve seen the pictures but don’t know the locations,” said [Tisha Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association]. “If people provide the locations, we will check them.”

Um, this is just weird. Schuller wants the people who took the photos to give them the locations of the damaged well sites. They seem to be saying they don’t even know where all their wells are located. Before they can even send out inspectors to assess the damage, they have to do mapping. That is so like them. They have to study the issue first before they decide to do anything. Seems like somebody would have thought about mapping the well site locations before this.

Northern Colorado oil and gas infrastructure submerged in flood waters
State regulators say it’s too early to estimate the flood’s toll on the industry

… Tisha Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, said the Denver-Julesburg Basin, an oil-rich area in northeastern Colorado, was most heavily inundated by floods. Schuller gave a report on potential oil and gas infrastructure damage at a COGCC meeting on Monday. As of yet, there have not been any reports of other impacted sites in other parts of the state, Schuller said.

For now, rescue efforts for thousands of stranded residents occupy much of Colorado’s attention, she said. She cautioned that photos showing submerged wells contain no specific information — while the photos are “extraordinary,” until inspectors can get to the wells, there is no proof that damage has been done.

That’s part of problem, Wockner contends. In addition to pushing other changes, he would like to see more wells that automatically shut off when their infrastructure is compromised, rather than waiting for inspectors to reach them by boat, he said.

Evidently the state can’t chew gum and walk at the same time. They are so inept they can’t undertake a rescue effort and assess an environmental disaster at the same time.

Tish Schuller says if the inspector’s don’t see it, there’s no proof of damage. But a picture is worth a thousand words. Right?

Weld County, CO – Saturday morning, September 14, 2103 [Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post]

Weld County, CO – Saturday morning, September 14, 2103 [Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post]

Well Tish, we’d like you to meet TXsharon. Her blog has been a driving force in the effort to get out the word in pictures beginning with this post on Sunday: Is there a media blackout on the fracking flood disaster in Colorado?

Last night she posted this update: Shocking photos and an update from the Colorado fracking flood zone, which includes an email from an EBCU member who describes the locations of several photos and the environmental damage that is likely occurring.

Now, a warning?

Once again it’s the same as we witnessed with the Parachute Creek spill last spring, it took pressure from environmental groups to wake up the sleeping giant CDPHE. On Monday they finally warned people the floodwater could be contaminated by chemicals.

Flood’s oil, gas impacts assessed as setbacks call is renewed

The CDPHE today warned people to avoid contact with floodwater that could be contaminated by chemicals from homes and from oil and gas and other industries.

The COGCC undertook a major rules overhaul in 2008. But with the exception of setbacks to protect municipal water supplies, it put off the controversial issue of waterway setbacks, intending to address the matter in 2009.

“Here it is four years later and it still hasn’t been done. That’s why we’re allowing more and more oil and gas facilities to be right next to rivers and streams,” said Matt Sura, an attorney working on oil and gas issues.

Tresi Houpt, an oil and gas commissioner during the 2008 rulemaking and a former Garfield County commissioner, said even good setback rules wouldn’t have provided protection from the extreme floods that hit the Front Range.

“But I think that it is really important that we learn from this and it is another good reason to make sure that we do have appropriate setbacks in place along our waterways,” she said.

She noted non-flooding oil and gas contamination problems that have beset Divide and Parachute creeks in Garfield County, not to mention how close to the Colorado River drilling has occurred.

“A much smaller weather event could put those waterways at risk if flooding occurred,” she said.

These two articles are the usual industry spin — everything’s under control, move along, nothing to see here.

Colorado flooding disrupts oil, gas production

Colorado floods shut down 1,000 oil and gas wells; recovery will take time

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  1. Environmentalists Hyped False Fracking Fears Ahead of Elections | Washington Free Beacon - March 24, 2014

    […] media’s attention to the unfolding environmental disaster in the gas fields,” EcoFlight said. “Congratulations—we […]

  2. Environmentalists Hyped False Fracking Fears Ahead of Elections - ALIPAC - March 25, 2014

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