Recent comments by Jerry Brown were bold indeed for an elected state governor, especially one whose state currently is one of the top producers of oil and gas:
“One-third of the oil that we know exists as reserves can never be taken out of the ground. Fifty percent of the gas can never be used. [Yet] we have very powerful opposition that spends billions on trying to … elect troglodytes and other deniers of the obvious science,” Brown said.
On the day of the harvest moon, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper late yesterday evening released the names and the general mandate for his “blue ribbon” commission on oil and gas drilling. Formed to avoid ballot issues this fall that would have allowed communities to determine if, and how, they would host oil and gas operations, the commission is formally tasked with addressing the siting of oil and gas facilities so as “to ensure that Colorado’s economy and environment remain healthy and robust.” Hardly a mandate to inspire, it represents the continuation of the state and fossil fuel industry collaboration that has brought us to the current state of political affairs.
You can’t say that the politics of oil and gas in Colorado have been dull lately.
Last week, on the day that signatures for four statewide oil and gas ballot initiatives were due, Governor Hickenlooper announced with Representative Polis that the four initiatives would be withdrawn as part of a political deal.
The best thing since sliced bread? Or wasted effort and only good for giving politicians political cover? What should we make of the new Colorado air emissions rules?
Some have claimed the rules will protect air quality and public health, while enabling responsible, economic energy development.
Others have called the rules weak and providing no gain for the environment.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) demonstrated this week that it really has not changed its approach to its neighbors on the Front Range of Colorado. COGA said that it had filed lawsuits against two of the cities that voted to restrict fracking and waste disposal within city limits and a different pro-fracking group filed a suit against a third city's election division. Trying to put a positive spin on this bare-knuckled attack on Colorado citizens, the COGA president said it was only trying to protect these misguided cities from “extremists” who had “lured” 60% of the citizenry into committing this “illegal” act.
A funny thing happened on the way to the shale revolution – an outbreak of democracy that will send tremors through the oil and gas industry and its political backers.
Voters in three elections in three different cities (Boulder, Ft. Collins and Lafayette), located on the voter-rich Front Range of Colorado, followed the city of Longmont’s lead and decisively passed bans or moratoria on fracking or drilling. A fourth election in Broomfield is still too close to call.
Why the new EDF report doesn’t mean natural gas is a climate friendly fuel
The Environmental Defense Fund, partnered with the oil and gas industry, published a paper yesterday that reports the results of direct measurements of methane emissions from 27 natural gas well completions (out of more than 20,000 well completions that occur in any given year).
The EDF report released today is a direct response to the challenge identified by Howarth: we need direct measurements of methane emissions from all natural gas development to make informed decisions about the climate impacts of natural gas. Unfortunately, the EDF report does not get us what we need.
What is most notable about today’s report is that the methane measurements were all made at sites offered by the industry participants – they were not a random sample of typical gas well sites. Participating companies cherry-picked sites for the study, and the scientists went and studied them.
A state court in New York issued two unanimous decisions last week upholding local bans on oil and gas activity. The court found that having a state policy on the efficient development of oil and gas resources – a policy which many states have - does not equate to an intention to require oil and gas drilling operations to occur in each and every location where the resources are present, regardless of existing land uses.
These decisions in favor of local governance – the heart of our democracy – will send earthquakes through the oil and gas industry, as they represent the biggest fissure yet in the industry’s long efforts to wall off oil and gas regulation at the state level.