UPDATE: An end-of-year update on chronic pollution in Colorado

Earthworks first got the call from a local resident to investigate pollution from a Prospect Energy site in Colorado in January of 2021.

In May of this year, we shared the story of the Prospect Energy Krause MSSU Central Tank Battery, a chronically polluting facility in Larimer County near where local residents have been suffering health impact for years. The problems with this site and harm it causes to Coloradans highlighted how the Polis administration and state regulators have continued to fail.  Despite years of pledging to prioritize public health and the environment, the issue of chronic polluters goes unresolved. 

We recounted a months-long effort of documenting video evidence of pollution on three separate occasions.  We had filed two formal complaints with the appropriate state agencies hoping to finally force the operator to make the repairs needed to stop emissions from their aging infrastructure. 

That should have been where the story ended. 

The Toxic Cycle: Pollution continues

Unfortunately, I write now to update this case and report back that the Prospect Energy Krause site continues to pollute. It is a damning indictment of the Polis administration and Colorado’s culture of regulating harmful industry if, after many months of concerted effort by Earthworks and the local residents, including additional complaints to state regulators, OGI videos, and testimonies to various governmental bodies, the pollution, as of this writing, is still ongoing at the facility.

Prospect Energy Krause Central Tank Battery documented on 9/2/2021,

In August, residents started reaching out to us again concerned about the return of noxious odors emanating from the same Prospect Energy site. We filmed equipment at the site on September 2, 2021, finding emissions from the produced water tanks that had been patched in March. We filed our third complaint with the state, which prompted staff from the Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) to conduct a brand new investigation, this time alongside Larimer County health staff. 

No fines or violations were issued, but APCD Staff informed Prospect Energy of the complaint, which ACPD said is standard procedure. Prospect Energy reported back to the agency that made new repairs on September 17th. Yet, when we returned to film the site on September 30th, our optical gas imaging camera easily documented continued emissions from the produced water tanks.  

Two months pass and the pollution is still going

We once again notified both state and county officials. But the month of October passed without any additional action on the site. So, we returned with our camera to the site for the 8th time on November 6th and, predictably, found the produced water tanks still polluting. 

Prospect Energy Krause MSSU Central Tank Battery documented on 11/6/2021.

We notified the state and county for the 6th time. We also filed our 4th formal complaint. 

Fortunately, this round garnered yet another obviously needed investigation by APCD. That investigation is currently ongoing, but is likely to finally result in the operator being forced to replace the produced water tanks on the site. The timeline for this replacement however is still up in the air. Meanwhile, the residents are left with few options other than to continue smelling odors and suffering health impacts.

So, to recap: 11 months, 9 documented videos of pollution, 4 formal complaints, health complaints from local communities, testimony by residents to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Larimer County Board of Commissioners and Fort Collins City Council was all necessary to BEGIN to clean up one chronically polluting site in Colorado.

All this is FAR TOO MUCH to ask from Coloradans for us to then take Governor Polis at his word that public health and safety come before oil and gas interests.

It is important to note that this is not the only chronically polluting site owned by Prospect Energy. No more than a few miles to the north and to the south of this facility are two other tank batteries, similarly in residential areas, where in just the last few months we have documented pollution on four separate occasions and filed two formal complaints for each site.. 

It should be no surprise that despite the operator’s reports of making repairs, we continue to observe ongoing pollution.

And we do not only observe chronic pollution at Prospect Energy facilities. Of the 14 outstanding investigations that our complaints have prompted at the APCD in the last month, 8 of those are on facilities where we have filmed pollution on multiple occasions. 

So, what does that say for Colorado’s regulation and oversight of the tens of thousands of other active oil and gas facilities in the state? How are we supposed to have any confidence in our state achieving the goals of our climate roadmap or making progress on the promised protections of disproportionately impacted communities? And, perhaps most important, when, if ever, are the Polis Administration and Colorado’s regulators going to take pollution from the oil and gas industry seriously?