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Aurora family shares 'incredibly frustrating' experience with proposed oil and gas fracking site

Denver7 followed up with Colorado's oil and gas oversight agency for tips on how to stay informed and comment on proposed operations
Colin Westerfield and Aryn Anderson Aurora fracking
Posted at 4:45 PM, Oct 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-19 19:56:28-04

AURORA, Colo. — A family in Aurora is voicing their objections about a proposed plan from an oil and gas company to frack in their neighborhood — and they're not alone.

The quiet Aurora neighborhood, with sweeping mountain views and great schools, seemed like the ideal place for Colin Westerfield and Aryn Anderson to make a home with their 5-year-old daughter, 18-month-old son and cat Beans. 

"We wanted to live in the pristine nature, we wanted good air quality, we wanted a safe place to raise our children,” Anderson said. “Having lived here for most of my life, I had no idea that Colorado was so deeply involved in oil and gas.” 

Aurora Tallyn's Reach
The mountain views from Westerfield and Anderson's neighborhood made them believe their natural surroundings would be protected. But oil and gas development proposed nearby has them worried.

But recently, their family and many others in their neighborhood have gone through a crash course in what it’s like to learn about and try to oppose proposed oil and gas drilling. 

"We were contacted by a realtor about a year and a half ago interested in leasing our mineral rights. He did not mention fracking, he did not mention it was going to be underneath our homes,” Anderson said. 

Since then, Westerfield said the process of staying informed about the proposal by Civitas' subsidiary Crestone, has been very confusing. 

"We've reached out to our oil and gas manager for the city of Aurora, city council members, the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners, our HOA,” Westerfield said. 

But even still, “it's an uphill battle. Many people have told us even from the outset, this is going to happen, there's nothing you can do about it,” he said. “And that's incredibly frustrating.” 

Many of their neighbors share that frustration. In a recent hearing held by Arapahoe County’s Board of County Commissioners, community members packed the room, sharing stories about their objections to the proposed fracking. 

"All the way up our block ... which include conservatives, liberals, moderates, even people who've worked in oil and gas for decades, nobody wants the project to go forward,” Westerfield said. 

Most of their concerns are tied to the proximity of the oil and gas project to homes and the Aurora Reservoir, the biggest freshwater source in the area and a space enjoyed by water sports enthusiasts. 

"Why is this being proposed in a densely populated residential area? Under our kids' school? Under our home?” Westerfield asked.  

To stay up to date on the proposed fracking, Westerfield and Anderson rely on a group created by their neighbors: Save the Aurora Reservoir

Save the Aurora Reservoir
Communities near the proposed oil and gas development created the group Save the Aurora Reservoir to oppose the project.

"Average citizens are putting significant extra time into finding this out and giving information to their neighbors,” Anderson said. 

But when it comes to hearing from local and state government or the company proposing the drilling, “the communication has been rather poor to non existent,” Westerfield said. 

“It is very difficult,” Anderson said. “I don't even know how much power our elected officials have to stop it. They either don't have the power or they don't want to. Either way, it feels unacceptable to me, because what it seems like is the oil and gas companies are the ones that have the power here. We do not.” 

With what they’ve learned so far, Westerfield worries “it can happen to any Coloradan. Anyone who's a resident or a homeowner, whether you are in rural Colorado, or like us, you're in a densely populated area with tens of thousands of people.” 

"It's not just as simple as well, if this takes place, just go ahead and move somewhere else,” he said. 

Tallyn's Reach neighborhood Aurora
Westerfield and Anderson's Aurora neighborhood is densely populated with families like theirs.

In the coming years, companies are proposing most new oil and gas development in populous areas on the Front Range. Coloradans will likely find themselves seeking information about those proposals and how they can make their voices heard. Denver7 reached out to the state agency in charge of overseeing those proposals, the Energy and Carbon Management Commission (ECMC). Here’s how they answered our questions: 

  1. How does the ECMC inform the public of when and how to submit comment?  

    For every pending Oil and Gas Development Plan (OGDP) application, those people who live within 2,000 feet of proposed new oil and gas operations and those people who own minerals within the proposed mineral development area will receive notice of the Director’s Completeness Determination once the application has passed Staff’s initial review.  This point in the review process marks the commencement of the public comment period, which is no less than 30 days. ECMC’s website has a list of pending Form 2A Oil and Gas Location Assessment permit applications (associated with OGDPs) that is updated daily. Through our website, anyone can provide a written public comment during the public comment period; each comment will populate directly onto the Form 2A and formally become part of the Commission’s record for the permit application.   

  2. Where can Coloradans find the ECMC’s public comment portal?   

    If a member of the public would like to make oral public comments directly to the Commissioners during a hearing, they may do so by signing up on ECMC’s website about a week prior to each hearing. Each commenter will be recognized and given a short period of time to provide oral comments at the hearing if they are logged into the hearing via computer or phone.

    If a person wants to make a written comment on a specific pending Oil & Gas Location Assessment (Form 2A), they may do so. From the ECMC website, there are several documents on how to provide public comment.

    From the ECMC homepage, click the “Permits” link in the green banner, then under “Oil and Gas Location Assessments (Form 2As) / “Pending Oil and Gas Location Assessments (Form 2As)" search for a county of your choice or select All Counties and hit the “GO” button. Form 2As for which the public comment period is open will be highlighted green, yellow, or red depending on the duration left to receive public comment. If a public comment portal is not available it is likely that the public comment period has closed. To provide a written public comment, click the “Document Number/Public Comment Link” (a nine-digit number) to enter the public comment portal for a specific Form 2A.

    For hearings there are two ways that a member of the public can provide public comment. First, they can visit the Hearings Unit page and select the link to the eFiling Public Comment Portal. That portal takes you to a form that allows you to provide public comment on any pending docket. All you need is the docket number. Second, the week before a Commission hearing, ECMC posts on its homepage a link to a sheet to sign up to provide public comment at the hearing where an OGDP will be considered. Individuals can sign up to provide oral comment or written comment that the Commissioners read. Also, we have on our Hearings Unit page a link to the upcoming Commission hearing agendas.   

  3. The ECMC’s permits search allows the public to search by county for each form type (ex. Form 2Cs, Form 2As, etc). Is there a way to search all applications? Or to search by city/town?

    Every Oil and Gas Development Plan (OGDP) includes various components, including at least one Form 2A (Oil and Gas Location Assessment), a Form 2B (Cumulative Impacts Data Identification) and Form 2C (OGDP Certification). The complete OGDP application also includes a Hearing Application component that is accessible via the eFilings system.

    For each OGDP application, the Form 2A contains the bulk of the technical information, including maps, well counts, site diagrams, and Best Management Practices. It is the primary receptacle to receive public comments (as described above).

    The Form 2B includes estimates of potential incremental impacts based on the proposed operations.

    The Form 2C is merely a certification that all the required components of the application have been submitted by the operator; this Form may be of little interest for a public reviewer.

    There is no way to conduct a singular search for information about all the pending applications  since the applications, and particularly the Form 2A, are so robust with site-specific data. The ECMC does, however, have the Daily Activity Dashboard (DAD), which provides a simple summary of the number of permits per county or municipality. From the homepage, click the pink link in the center right of the page for “Daily Activity Dashboard” and follow the instructions.     

  4. Are there additional ways the public can stay informed about proposed operations near where they live?  

    The ECMC requires that any residence within 2,000 feet of a proposed site, or mineral owner within a proposed mineral development area must be notified by the operator of any application for an oil and gas development plan upon the Director’s Completeness Determination. Applicants are required to submit a pre-application notice to the relevant Local government no less than 30 days prior to submitting their ECMC application; many local governments post those pre-application notices on their own webpages for public information.

    The Daily Activity Dashboard (DAD) is a great resource for the public to see various oil and gas data, including pending permits, well status, plugged wells, production reports, inspections, Notices of Alleged Violations (NOAVs), notifications, spills, and operator changes for individual counties and some municipalities.   

  5. Apart from public comments, are there ways community members can engage in the process?

    The Commission increased standing or access to participate in this process when SB 19-181 was implemented.

    The public is also encouraged to provide written and oral public comments, through the ECMC’s established process on all Comprehensive Area Plan (CAP) permit applications. CAP applications are large scale proposals that the Commission votes on; if a CAP is approved, subsequent OGDPs are also required, so there are multiple opportunities for the public to participate in the permitting process on both the large-scale and small-scale. There are currently no CAP applications available for public review and comment.

    Crestone’s Lowry Ranch CAP is still in the completeness phase of review with technical Staff; a preliminary public comment portal has been set up. Once the Director determines that the Lowry Ranch CAP application is complete (meaning, all the required components are included and technical review may begin), the formal public comment period will open and the ECMC will welcome all relevant public comments via a unique online portal.

    The public can provide both written and oral public comments on every OGDP permit application under consideration by the Commission. In addition, the public is invited to attend public hearings on multiple topics beyond permit applications, including rulemaking procedures. Sign ups for oral public comments will be forthcoming prior to each rulemaking. The ECMC values all substantive, relevant, and meaningful public input.

    Members of the public who feel that they may be “adversely affected or aggrieved” by a proposed OGDP can file a petition with the Commission. The process on how to file a petition is explained in the “Hearings and Applications Guidebook” that can be found on the Hearings “How To” page.


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