Afternoon Headlines May 26, 2017

One worker was killed and three injured near Mead yesterday afternoon when an oil tank battery exploded.

The facility, which stores extracted oil and gas awaiting transport, is owned and operated by Anadarko Petroleum. The company also owns the improperly abandoned gas flowline that investigators say caused the deadly house explosion in Firestone’s Oak Meadows neighborhood last month. Yesterday’s explosion occurred about four miles from the Firestone home.

Police said the tank explosion appears to have been caused during maintenance work.

Tank battery sites store extracted oil and gas awaiting transport. Colorado’s oil and gas regulatory agency, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission did not begin recording or taking inventory of tank battery sites until 2009. The majority of sites predating 2009 remain undocumented and unregulated.

Hours before the Mead explosion, Anardarko announced that two high concentration pockets of flammable methane gas have been found near a tank in Firestone’s Oak Meadows neighborhood. The company said it would be permanently shutting down three wells in that neighborhood.

Despite pleas from environmental groups, Governor John Hickenlooper will not ask the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to reconsider its appeal of a recent court ruling requiring the agency to consider health and safety before approving drilling permits, Hickenlooper’s office announced this week.

In a written statement Thursday, the governor’s office said, “We have made our position in this matter well known and believe that it would be inappropriate to apply pressure on this Commission to take further action.”

The 2013 case under appeal is Martinez versus the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Teenage environmental activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and a group of other young plaintiffs proposed a new rule requiring that the agency not approve any permits unless science can confirm that the proposed drilling will be safe for health, the environment and the climate.

After an initial defeat, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled on the side of the youth on March 23rd.

On May 1st, all seven current members of the commission voted to appeal the ruling. Hickenlooper publicly called on the agency to let the ruling stand, but on May 18, Attorney General Cynthia Coffman filed an appeal on the agency’s behalf.

Coffman and supporters of the appeal have said that the ruling would dramatically alter the way Colorado regulates oil and gas. The governor disagrees. Presently, the oil and gas commission interprets its mission as finding a balance between health and safety and oil and gas development.

Two sessions have passed since Gov. John Hickenlooper rolled out Colorado’s first statewide water plan, yet lawmakers have made little progress toward the plan’s main goal – averting a massive state water shortfall in 2050.

By 2050, the state will face at least a one million acre-feet per year shortfall, according to projections. One acre-foot of water is about 326,000 gallons of water

The single biggest achievement in water policy these past two sessions is a law allowing Coloradans to use rain barrels to collect rain and snowmelt to water their gardens.

Lawmakers’ broader inaction underscores the limits of their authority on water policy and of their ability to put in place meaningful efforts – or at least a priority list for those efforts – to stave off a water crisis. Although the legislature has allocated $15 million to implement the water plan, some members complain their involvement is limited mainly to “writing the check” without input into how, specifically, money might be spent other than on writing more water reports and holding more water meetings. Several tell The Colorado Independent that they have no idea where the plan’s priorities lie or how, specifically, Hickenlooper expects it will be put into action.

The water plan identifies the projected water shortage – drawn from a 2010 study that is being updated – but doesn’t offer a roadmap for addressing it, other than stating the size of the problem and how much water the state needs to add in areas such as storage and conservation to meet its 2050 needs.

The growing water deficit stems largely from Colorado population growth, which is expected to double to 10.3 million people by 2050. But another factor is climate change. A hotter climate increases the potential for drought in southern Colorado, and could also reduce the annual spring runoff from the mountain snowpack.

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