The City of Fort Collins is seeking public input on approaches to how the City could regulate oil and gas development within City limits. In April 2019, Senate Bill 19-181 was adopted in Colorado, which gave local governments land use authority to regulate the siting and surface impacts of oil and gas development. The City is currently exploring regulatory options and is seeking public input in preparation for a Council Work Session discussion. This discussion was originally scheduled for April 28, 2020, but has been postponed to a future date that has not yet been determined. Updates will be posted when available.
Oil and Gas Complaints and Concerns
For emergencies, call 9-1-1.
General environmental or health concerns can be communicated to the City of Fort Collins through Access Fort Collins.
Health concerns related to oil and gas operations can be submitted to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) Oil and Gas Health Information and Response Line, or by calling 303-389-1687.
Complaints or concerns about about the Prospect Energy sites in North Fort Collins can also be communicated directly to the operator, Ward Giltner (owner) at 303-489-8773.
The City of Fort Collins has an active oil field in the northeast part of the City that was first discovered in 1924. As is common with older, once remote, oil and gas developments around the state, urban growth has encroached upon the field. In the past decade, advances in oil and gas technology have led to increased production in the state, and an evolving regulatory environment.
The map below shows the active wells within Fort Collins City limits. A detailed map of wells and well status are available from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).
Types of Wells
In the Fort Collins field, the vast majority of the oil is produced from an underground formation called the Muddy formation. These wells require high pressure water injection lines which pressurize the formation, and bring a mixture of water (~97%), oil (~3%) and gas (minimal) to the surface for separation and distribution. Types of wells (and count) in Fort Collins include:
- Producing Wells (3): Wells where produced oil and/or gas is collected from underground reservoirs
- Injecting Wells (5): Wells used for the exclusive purpose of injecting fluids from the surface for enhanced oil recovery
- Shut-In Wells (2): A well not currently producing, but which is capable of production or injection.
- Abandoned (20): A well that has been plugged by means the cementing of a well, with removal of associated production facilities, abandonment of its flowline(s), and the remediation and reclamation of the wellsite.
Prospect Energy is in the process of developing the Codell formation within the Fort Collins field, which is shallower than the Muddy formation and would require no new drilling. Full development would allow for the Muddy zones to be permanently abandoned, which would eliminate the need for high pressure water injection and water treatment. This would also introduce increased gas volumes, which could potentially be used to generate electricity on site.
2019 Health Impacts Study
In 2019, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) released a health impacts study based on emissions data collected during field operations along the Front Range in 2016. This study concluded that air emissions related to oil and gas development may cause short term negative health impacts (e.g., headaches; dizziness; respiratory, skin, and eye irritation) during worst-case conditions at up to 2,000 feet from operations.
2017 Air Quality Assessment and Technical Session
The City's Air Quality Advisory Board and Natural Resources Advisory Board, and County's Environmental and Science Advisory Board, hosted an air quality technical session on November 15, 2017. Discussed were an air quality monitoring assessment conducted using data collected during the 2014 Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Experiment (FRAPPE), and new oil and gas health information and response resources available from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE).
The NCAR assessment report indicated that oil and gas emissions, along with transportation sources, were the largest contributors to the regions high ozone events.
2017 Fort Collins Emission Rate Study
In 2017, Fort Collins, Colorado State University (CSU) and Prospect Energy collaborated on a sampling effort just outside City limits to characterize emissions during the hydraulic fracturing and flowback stages of a well recompletion. Measurements indicated that emissions were lower than other measurements along the Front Range.
2016 North Front Range Emission Rate Study
In 2016, Colorado State University (CSU), in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and several operators, completed a monitoring study that characterized emission rates from oil and gas operations along the northern Front Range. The lowest emission rates were measured during hydraulic fracturing operations, followed by production. The highest emissions rates were measured during flowback, which is a pre-production stage where the fracking fluid, produced water, oil, and natural gas flow up and out of the well before it is placed into production
2014/2015 Assessment Reports
In 2013, air sampling was performed in Fort Collins per the terms of the City's Operator Agreement with Prospect Energy. Measurements indicated concentrations of oil and gas related air pollutants were lower in Fort Collins than near larger oil and gas fields in eastern Colorado.
In 2013, an Operator Agreement between the City and Prospect Energy which was implemented in 2013 and structured to renew in 5-year increments (last renewed in 2018). This agreement goes above and beyond State and Federal requirements for air sampling and other Best Management Practices (BMPs) for new wells drilled within City limits.
2018 Land Use Code Updates
The City's Land Use Code, which includes setback requirements for new development around existing wells and other oil and gas infrastructure (called reciprocal setbacks). Conversely, the COGCC regulations include setbacks for proximity of new wells to existing development. These rules were updated in 2018 as follows:
- Increase the buffer between new development and existing oil and gas operations from 350 feet to 500 feet. This applies to both active and permanently abandoned wells.
- Increase the buffer between High Occupancy Uses and existing oil and gas operations from 350 feet to 1,000 feet. High Occupancy Uses include schools, hospitals, nursing homes, correctional facilities and daycare centers.
- Allow a decision-maker to consider a reduced setback around plugged and abandoned wells if additional investigation, soil sampling and groundwater testing are completed and accepted by the City. The minimum setback that could be obtained would be 150 feet from the plugged well.
- Require an additional method of notification to future property owners about the presence of nearby oil and gas operations.
COGCC/CDPHE Completed Rulemakings/Guidance
- COGCC - Health Impact Notifications (Guidance)
CDPHE - Methane Emissions
- In December 2019 the CDPHE updated rules related to Control of Ozone via Ozone Precursors and Control of Hydrocarbons from Oil and Gas Emissions. These include enhanced monitoring, reporting and control requirements for methane emissions and leaks.
COGCC - Pipelines/Flowlines
- In November 2019 new pipeline rules were adopted that allowed for the public disclosure of flowline information in additional to reporting requirements through Colorado 811, and to determine when deactivated flowlines must be inspected.
COGCC - Objective Criteria (Guidance)
- On May 16, 2019, the COGCC Director set out new “objective” criteria to be used by the COGCC pending adoption of new rules to evaluate whether a proposed well or location requires additional analysis to ensure it meets the mission of the legislation, pending adoption of new rules.
COGCC/CDPHE Upcoming Rulemakings
COGCC - Mission Change, Cumulative Impacts and Alternative Location Analysis
- On November 1, 2019, the COGCC published a Mission Change Whitepaper, which provided an outline and discussion of some, but not all, of the larger concept rule changes under consideration.
- On January 22, 2020, the COGCC published a memo outlining proposed hearing dates for the Mission Change rulemaking with public hearings scheduled in April and May of 2020.
- On February 7, 2020, the COGCC published draft changes related to the mission change rulemaking. A summary memo, draft rules, and opportunity to comment are available through the COGCC Mission Change Comment Portal.
- In 2020, rulemaking hearings related greenhouse gas emissions, ozone implementation plans, and regional haze will occur. All of these will include aspects of oil and gas emissions. More information is available from the CDPHE AQCC
In 2019, Larimer County convened a Task Force to discuss oil and gas regulations in addition to current State regulations. Rules under consideration include increased setbacks, a County review process, and requirements for operations to submit reports and plans for meeting state and federal regulations regarding air quality, odor mitigation, water quality, noise, dust control and waste management. County commissioners are expected to consider the proposed regulations March 23. For Fort Collins, these rules would apply to the City's Growth Management Area (GMA), and any City owned property outside of City limits.