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Loveland OKs McWhinney oil and gas development; state yet to review

LOVELAND — It still needs state approval, but the McWhinney oil and gas drilling project planned for east Loveland has received city approval.

The project, called the East Well Pad application, was submitted by MRG LLC, a subsidiary of McWhinney Real Estate Services Inc. It has been conditionally approved under the city’s enhanced oil and gas standards. From the 13-acre pad, multiple horizontal wells will be drilled west under the interstate and into McWhinney’s Centerra development, stopping before they reach Boyd Lake.

The site, at the far east side of Centerra adjacent to a subdivision called Kinston, is separate from another site that the company agreed to abandon for oil and gas development in Centerra South.

This application was the first oil and gas development application submitted to the city under the Unified Development Code and met the minimum criteria needed for administrative approval through track two of the city’s decision-making process for oil and gas development, according to a press statement from the city. Because it met those minimum criteria, it requires only administrative approval and not a City Council vote. Administrative approval is available for projects that meet location requirements and when developers agree to enhanced air quality and noise standards. The Colorado Energy and Carbon Management Commission, formerly the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, must also sign off on the project.

An attempt to reach Colorado Rising, an  organization that has listed opposition to the well pad site, was not successful prior to publication time.

Brett Limbaugh, city development services director, approved the project. His review involved public input, consultations with Loveland Fire & Rescue Authority, Larimer County, and outside experts, including legal counsel, state oil and gas regulators, and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment staff, the city said. 

“The file on this matter is extensive and addresses issues such as emergency response, landscaping, interim reclamation, stormwater controls, noise mitigation, dust mitigation and air-quality protections,” Limbaugh said in his decision letter. “City staff put forward 23 conditions of approval that are now binding on this operator. Additional conditions this permit requires are, in some cases, more protective than state regulations.”

Mandatory conditions of approval that are more protective than state regulations include:

  • All wells will be drilled with electric drill rigs.
  • Pipelines will be used to transport the oil and gas, eliminating truck trips to the facility.
  • The site will use a “tankless design.”
  • The production facility will use electricity for all motors and pneumatic devices.
  • Hydraulic fracturing and heavy construction equipment that cannot be electrified will use the lowest-emitting Tier IV engines.
  • The operator will assign employees to respond to all complaints 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Complaints are to be resolved within 24 hours.
  • The operator will provide weekly electronic progress reports to the city governmental designee during the project’s initial construction, drilling, completion, and first year of production phases. The weekly report will describe any reportable spills, accidents, alleged violations, or complaints. 
  • The operator will perform a baseline air-quality monitoring survey before beginning any drilling operations, and the site will have continuous air monitoring for volatile organic compounds and methane during the drilling, completion, and first three years of production operations.

Multiple Loveland residents commented — both in favor and opposed — on the plans during a public hearing last year. The city’s database of written comments, several hundred in all, includes mostly negative commentary with many centered on opposition to fracking regardless of its location. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of injecting water and chemicals deep into the ground in order to break free oil and gas deposits. It occurs early in the well drilling process. Once a well is producing, fracking is discontinued.

The state’s approval process can be followed online by accessing the ECMC hearing eFiling System; search type: “DNRCOG Search for Docket Related Documents” for docket number 220700198. Application documents and public comments that were part of the city’s process can be found here.

Source: BizWest