Natural Gas Community Working Group
Natural Gas Working Group
Natural gas is an important energy source for Boulder customers and is likely to continue to be a part of the electric power supply for some time, whether Boulder forms a local electric utility or continues to be served by Xcel Energy. Additionally, natural gas production in Colorado is undergoing tremendous growth which has increased public attention on the practice of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" and concerns about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions such as methane and carbon dioxide. The Natural Gas Working Group is considering these issues and providing input on resource options, including natural gas, as the city evaluates sources of future electricity.
The Natural Gas Working Group consists of industry specialists and local stakeholders. While the focus of the group’s work will be to examine issues and concerns related to fracking and methane releases, it will also be exploring current and possible industry best practices and potential alternatives for gas replacement.
The working group will also provide input into future city comments on rules related to this issue. For example, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission was recently presented with proposed regulations to streamline the state air quality program and address the growth in oil and gas development. The purpose of the rulemaking is to begin the process of developing and implementing programs necessary to meet federal air quality standards for ground-level ozone and protect public health. Oil and gas activity is now the largest contributor to harmful ozone levels and the only source expected to grow. The city is part of a local Government Coalition intended to support regulatory changes that streamline air pollution controls for all sources, where appropriate, and address the rapid growth in emissions from the oil and gas industry.
Natural Gas in Colorado
City of Boulder:
On November 5, 2013, voters in the city of Boulder approved a five-year fracking suspension. The passage of Ballot Question 2H extended the existing moratorium on new oil and gas exploration and the new use of fracking for oil and gas and converted the current one year moratorium on fracking to a five year ban. The full text of Ordinance 7915 is available here .
County and other local governments in Colorado do not have complete authority to regulate drilling. In order to ensure that the Comprehensive Plan and Land Use regulations are as thorough and up-to-date as possible, a temporary moratorium was approved by the Boulder County Commissioners on Feb. 2, 2012, on the processing of the required development plans for local oil and gas permits under County Land Use Code (Resolution 2012-16) . On January 24, 2013, the Board of County Commissioners extended the temporary moratorium on Boulder County’s processing of applications for oil and gas development in the unincorporated county until June 10, 2013 in order to work on implementation of the approved regulations, and on June 18, 2013, extended the temporary moratorium on new oil and gas development applications 18 months through January 1, 2015 (Resolution 2013-55) . Please see Resolution 2012-142 for the approved oil and gas regulations and Resolution 2013-49 for approved amendments to the transportation sections of those regulations.
Fracking is a process that uses a pressurized water mixture to release oil or natural gas from deep underground. On Nov. 5, 2013, Boulder voters passed a ballot measure instituting a five-year moratorium on fracking in Boulder and on Boulder-owned open space property.
Natural gas is likely to be a transition energy source as Boulder makes what the city hopes will be a dramatic shift away from coal and other fossil fuels toward a renewable energy supply. The feasibility modeling for municipalization identified a number of resource portfolio scenarios; each of these included some amount of generation coming from natural gas for some time period. If Boulder chooses to municipalize, before a commitment is made to a particular energy portfolio, it will be important to address concerns around the use of natural gas supplied from fracking and how any negative impacts could be mitigated through best practices or other means.
In addition to concerns over fracking, there is growing concern around methane leakage. While it is widely accepted that burning natural gas emits significantly less carbon dioxide than burning coal, recent studies have found that using natural gas may actually release more greenhouse gases over its lifecycle. This is because quantities of raw methane, a major component of natural gas, can escape into the atmosphere during natural gas extraction, production and distribution. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas.
The group will attempt to address the following issues:
- What is the role of natural gas, either under a new municipal utility or through a continued partnership with Xcel Energy?
- How does the use of natural gas for electricity differ from that which is used for heating (i.e., quantities, source, delivery methods, etc.)
- As Boulder pursues a portfolio that addresses both environmental and economic drivers, what role should natural gas play in meeting Boulder's short- and long-term resource needs? What are the associated benefits and risks?
- What alternatives or industry best practices exist that eliminate or reduce the risks associated with fracking or fugitive methane release? What is the best way that Boulder can promote those best practices?
- If Boulder does not form a local electric utility, what are ways to minimize harmful impacts from natural gas associated with Xcel Energy's resource portfolio?
- What type of analysis or evaluation is necessary to understand the issues described above?
The working group first met in December 2013 and continues to meet in 2015.
Work products will be posted as soon as they become available.
Meeting notes will be posted here
Dickey Lee Hullinghorst
City of Boulder Staff
Jonathan Koehn - Regional Sustainability Coordinator
Heather Bailey - Executive Director of Energy Strategy and Electric Utility Development
Yael Gichon - Energy Sustainability Coordinator
Sarah Huntely - Communications Manager
Lisa Smith - Communications Specialist
1101 Arapahoe Ave.
Boulder, CO 80302