Category Archives: Fossil Fuels

Anadarko Shareholders File Class Action Lawsuit Against Company

By Karen Conduff

A class action lawsuit filed by shareholders against Anadarko Petroleum paints a picture of a company with a culture of putting production ahead of safety.  The suit, with information provided by nine former employees and two contractor employees, says the company “repeatedly and deliberately” violated multiple Colorado safety regulations.  These violations led to the explosion of a home in Firestone, CO on April 17, 2017, killing two people and injuring a third.

According to the suit, Anadarko’s widespread violations of the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) safety rules “…all but guaranteed a disaster”.  The lawsuit alleges that negligence and safety violations by the company caused share prices to fall, hurting investors.  The lead plaintiff is the Philadelphia Ironworkers Benefit and Pension fund, which owns Anadarko stock.

One of the former employees states that a single person was responsible for checking the safety of all of Anadarko’s flow lines in the Wattenberg field in Weld County.  Twelve to twenty people would have been needed to adequately do the job.  The lawsuit states that “this employee brought up the issue of inadequate staffing with her superior approximately 12 times between late 2016 and March 2017, when she quit in disgust”.

The lawsuit concludes that “Anadarko’s senior executives… callously disregarded known, widespread violations of the [COGCC’s] rules that endangered the Colorado communities in which Anadarko did business.  They lied about it to the Commission.  They lied about it to investors.  They violated the securities laws.”

Events Leading Up to the Firestone Explosion

In October of 2013, Anadarko and its chief competitor in the Wattenberg field, Noble Energy, exchanged ownership of approximately 100,000 acres of land in the Wattenberg field in Colorado – the Land Swap.

Through the Land Swap, Anadarko acquired more than 1,550 existing wells, most of which had been drilled up to 50 years before in rural areas of Weld County and were in desperate need of repairs or needed to be plugged and abandoned altogether. These wells included the Firestone Well, which was drilled in 1993.

Starting in the early 1990’s, the area grew rapidly and developers built houses close to the wells. The COGCC does not require companies to disclose to the public or to developers the location of oil and gas lines.  It does, however, have regulations in place to protect public safety.  The lawsuit alleges Anadarko routinely violated five of the Commission’s regulations:

1) Rule 1102 a. (2) – “[w]henever an operator discovers any condition that could adversely affect the safe and proper operation of its pipeline, it shall correct it within a reasonable time.”

2) Rule 1101 a. – all pipelines shall be locatable by a tracer line or location device to facilitate the location of such pipelines.

3) Rule 1102 d. – flowline and pipeline locations must be registered with the Utility Notification Center, CO 811. CO 811 operates a hotline for information about the location of flowlines that utilities companies and the general public can call before digging to ensure they do not rupture flowlines.

4) Rule 1101 e. (1) – every year all flowlines must be pressure-tested to their maximum anticipated
operating pressure.

5) Rule 1103 – every abandoned pipeline shall be disconnected from all sources of natural gas and petroleum and cut off and sealed at the ends. Notice of such abandonment shall be filed with the Commission and with the local governmental jurisdiction. This rule applies even if a flowline is not located near a building.

Because Anadarko routinely failed to comply with these five regulations, as development encroached closer and closer to the old wells developers severed flowlines without being aware they had done so.

Even knowing this, Anadarko elected to turn on many of the old wells in desperate need of repairs because lease terms required Anadarko to actually operate the wells in order to maintain its lease. If Anadarko lost a lease, it would have to renegotiate it with the owner of the mineral rights. Since the leases were often signed decades earlier, at prices much lower than today’s prices, it was top priority for Anadarko to maintain these old leases so they wouldn’t have to be renegotiated.

The Firestone Well was one of those old Land Swap wells which had been turned on. However, when the well was activated “…Anadarko’s measurements did not report any methane production through the meter, a physical impossibility.  Though Anadarko had sent a work crew to inspect this anomalous result,  the overworked employees had not found the problem.  The flowline had leaked methane into the home, which exploded when the homeowner tried to install a heater”.

“Following the explosion, Anadarko admitted that 2,400 of its flowlines had been abandoned, but not sealed, in violation of Commission Rule 1103. Anadarko also added an additional 400 wells to the list of wells it needed to plug and abandon, more than doubling the number of wells on that list”

Read the complete Class Action Lawsuit here.

Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan “Stipulation” – Another Xcel “Deal” That is Not a Deal At All

In late August 2017, Xcel-Colorado (Public Service Company of Colorado or “PSCo”) submitted a plan to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) which it named the Colorado Energy Plan or “CEP.”  The Colorado Energy Plan was submitted to the PUC as a “Stipulation” in Docket 16A-0396E and the CEP is sometimes referred to as “The Stipulation.”  While Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan includes moving up the retirement date for two coal plants—Comanche 1 and 2 in Pueblo, Colorado—the Plan also contains a number of adverse provisions including:

  • Reducing Xcel’s Renewable Energy Standard Adjustment which is supposed to be used to support renewable energy additions and using the “head room” created by that reduction to pay off the undepreciated portion of Comanche 1 and 2.
  • Paying Xcel their full level of profit (known as “return at the WACC” or Weighted Average Cost of Capital of about 7 %) on the now stranded coal plants.
  • Establishing ownership targets for Xcel ownership of replacement generation, potentially reducing the competitive nature of Colorado’s energy market.
  • Including natural gas in the replacement generation and potentially constraining the analysis of the over 50,000 MW of very cost-effective wind, solar and storage bids that Xcel received in November 2018.  The CEP would consider adding about 2000 MW of wind and solar to Xcel’s Colorado system, leaving over 90% of the wind, solar and storage bids “on the table.”

Clean Energy Action Board member Leslie Glustrom submitted extensive comments on the “Stipulation” and a final statement.

Photo Courtesy of Alan Best

In addition, Clean Energy Action hosted several trainings on the CEP/Stipulation in late January 2018 and numerous citizens that attended the trainings testified at the Colorado PUC on February 1, 2018 in Docket 16A-0396E.  Many citizens pointed out that Xcel’s Colorado Energy Plan “deal” was not as good a “deal” as Xcel wanted the Commission to believe it was.

On Wednesday March 14, 2018 the Colorado PUC allowed Xcel to bring forth a plan that retires Comanche 1 and 2 early, but did not accept many other parts of the Colorado Energy Plan “Stipulation.”  The decision is here.

Unfortunately the Colorado PUC did not specify that Xcel should develop a plan that no longer uses “must-run” requirements for Xcel’s Colorado coal plants, but it did require a “least-cost” modeling run which should begin to show the vast potential for lowering utility costs by incorporating low-cost wind, solar and storage onto Xcel’s Colorado system.  Importantly, the sensitivity runs with lower discount rates should show even greater savings from adding wind, solar and storage resources.  The modeling report is expected in late April 2018.

The mission of Clean Energy Action is to “accelerate the transition to the post-fossil fuel world,” and we are strong supporters of retiring coal and natural gas plants, but we will also advocate for a “just transition” that does not unduly burden utility ratepayers. The Colorado Energy Plan, while containing some admirable proposals, transfers too much accountability for stranded fossil fuel assets from Xcel to its customers.

Xcel-Denver MOU: Likely to Serve Xcel’s Goals More Than Denver’s Goals

In late February 2018, Xcel and Denver signed a Memorandum of Understanding, or “MOU” that was touted as a way for Denver to work towards its goal of a 100% renewable energy. Clean Energy Action took a close look at the MOU and found that the substance did not match the hype. A summary of that analysis is below and the full analysis is attached.

A key goal of the analysis is to help Denver advocates recognize the limits of the MOU so as to better advocate for a cleaner energy future and for advocates in other communities to begin to better understand what is happening when their City representatives are talking about signing an MOU with Xcel.

Summary of the Analysis of the Xcel-Denver MOU

The Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Denver and Xcel (Public Service Company of Colorado or PSCo) executed in late February 2018 is primarily a document of lofty statement, but is non-binding and contains no commitments from Xcel to reduce the carbon intensity of their electricity and move to a high level of renewable energy. Rather, the MOU could easily serve to distract the City of Denver and its residents from efforts to decarbonize their electricity and even could be used by Xcel to entice the City of Denver into supporting Xcel’s proposals at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that are very likely not what most Denver residents and businesses would support if they understood them.

Find the full analysis here.

HELP US STAND UP FOR COLORADO RATEPAYERS!

​Dear Renewable Energy Advocates–We have an AMAZING opportunity to move clean energy forward in Colorado–but we need your help to “get it right.” ​​Please come to a training below and then to the PUC hearing on Feb 1, 2018. (Docket 16A-0396E “Stipulation” hearing) 

Here are the key dates so far: ​​

Monday January 22, 2018–6 pm,  ​Boulder ​Training

Meadows Public Library,
Boulder​, Colorado​
 (4800 Baseline, behind the Safeway)
Thursday January 25, 2018–6 pm, Denver Training
​Epic Brewing​
3001 Walnut St. Denver, CO 80205 Phone: 720-539-7410 ​
Monday January 29, 2018–​6 pm Lakewood/Jeffco Training
Belmar Library
555 S. Allison Parkway, Lakewood, Colorado
THEN ​HOPING EVERYONE WILL COME….​
Thursday Feb 1, 2018–4​-7​ pm
PUC Public Hearing 16A-0396E

Coal plant retirements, payment plans & replacement options1560 Broadway, #250,Denver 

The February 1, 2018 PUC hearing ​is a critical 
opportunity for the public to help shape the PUC’s response to the need to retire Xcel’s coal plants long before their expected retirement dates. 
This hearing will be about moving the retirement of ​the ​Comanche 1 and 2 ​coal plants in Pueblo ​up about 10 years ​into the ​
2020s. This is, of course, a step in the right direction, but we need your help to make the PUC understand the following:
  • ​Move Faster on Coal Retirements: ​ We are in a crisis on climate change. We can and must move faster by retiring these coal plants ​even ​earlier and working to retire ​the rest of Xcel’s coal fleet much ​sooner also.
  • ​Don’t Rush to Build More Natural Gas: ​Replacing coal plants with wind, solar, storage and demand side options makes good economic and environmental sense. This is not true for building new natural gas capacity which will likely just become stranded in its own time.
  • ​Don’t Make Xcel’s Customers Pay for All of Xcel’s Poorly Considered Expenditures on Coal: Xcel has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into their old coal plants in ​Colorado in this century–including into Comanche 1 and 2. Now Xcel wants us to pay for all of this–and pay them their return​ (think “profit,” at their​ Weighted Average Cost of Capital or WACC) on the ill-considered ​coal plant ​expenditures they have made in recent years. This isn’t a just or equitable solution for ratepayers. If we are to set a ​fair and equitable ​precedent for how we dig ourselves out of the very deep ​hole ​we’ve dug on coal in Colorado, it will be up to the ​informed ​citizens who testify on February 1, 2018 at the PUC to get it done!
 
​Just come to a training and we’ll walk you through 
​the key parts and make sure your statement is on-point and powerful! ​In case you haven’t noticed, climate change impacts are already getting really serious. Please help us move Xcel further, faster on the clean energy path–and when we move Xcel, we move all of Colorado utilities and the entire US utility industry. 
But….We can’t do it without YOU!

Climate Coalitions State Intentions in Bonn and Make Demands in Denver

Last week international leaders met at COP23, the second “conference of the parties” since the signing of the Paris Agreement. They were meeting to discuss what global climate policy will look like both before and after 2020, when the Agreement officially goes into effect. President Donald Trump’s announcement earlier this year that he plans to withdraw the United States from the Agreement set the tone of the discussions for the official US delegation. However, they were not the only Americans present in Bonn. An unofficial delegation of citizens traveled to the conference, also to represent the United States and to deliver a simple message to the rest of the world: we are still in.

Acitvists gather in Bonn ahead of COP23 summit

This second delegation delivered the America’s Pledge Phase 1 report, detailing the efforts of committed citizens to uphold the standards agreed to in Paris in 2015, in spite of the federal government’s  withdrawal. This comprehensive report discusses the success of the U.S. Climate Alliance (of which Colorado is a proud member and CEA is a proud supporter) and other coalitions that are dedicated to picking up the banner of climate action where the Trump administration has let it fall. This We Are Still In delegation, collectively representing more than half of America’s economy, detailed the steps they have taken to begin working from the bottom up to achieve the 2025 U.S. emissions outcomes asked for by the Paris Accords, and promised additional analysis in a Phase 2 report to be published in 2018.


As US climate leaders proudly declared their intentions in Bonn, a smaller group of local activists met in Denver to deliver a petition to Xcel Energy at their local headquarters, asking the utility to take the next step towards the post-fossil fuel world.  This group was led by 350 Colorado and the Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate, which represents Clean Energy Action and 22 community, faith, and environmental organizations from around Colorado. Our requests included

  • the closure of all Xcel coal plants by 2030
  • the closure of all fracking gas plants by 2035
  • a commitment to convert to at least 80% renewable sources of electricity by 2030
  • completion of a study by the end of 2018 that explores how to achieve 100% renewable electricity in Colorado by 2030
Micah Parkin delivers the petition to Xcel corporate HQ at 1800 Larimer Streeet

The CCLC represents more than 100,00 Coloradans, and this petition represents the work of countless climate warriors across the state who believe that now is the time for Xcel to end their lifelong reliance on coal and natural gas. “Xcel Energy has a great opportunity to move away from fossil fuels and provide customers with the affordable, clean energy they’re demanding,” said Kevin Cross, a member of the Fort Collins Sustainability Group and a leader of CCLC. As American leaders announce our renewed commitment to the Paris Agreement in Germany, there is no better time for our electric utility to step up its commitment to providing cleaner, cheaper energy for our state.


On the same day, separated by an ocean and thousands of miles, two coalitions delivered two statements to which Clean Energy Action was a party. In May, we asked our supporters to sign a petition to Governor Hickenlooper to sign Colorado onto the US Climate Alliance, and we see the effects of those signatures in Bonn where Colorado is one of nine states fully committed to the coalition. More recently we asked our supporters to affix their names to the CCLC’s petition to Xcel, and our voices were heard loud and clear in Denver last week demanding a greener, more efficient future. We thank the Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate, the We Are Still Coalition, and the US Climate Alliance, but most of all we thank all of you who provide the citizen power that carries us forward.

For further reading, check out the articles by Climate Action and the Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate.