H.B. 09-1303: Admin Mineral Development Water Wells

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Here’s a look at House Bill 09-1303 (Admin Mineral Development Water Wells) (pdf) from Joe Hanel writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:

William and Elizabeth Vance and James and Mary Fitzgerald sued the state engineer’s office in 2005, claiming that coalbed methane wells were depleting their water wells. They won in a La Plata court in 2007. The case, Vance v. Simpson, is on appeal to the state Supreme Court. A ruling is expected any time. Sen. Jim Isgar and others worry the court could require every one of Colorado’s 38,000 gas wells to get a water well permit, which would overwhelm the state engineer’s office. So Isgar, D-Hesperus, and Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, drafted House Bill 1303, which brings coalbed methane wells into Colorado’s water rights system. Without the bill, the court decision could force the state engineer to roll all coalbed methane wells into the legal water system in two months. Other observers have said the court decision could apply to every gas or oil well in the state. “We aren’t in session until next January, and if this ruling comes out the day after we adjourn, we leave the state engineer in the position of having to approve 3,000, 4,000 wells in 60 days,” Curry said.

The House Agriculture Committee passed the bill on a 13-0 vote Wednesday, sending it to the full House…

The bill allows the state engineer to make rules for when a gas well should be treated as tapping “nontributary” water – that is, deep water that will not harm nearby water rights. For tributary wells, it allows time for gas drillers to prepare a substitute water supply plan, just like farmers use when they’re using well water for irrigation. HB 1303 puts a three-year moratorium on integrating gas wells into the water system, to give the state engineer and the gas companies time to adjust.

Coalbed methane wells pump out water before they start producing gas. The wells are especially plentiful – and rich – in La Plata and Archuleta counties. The Raton Basin near Trinidad also has many coalbed methane wells.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here and here.

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