Energy policy — oil and gas: ‘Oil and Gas 101’ public meeting in El Paso County draws 300 to learn about the nexus between oil and gas exploration and production and groundwater

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (John Schroyer):

El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen and state Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, convened the conference because oil in the near eastern plains is booming again, and Coloradans need to know how they can profit from it without endangering their water. State officials spent hours explaining how the oil and gas industry is regulated, how horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing operate, and what kind of rights are afforded to landowners trying to decide whether to lease their rights to oil companies.

The most vital message was that protecting Colorado’s groundwater should be the highest priority for both the state and landowners, said Dave Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. To that end, the state requires hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”) pipes not only to be made of stainless steel, but also to be encased in concrete, said Neslin…The concrete casings are just one of dozens of requirements placed on the industry, Neslin told the crowd. Complaints can be filed by anyone at any time for any reason, and one of COGCC’s 15 inspectors around the state will respond within 24 hours, he said…

Looper called the conference the “beginning of an education,” and said there will be a lot of issues going forward. She said she doubts that a perfect balance will ever be struck between all the stakeholders. “The question is, how much water is in the ground? Is there enough for the energy companies and all of the 500,000-plus residents on the Front Range? I don’t think so,” said Looper.

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Meanwhile, Greeley oil company, Ranchers Exploration, held a public meeting Monday night to inform residents about their plans for the Niobrara shale play near Windsor. Here’s a report from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Ranchers Exploration intends to drill for oil 1½ miles directly beneath the neighborhoods [150 River West and Ridge West subdivision], which are in Larimer County along the Poudre River, using a drilling technique called directional drilling. That method allows drilling rigs to drill away from homes, preventing them from having to drill down into the oil from above. The specific drilling site hasn’t been determined yet, said the company’s chief operating officer Michael Ward. Each well also will be fracked, he said. Fracking companies use a granular substance and a cocktail of possibly carcinogenic chemicals to fracture an underground natural gas- or oil-saturated rock formation, helping to release the fuel into the well…

“Just reading this, I got the impression that if haste makes waste, we’re dealing with a cesspool of a company,” said resident and Colorado State University forest ecology professor Thomas Stohlgren, who received his lease in the mail Monday, after it was sent Saturday…

“This was a plan to keep us ill-informed,” he said. “We were not informed whatsoever about the chemicals used in the process, some of which may be carcinogenic. No list of chemicals came with the documents. We are not advised of whether a bond would be posted for any possible long-term environmental or health effects from fracking in a subdivision. “There are no peer reviewed studies that show no long-term effects of fracking. So, they are experimenting, and you are the guinea pigs. We are the guinea pigs.”[…]

Residents also said they are concerned about a practice called forced pooling, under which homeowners who decline to lease their minerals could be forced to by the COGCC. “If nobody signs the lease, do you still have the right to drill?” another woman asked Ward.

“Yes,” he responded. “But it’s not going to be fun.”

More coverage from T. M. Fasano writing for The Greeley Tribune. From the article:

Harold Smith owns 50 percent of the mineral rights and the homeowners own the other 50 percent. [Mike Ward, the chief operating officer for Ranchers Exploration Partners] said even if the homeowners do not sign a lease to turn over their mineral rights, which amounts to about $70 per year per property owner, the drilling will still go on because of Smith’s 50 percent ownership of mineral rights. “My job is to drill wells for people who want to access their mineral rights,” Ward said…

Ward, whose company is drilling four wells on open space farmland in Eaton, said there won’t be any drilling for at least six months, and the plan is to drill the first well on open space on the north side of River West. Ward said it’s the first time his company has drilled near a subdivision, and if the first well doesn’t produce oil or gas, the project will be stopped.

“The best hope we have to not get drilled on is if they hit a dry hole down below on River West,” [Donn Brubaker, the president of the Ridge West HOA board of directors,] said.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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