COGCC fines Encana for spill near Parachute

Parachute/Battlement Mesa area via the Town of Parachute.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission imposed the penalty for a leak discovered in June 2016 on the 320-acre Bishop Ranch. It is part of a consent agreement that clears Encana and Hunter Ridge from further state penalties for degrading water quality.

Encana spokesman Doug Hock on Monday couldn’t say how much liquid leaked but stated company crews “eliminated the source of the release within hours of discovery” and that “the impacts have been contained.”

COGCC officials did not respond to queries about whether the leak has been stopped or continues to threaten health and safety.

The hydrocarbons degraded a ranch where land managers count on pristine conditions to sustain deer and elk, essential for Colorado’s increasingly lucrative business of recreation.

Bishop Ranch operators filed a civil lawsuit July 18 against Encana in Rio Blanco County claiming the pipeline leaked huge amounts of hydrocarbons that continue to contaminate springs, streams, underground water, vegetation and soil. The lawsuit alleges the environmental damage ruined a planned $5 million sale of the ranch.

The court case hasn’t been resolved. Encana has sold off its Colorado oil and gas assets. Denver-based Caerus Oil and Gas took over wells in northwestern Colorado in June.

Bishop Ranch owner Mike Bishop on Monday scoffed at the COGCC penalty, calling it pathetic and highly unlikely to deter future violations of state environmental rules…

Bishop Ranch attorneys acknowledged an effort by Encana to contain and filter contaminated water and move it into a cattle pond on contaminated land nearby that the company purchased.

“It has been 58 weeks since the spill was discovered. Encana continues to recover condensate from the contaminated springs at a rate of about 2 barrels (84 gallons) every day,” attorney Mark Mason said. “This environmental nightmare does not end with the payment of a nominal fine by a company that has now essentially left the state. Mr. Bishop … will not let them quietly sweep this one under the rug.”

Last year, COGCC officials notified Encana subsidiary Hunter Ridge that they were considering penalties for a failure to manage waste in northwestern Colorado in a way that protects water, among other violations.

A state document provided to the Denver Post Monday says that as of Aug. 1, Hunter Ridge had spent $2.7 million and recovered 1,195 barrels, or 50,190 gallons, of condensate from the release that contaminated Bishop Ranch and is continuing “to pursue the necessary remediation work.”

State documents didn’t include any estimate of how much liquid leaked from Hunter Ridge’s underground pipeline.

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