Oil and Gas Update: It’s All About Impacts

You may get to turn on the heat or gas stove without any consequences on how the natural gas came to your home. Those with drilling rigs in their community have a different view. Read more below how energy development is impacting life in energy producing areas in Colorado.Severance Tax Meeting Today
The state legislative study committee on severance tax is meeting in Rifle today (July 24) to discuss impacts from the oil and gas industry with small government officials, school administrators and non-profit organizations.

On Monday, members of the committee went on an extensive tour of well sites, through the towns of Parachute, Rifle and Meeker and to the Shell Oil Shale experimental facility to learn about the industry and its effect on water, highways and local governmental services.

The 11-member legislative committee is chaired by state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village with Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison serving as vice-chair. Some of the other members include Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, Sen. Josh Penry, R-Fruita, and Rep. Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction. Some of the citizens serving on the “working group” include Craig City Councilman, Terry Carwile, Phil James of the Colorado Wildlife Commission, Shane Henry of Williams Companies, and Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis.

The committee will continue to meet through November.

Trust Us
The oil and gas company PRESCO wanted to drill near the Project Rulison nuclear blast site located west of Rifle. Company officials claimed that it was safe to drill within a half-mile radius of the radioactive site. They had a very effective presentation to boost the confidence of locals — that citizens had nothing to worry about concerning atomic contamination from the natural gas taken near the bomb detonation.

One thing PRESCO failed to mention was their drilling practices. In the past year, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has sent five notices to PRESCO for environmental violations on their well sites. An additional three citations were made when the COGCC found PRESCO had sacks of chemicals and drums floating in well pits. Plus, PRESCO allowed contaminated stormwater and snowmelt water to overflow into areas surrounding the well pads.

Yep, these were the guys that earlier had tried to convince surrounding home owners and locals that they were safe from radioactive waste. That may be so; it was the “worst drilling management practices” citizens had to worry about.

Noble Energy Production purchased the PRESCO leases about two months ago. They are cleaning up PRESCO’s messes and because of GOCGG rules, they may have to pay the fines since PRESCO has vacated the well sites.

Now, should Grand Junction be concerned about drilling in their watershed?

Rulison Story Continued
An attorney for home owners near the Rulison nuclear project is filing a request with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to stop granting additional oil and gas well permits within a three-mile radius of the blast site, according to an article in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

On Oct. 1, the COGCC will hold a hearing that will review the safety issues concerning drilling near the nuclear site. Already there are nearly 20 wells and 31 approved permit applications within the three-mile perimeter.

New Congressional Bill to Help Surface Owners
A new Congressional resolution looks a lot like a bill that Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison tried to pass last year.

An excerpt from a comprehensive article in the Crested Butte News:

If House Resolution 2337 is passed by the full U.S. Congress, proponents say property owners will have an important new tool to protect their property rights from the adverse effects of gas and oil drilling.

If passed, H.R. 2337, the Energy Policy Reform and Revitalization Act of 2007, will amend the Energy Act of 2005 to require a drilling operator to obtain a special use agreement with a property owner in order for any federally owned gas and oil to be extracted from beneath private property. Barring a special use agreement, H.R. 2337 would require the operator to obtain a special bonded permit from the Secretary of Interior.

In a July 10 email to the Crested Butte News, Colorado state representative Kathleen Curry of Gunnison said H.R. 2337 puts many of the elements she tried to pass at the state level in place nationwide. According to Curry, the resolution will protect the interests of surface owners who sit on federal mineral rights that are leased for mineral extraction. H.R. 2337 will, “minimize damage, and ensure adequate reclamation of the surface after drilling is completed,” Curry wrote.

H.R. 2337 was passed by the Natural Resources Committee and is working its way toward a full vote by the U.S. House of Representatives.

One of the goals of the bill is to ensure that subsurface oil and gas lease-holders are compelled to protect private land as much as possible from the adverse effects of any resource extraction operations and to compensate landowners if damage does occur.

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Leslie Robinson

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