Rulison residents sue over natural-gas drilling near nuclear blast site

Is there anything worse than a natural-gas drilling rig cropping up in your backyard or near your home? How about a rig that uses fracturing technology to stimulate higher gas production but might also release radioactive contaminants from a nuclear bomb test 40 years ago?

Sounding like something out of a bad 60s sci-fi flick (“Rodan Returns”), that’s exactly what Rulison-area residents are facing on Colorado’s Western Slope, where they’ve banded together to file a lawsuit against state oil and gas regulators who won’t grant them a hearing on their nightmare scenario.

Dubbed Project Rulison, the federal government detonated a 43-kiloton nuclear weapon 8,426 feet below the ground in 1969, and now a number of applications for permits have been filed to drill within three miles of the blast site, according to The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent.

Efforts to get a hearing on those drilling applications have been denied by the state, and, according to the lawsuit, residents fear drilling in the area could release radiation. “The quantity, nature and extent of the contamination produced by the Rulison explosion have never been determined,” the lawsuit reads.

Read more about the Rulison drilling controversy.

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail and Real Aspen.

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