GarCo commissioners push back on ‘Path Forward’ for nuclear blast site

The Garfield County commissioners Monday rejected a federal plan called the “Path Forward” that would allow for increased natural gas drilling close to an underground nuclear blast site near Rulison, according to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

The Department of Energy (DOE) plan, outlined last summer and blasted by environmentalists and local landowners, called for gradually drilling closer and closer to ground zero from the 1969 explosion of a bomb described as three times the size of the one dropped by the United States on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

At a meeting in Glenwood Springs last July, critics of the DOE plan called it playing “Rulison Roulette” with local landowners wary of lingering radiation, and on Monday the commissioners backed those landowners, mostly because the ones right around ground zero would be denied mineral rights compensation under the plan.

The bomb was exploded more than 8,000 feet underground as part of federal experiment to find peaceful uses for nuclear weapons. The blast was meant to free up natural gas by fracturing tight geological formations, but the resulting gas was too contaminated by radiation to be commercially viable. During the latest natural gas boom in Garfield County, companies have been moving closer and closer to Project Rulison’s ground zero.

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