New British Columbia Oil and Gas Law Overlooks Coalbed Methane Concerns

The British Columbia government missed an opportunity to address province-wide concerns about coalbed methane (CBM) in the recently announced Oil and Gas Activities Act. The Act does little to fix weak points in the province’s approach to coalbed methane development, according to preliminary analysis by the Pembina Institute. The Act received first reading on April 8, 2008.

British Columbia has a poor track record on managing environmental impacts from oil and gas development in the province’s Northeast, says Jaisel Vadgama, Senior Policy Analyst at the Pembina Institute. When it released a new Energy Plan last year, the government said it was committed to ensuring best practices for coalbed methane. But the Oil and Gas Activities Act doesn’t take clear steps in that direction.

CBM typically has a larger environmental footprint than conventional gas. In order to be viable, there must be more wells, spaced closer together, than in conventional production. This increases the amount of environmental impact per cubic foot of gas produced. In addition, many coalbed methane wells in British Columbia initially extract water, which sometimes needs special disposal. Groundwater extraction can also lead to changes in the water table and in stream flows.

In certain places, the total impacts of coalbed methane development would simply exceed the limits of what is ecologically or socially acceptable, says Greg Brown, Policy Analyst at the Pembina Institute. Projects rarely go ahead unless an entire field is developed. Yet approvals continue to be granted on a well by well basis, without taking full-project impacts into account.

Currently, most decisions about coalbed methane development including road construction, well permitting, produced water handling and decommissioning are made by the Oil and Gas Commission (OGC). The OGC does not have an automatic mandate to assess when impacts from coalbed methane projects will exceed social or environmental thresholds.

In virtually every part of the province where coalbed methane projects have been proposed from Elk Valley to Princeton to Hudson’s Hope to Comox to the Skeena  they are facing community concern and opposition, adds Vadgama. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Until there’s a public discussion to determine whether, and under what conditions, coalbed methane development is acceptable in this province, we’re still going to be missing the most basic element of best practice on CBM: social licence to operate.

 

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Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre’s Summer 2008 Schedule

Music and Mayhem…a summer of Miracles

The fun begins soon.

Starting in June and running through August the Southern Colorado Repertory Theatre will be distributing their unique brand of  excitement. And let me share with you if you have not attended a play put on by SCRT you are just missing out. And if you have I am sure you won’t miss this new upcoming season!

Call 719-846-4765 or visit them online at http://www.scrtheatre.com/

Get Prepared for one Awesome Hot Exciting Summer with SCRT

Here is a copy of their recent flyer that I scanned for you and a PDF Flyer http://www.trinidadco.com/SCRT/scrt2008.pdf

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Genealogical Workshop sponsored by Daughters of the American Revolution

A free genealogical workshop is being sponsored by the Santa Fe Trail Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution will be held on Saturday May 03, 2008 at the Carnegie Public Library from 9:30 am till 3:30 pm.

For more information please call Constance LaLena at 719-846-8788.

Trinidadco.com has a very active genealogy forum in case you didn’t know. Check it out at http://www.trinidadco.com/forum/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=2

Calling all Coal Miners!

More local gas information and comments that was posted in the local news

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Our Drinking Water at Risk from Coalbed Methane Production?

It was reported in Trinidad a few years back that a vehicle servicing the Oil and Gas Industry leaked chemicals on the ground. Hazmat was called to the scene to do a clean up of a spill of hydrochloric acid. Seems that hydrochloric acid is used in the fracking of Coalbed Methane wells.

From Earthworks

 

Often an oil- or gas-bearing formation may contain large quantities of oil or gas, but have a poor flow rate due to low permeability, or from damage or clogging of the formation during drilling. This is particularly true for tight sands, oil shales and coalbed methane.  Hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking, which rhymes with cracking) is a technique used to create fractures that extend from the well bore into rock or coal formations. These fractures allow the oil or gas to travel more easily from the rock pores, where the oil or gas is trapped, to the production well. Typically, in order to create fractures a mixture of water, proppants (sand or ceramic beads) and chemicals is pumped into the rock or coal formation.

Eventually, the formation will not be able to absorb the fluid as quickly as it is being injected. At this point, the pressure created causes the formation to crack or fracture.  The fractures are held open by the proppants, and the oil or gas is then able to flow through the fractures to the well. Some of the fracturing fluids are pumped out of the well and into surface pits or tanks during the process of extracting oil, gas and any produced water, but studies have shown that anywhere from 20-40% of fracing fluids may remain underground.

Acidizing involves pumping acid (usually hydrochloric acid), into the formation. The acid dissolves some of the rock material so that the rock pores open and fluid flows more quickly into the well. Fracking and acidizing are sometimes performed simultaneously, in an acid fracture treatment.

 

Its pretty scary to know that a chemical that is treated this seriously by Hazmat is being injected into our ground and can polute our ground water since many Methane Gas Wells in Las Animas County are being drilled in the same depths as our water wells are in. What kind of other chemicals are used in the fracking and CoalBed Methane drilling process?

Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals – Coalbed fracture treatments use anywhere from 50,000 to 350,000 gallons of various stimulation and fracturing fluids, and from 75,000 to 320,000 pounds of proppant during the hydraulic fracturing of a single well. Many fracturing fluids contain chemicals that can be toxic to humans and wildlife, and chemicals that are known to cause cancer. These include potentially toxic substances such as diesel fuel, which contains benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, naphthalene and other chemicals; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; methanol; formaldehyde; ethylene glycol; glycol ethers; hydrochloric acid; and sodium hydroxide. Very small quantities of chemicals such as benzene, which causes cancer, are capable of contaminating millions of gallons of water.

This information was shared by Earthworks and we suggest if you would like to know more about this topic that you start your research here "Hydraulic Fracturing 101"

In Las Animas County since the aquifers are said to be 2000 feet deep or deeper most of the ground water for our water wells comes from 1000 feet deep and higher and is in underground streams or seams that hold water. There have been reports locally where water wells have gone dry shortly after Coalbed Methane wells were drilled up to 1/2 mile away. In the process their water cistern was filled full of milky fluids and concrete residue while the drilling was going on.

To say that Coalbed Methane drilling does not affect our water sources I guess you could ask the family near Highway 12 that had water shooting up 3-4 foot our of their water well for two days as a coalbed methane gas well was being drilled over a 1/4 mile away. If these chemicals are being used in the drilling and fracking process would you think that it is possible that they would also be in this persons water well without them knowing it?

So my question to you is if these kinds of Chemicals are being injected into the ground to frack Coalbed Methane wells and your water wells just happens to be in the same underground streams just how long to you think it will take to get into your water well? We are not talking years or month or weeks, we are talking more like minutes.

There are a number of cases in the U.S. where hydraulic fracturing is the prime suspect in incidences of impaired or polluted drinking water. In Alabama, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, incidents have been recorded in which residents have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations of gas wells near their homes

Read the Amos and Hocutt landowner stories for two accounts of water contamination that occurred following hydraulic fracturing events. ( as shared on Earthworks )

So how do you protect yourself from this? You could monitor your water well with tests each year for quality, but most people don’t monitor their water wells that often so even a yearly test is not qoing to protect you. Maybe you should be monitoring it your well daily if you think that is possible or practical which it isn’t of course.

Is Las Animas County allowing our Ground water to be poluted and or contaminated? We have the right to know don’t we? Who are we supposed to trust to look after our well being in these matters? This is a serious concern that is being overlooked.

We recommend that you read this PDF document "Our Drinking Water at Risk" for more information and to do further research.

When was the last time you had your water well quality checked?

“The War is over. Halliburton Won!”

That’s from a pickup truck’s bumper sticker spied by author Alexandra Fuller on a jaunt across Wyoming. It’s part of a column the Wilson-based writer wrote for the New York Times Op-Ed pages. In it, she blasts the "untouchables" that run the oil and gas industry in Wyoming.

 

And a powerful oil lobby reminds us with Orwellian regularity that we owe everything to oil and gas taxes, bullying those who disagree. (In February, a committee of the Wyoming Legislature rejected a spending increase for the University of Wyoming’s Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources after institute scientists dared to raise concerns about water produced in coal-bed methane wells.)

Yes, it’s true. The energy extractors run the state, even run roughshod over it. Our Oilmen-in-Chief, Bush & Cheney, have made it easy for them. The Halliburtons of the world are poking holes in every last part of Wyoming they can get their snouts into. When citizens raise their voices and say something such as "Not So Fast," the oil lobby questions the patriotism of the critics. This is a dicey business in rural stretches of the state, where the critics are not your average namby-pamby enviromentalist but ranchers and housewives and hunters and even those who work in the oil patch but value our outdoor spaces. They could even be veterans of Bush’s oil wars who have come home to find that the war is being waged in their hometowns, places such as Pinedale and Rawlins and Wright.

Lately, executives have been telling increasingly unhappy communities that domestic drilling is our moral duty, an alternative to sending more soldiers to war. They imply that anything less than full support for the oil companies is un-American.

Alexandra points out that the industry has a lousy track record on worker safety, topping the "national death toll on the job" statistics with 16.8 deaths per 100,000 workers. Not surprisingly, Alexandra’s upcoming book, The Legend of Colton H. Bryant, has for its focus a young man from Evanston who was killed in an oil field accident. The book has already garnered some favorable reviews. Alexandra hits the road May 8 for her book tour. First Wyoming stop is Evanston on Friday, May 16. She’ll conduct an author’s talk and book signing at the Uinta County Library, 307 Main St., with a 5:30 p.m. social hour followed by Alexandra’s talk and signing. There will be a dinner at 7 p.m. for ticket holders. For more info, contact Jan Maggard at [email protected]

It would be preferable if an actual discussion ensued during the tour. That’s a lot to hope for in these times, when opponents usually start each "discussion" yelling and the volume and vitriol goes up from there. But it could happen. In her op-ed piece, Alexandra notes that author and UW writer-in-residence Terry Tempest Williams has taken her students on the road to conduct what she calls "weather reports" in small communities.

Addressing packed rooms, Ms. Williams turns the microphone over to the people of Wyoming — a stoical populace whose habitual stance against something they don’t like is a tight lip. Astonishingly, they have opened up, voicing their concerns over the rapidity and scale of the oil and gas development. "One day, I fear I will wake up and all that will be left of Wyoming is a hole in the ground," one resident of the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem said.

Oil executives have pushed back. One oilman, State Senator Kit Jennings, took the microphone in Casper and declared that Ms. Williams had demonized the oil companies. He rejected her contention in a local newspaper article that the energy boom had helped drive up the use of crystal methamphetamine in the region and announced that he had demanded that she be fired from the university for her criticism of the industry.

Oil and gas are accustomed to dominating the debate. But Ms. Williams’s forums have created an opportunity for grass-roots rebuttal. Residents, who have so far been cowed by the enormous tax contributions that energy companies make to the state’s coffers, are upholding values not counted in dollars.

According to one participant at the "weather report" in Casper, Jennings ended up inviting Ms. Williams for a tour of the Jonah Field. No word yet on whether she’s taken the senator up on his invitation.

It’s noteworthy when two writers can garner this much attention and controversy for giving voice to their views — and helping others to have theirs.

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Conservationists Coming to London to Oppose BP’s Coalbed Methane Process

Conservationists Coming to London to Oppose BP

Groups from Canada, US say BP ‘not listening’
 
Conservationists from Canada and the US feel BP isn’t listening to their concerns about drilling for coalbed methane (CBM) near their Rocky Mountain community.
 
So they’re coming to the UK to make sure their voice is heard.
 
Members of southeastern British Columbia-based Wildsight and the Canadian-US Flathead Coalition will fly to London, England this week to attend BP’s annual general meeting and to meet with major BP shareholders.
 
“There have been many chances for BP to participate in public discussion here in B.C. about the fate of our communities. So far, BP has chosen not to be a part,” says Wildsight Program Manager Kat Hartwig, who will be representing the organization in London. “We’re coming to London to make sure they understand there will be people and communities affected by their actions.”
 
The CBM extraction process requires an enormous network of roads and well sites to be carved from the landscape. Extraction often causes large amounts of potentially toxic groundwater containing heavy metals or salt – deemed wastewater under provincial law – to surface. Disposal of this wastewater has the potential to spill into water sources for surrounding communities and beyond.  
 
“BP executives should know there is more than just profit at stake here,” says Hartwig. “The health and well being of entire communities will be negatively affected if this spectacular land is disfigured.”
 
Southeastern B.C. – known as the East Kootenay – is home to majestic mountains, abundant nature, and one of the most diverse wildlife populations in the world. The B.C. provincial government is very close to granting BP the rights to drill for CBM in a 300 sq. km area adjacent to the town of Fernie. A decision is expected this spring.
 
On April 12th, nearly 300 residents of Fernie took to the streets to oppose BP and their proposals to drill for coalbed methane in southeastern B.C.
 
“BP and the provincial government are failing to provide substantial, truthful information about this issue,” says Hartwig. “We just want to make sure they know this is not a business decision. It’s a people decision.”

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Facing Reality about Coalbed Methane

While we all consume oil and gas, it’s extraction is sidelined by conflicts worldwide. It doesn’t even matter if you take a look at an older or a brand new story coming out of Peru

Recent protests and strong opposition are also on the rise in Canada and the US, where a new coalbed methane project is in the pipeline..

Time to think, educate, innovate and act for more sustainable longtime solutions?

Read More >>>>

 

Facing Reality is a great short post that I admired quickly.

We do all consume oil and gas and we are facing protests and strong opposition the world over because of methods used in extracting the Oil and Methane.

Just a few short years ago, about 20-25 years, the current method of extracting Coalbed Methane was just being explored. I am sure it was such an exciting innovation in the industry. I am  also sure that those same brilliant minds that created this process combined with today’s technology could "Think, Educate, Innovate and Act for a more Sustainable Longtime Solution".

We have to stand up insist that this industry not deplete and polute our ground water and scar our earth to the point of no return while the Coalbed Methane is being extracted for our beneficial use. One "good" does not cancel a huge "negative". There has to be a win/win not a win/lose.

The ultimate is that I feel is that we as a nation are on the edge of new technology and a new way to doing things. Oil and Gas prices have soared to the point where it will force us out of our comfort zone to look for other and better alternatives. I think that this is what it takes for us to make a change, isn’t it?

In the mean time I pray that we don’t pass the point of no return before we wake up.

Right now water wells are going dry not only in Las Animas County but also everywhere that Coalbed Methane is being extracted especially in the West. Some people are more sensitive, like in many places in Canada that are standing up and saying NO to the effects of the industry. In Las Animas County there is no loud voice crying "Stop, don’t distroy our water", only a few small crys are being barely heard.

What happens is that when our personal water wells go dry we are forced with the burden of proof that the Gas Companies caused our well to go dry. Doesn’t make sense does it? The industry is pumping out millions of gallons of water each day from our ground from approximately 500 feet all the way down to 2500 feet with many wells going dry within days of a gas well being drilled and they stand up with conviction and say "We didn’t do it. You will have to prove we caused it?

Well no one else is taking and wasting so much water so fast……but the industry says they aren’t doing anything to affect our ground water. Where has the common sense gone?

The Coalbed Methane producers could take the initiative and "think, educate, innovate and act for a more sustainable longtime solution" themselves in our concerns for what is happening to our water.

Let’s face it, anyone that can create such an innovative process for extracting the coalbed methane has to also know the damage they are doing to our local enviroment in the process.

Why is everyone overlooking what is happening to our precious ground water in this whole process. I am speaking of all of the people who are charged with protecting us like the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission and Las Animas County.

The enormous amounts of money has made so many so blind so fast.

Surely the coalbed methane producers and their geologists that created this process can also come up with a solution that will allow them to extract the coalbed methane and not ruin our water supplies in the process.

Its just the missing step of the process. You have figured out how to extract the gas now you just have to solve the problem of "how to save our water" too.

It would be so brave for the industry that claims to be our good neighbor to step up with a conscious and take this issue to task right away.

The question is "can the coalbed methane industry think, educate, innovate and act for a more sustainable longtime solution" before its too late? and how long will it take us locally to find our voice to say "Stop, this is not right" ?

Las Animas County Colorado – Residents Have No Water!

Could that be the headline in just a few short years if things aren’t changed?

I am sending this letter to you at Trinidadco.com in hopes that you will publish it.

I think that it is entirely possible that you could read this headline in the near future and let me share with you why.

In approximately 2003-2004 when most of Colorado was in a severe drought the City of Trinidad instituted water restrictions for Trinidad City residents and all those that have city water taps. Trinidad’s water supply comes from North Lake on Highway 12 and the water was going out faster than it was recharging. We had no snow pack to speak of for a few years and that snow pack is what supplies the water to North Lake.

Not only were local residents on water restriction but most of the state was too including Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Denver.  Walsenburg was also affected with their main water source almost drying up. Those were pretty scary times and while we currently have above average snow pack all of us know how unpredictable our weather is here in Colorado.

It was shared with me that during a City Meeting when they put the water restriction on local residents that a comment was made something to the effect of “What about all the County Residents that are hauling water from Trinidad, why don’t you stop them from hauling City Water?”  Well that brings up a good point. A point that Las Animas County should consider because to my knowledge Las Animas County does not own any sources of public water. (Or do they? I would love to know for sure if they do but don’t think so.)

In the mean time as Pioneer Resources and other local Methane Gas Drilling companies dispose of millions of gallons of ground water every day, considered a waste by product in their industry, they fight along with County and City officials to stop State proposed restrictions that could seriously impact their industry I am left wondering how Las Animas County officials are preparing now to protect the residents of Las Animas County if and when the headlines read “Las Animas County Colorado Residents have no Water!” Or maybe they just haven’t considered this yet. I am hoping that they do soon.

Currently all sources of water that County residents have available to them are from City Supplied Water Sources. So worse case scenario would be that we go back into a serious drought and our city water supply, North Lake, starts to go down to seriously low levels what would City officials do? Would it be safe to assume that since this is City Water that the “City” would protect city resident’s only leaving County Residents to fend for themselves? I for one cannot answer this question with any certainty but I think I know the answer.

If you are the owner of a Domestic Water Well in Las Animas County did you know that you can’t sell your water even to a neighbor? In fact if you take more than one acre foot of water from your Domestic Well in one year the State Division of Water Resources can and most likely will shut your well down by capping it. But at the same time the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission and the State of Colorado allows unrestricted removal of water from the methane well drilling operations. (Also according to State Law you are not allowed to collect the water from your roof)

The Colorado Division of Water Resources, even though they regulate the water usage your Domestic Water Supply, turn their heads and give up their authority when it comes to water produced, wasted and disposed of by the Gas Companies regulated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. Now I reason that the existence of the Colorado Division of Water Resources is to preserve water. So it really is a concern that they are not involved or showing a concern and turning a blind eye to this issue either.

Here are some questions to consider:

Do you think that the Gas Well Drilling operations removing and disposing of millions of gallons of water, mostly from wells on every other 40-acre parcel, and in some areas even closer spacing, in the county west of I-25 would affect your domestic water supply if you lived here? Common sense tells me that it would, no matter that the Gas Companies hold to their claim that it doesn’t and won’t affect our ground water.

Are the officials of Las Animas County doing something to prepare for a lack of potable water by County Residents as a result of this water removal Gas Companies?

Let’s do a visual and take a look at a map of the current permitted Gas Wells that the Gas Companies are removing the water from. If this doesn’t give you cause for concern I don’t know what will. Every permitted gas well location pumps the water from the ground so that they de-water the coal seams so that the methane gas will release.

COGCCMap.jpg
Here is a map from the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission’s website interactive map showing all of the current and pending permitted wells in Las Animas County and the surrounding areas. You can also view the map after downloading a special viewer. What this map shows is the current methane wells in red that have been drilled and the ones pending in green.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission has a Mission Statement on their web page that I will share with you here:

The mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is to promote the responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas natural resources.

 

Responsible development results in:

 

  • The efficient exploration and production of oil and gas resources “in a manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety and welfare”

  • “The prevention of waste”

  • The protection of mineral owners’ correlative rights

  • The prevention and mitigation of adverse environmental impacts

The COGCC seeks to serve, solicit participation from, and maintain working relationships with all those having an interest in Colorado’s oil and gas natural resources.

I show in bold type that their mission is to protect the public welfare and to prevent waste.

Do you feel that the disposal of millions of water daily is in the best interest of the public? Are we the public or is someone else, who are they protecting? Is the precious resource “water” not something that should be preserved? Water is much more important to our survival and quality of life than Methane Gas but since Methane Gas has a higher dollar value at this point in time I guess its okay to overlook the importance of water.

So it seems that since the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission has overlooked our ground water as something that is important to the general public that it would be up to our Las Animas County Officials to look after our best interests, but are they? You tell me.

We all take a chance when we purchase property in Las Animas County knowing that there is just as much of a chance in getting a dry water well even drilling down to 800-1000 feet as their is in getting water. It would seem now that that chance has increased in the direction of drilling a well that has no water and or one that will go dry quicker.

From what I understand the Gas Companies deny that they are affecting or could affect our ground water supply. I guess that their stance is that there is no proof that they are affecting our ground water supply. I content that there is more proof that they are and do affect our water supply. But who is looking after our interests. When the gas is all gone and the Gas Companies have packed their bags and gone on to the next big gas field and we have no ground water what are we to do?

Will the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission or the Gas Companies bring us water to your home to replace what they removed from the ground when your well goes dry? Will the City of Trinidad be okay with supplying water to all the County Residents in Las Animas County or will it be City Water.

Currently there is and has been a moratorium on City Water Taps outside the city limits. But what if most residents in the County have had their water wells go dry where will they get their water?

Note: There are no commercial wells that are approved for public consumption in Las Animas County and Las Animas County does not own any water that I am aware of.

In addition most local towns and town with water supplies will not allow you to purchase water unless you are a County Resident and can prove it. So let me ask you how far you are willing to go and at what expense to continue to supply water to your household after all the water is gone? If you and most of the County have no water what do you feel your property will be worth?

While the City of Trinidad and Las Animas County officials are joining forces with the Gas Companies fighting to block the state from regulating their industry too strictly I ask you just who is fighting for you and your rights and your right to good ground water?

This topic has been about ground water removal in Las Animas County Colorado and did not touch on the topic of ground water polution. Since all of our ground water souces are mostly underground streams and not aquifer water if your water well is in the same stream that is being drilled and frac’ed by the Gas Companies then anything they use in that process will be in your water in minutes not years. This should not be overlooked any longer either.

I hope that the people of Las Animas County Colorado wake up before it is too late and the headline above comes to be a reality.

Signed,

A Concerned Resident of Las Animas County

 

Trinidadco.com agreed to publish the above article.

Coalbed methane boom brings opportunity and some fear

WESTON, Colo. _ Wooded gulches, rocky outcrops and views of the snowy tops of southern Colorado´s Sangre de Cristo mountains provide what looks like the perfect escape for retirees and telecommuters.

But people who bought lots on the 16-square-kilometre North Fork Ranch about 320 kilometres south of Denver, hoping to leave behind big-city hassles, worry when they flip on a switch or take a drink of water.

They´re afraid that methane gas from drilling in the area´s coal seams could seep into their water wells or migrate inside their homes.

That´s no idle fear. A house under construction near the subdivision exploded last April when methane leaked from an abandoned well into the building. Two water wells in the subdivision were damaged in 2006 during gas drilling.

Pioneer Natural Resources, a Dallas-based energy company, drilled new water wells, provided a filtration system and settled for an undisclosed amount with one family. The company, which contends it´s unclear whether it caused the problems, hasn´t settled with the other family.

"You don´t know day to day when you turn on your faucet whether you´re going to have good clean water or whether there´s going to be chemicals in there that you´re unaware of," said Tracy Dahl, a design engineer who built a home atop a mountain on North Fork in 1995.

The push for domestic energy development has helped make the Rockies´ unconventional sources of gas more economical. That´s d conflicts with the region´s growing population, most of which lives on a split estate: one party owns the land and another owns the minerals underneath.

The split occurred across the West as the federal government granted homesteads but retained mineral rights, or when people sold the land but kept the minerals. Federal and state laws give mineral owners or leaseholders the right to reasonable use of the surface to extract the resources.

Most of the gas drilled in the Raton Basin, which includes the ranch, is from coalbed methane _ natural gas trapped in coal seams that once provided a thriving coal-mining industry. Roughly 2,600 coalbed methane wells have been drilled.

Methane was a liability in coal mining because of its explosive character, but then companies started tapping it as a fuel source. Pumping groundwater relieves the pressure that traps the gas, raising concerns among landowners about the effects on the water table and drinking water wells.

The Raton Basin is one of the hot spots of an energy boom rippling throughout the Rockies. There are roughly 34,000 active wells across Colorado and tens of thousands more are expected over the next 20 years.

Warren McDonald, who ranches west of North Fork, has a good relationship with Pioneer Natural Resources.

"Typically, the people having the problems moved from cities and towns. They think they´re going to go up to the wilderness and live in harmony with nature, but those days are kind of gone," said McDonald, whose family has ranched in the area since 1890.

McDonald said energy development is a big boost for ranchers and farmers like him who own some minerals because they get royalty payments. Jobs, business and tax revenue are all up.

"It´s night and day from when the coal mines shut down in the ?s," McDonald said.

"I saw the downside when the coal mines closed," said Glenn Moltrer, a businessman who heads the local chamber of commerce. "People actually put dummies in the windows of stores to make it look like something was there besides vacant storefronts."

On River Ridge Ranch, a rural subdivision, the state has halted gas production so the operator, Petroglyph Energy of Boise, Idaho, can figure out how methane is getting into water wells and how to stop it.

A small fire erupted when a spark from an electrical switch ignited built-up methane at a water well on the ranch last summer. Around the same time, an explosion raised the roof on a shed over a water well near the subdivision.

Petroglyph Energy provided homeowners devices to monitor whether their wellheads are venting methane. Petroglyph chief operating officer Ken Smith said the company is monitoring groundwater and has seen nothing to indicate that people are in danger.

Interest in the area by another gas company prompted Huerfano County to consider a drilling moratorium so it can study its rights and responsibilities, said John Galusha, county administrator.

Dahl and Marcia Dasko, both members of the North Fork Ranch landowners´ association, acknowledged there is strong support for the industry because of jobs. They said a local hearing on strengthening state oil and gas regulations drew hundreds of energy workers and officials, many of whom criticized the proposals.

"It doesn´t have to be done with a gold-rush mentality," Dahl said. "Everybody knows about energy boom and bust cycles and yet everybody here seems to be turning a blind eye to it."

Dahl and Dasko noted that a recent state study estimated that drilling in the Raton Basin depletes area water by about 2,500 acre-feet a year.

That amounts to roughly 3.1 billion litres of water not returned to streams and rivers, a volume called "significant" by Matt Sares, deputy director of the Colorado Geological Survey.

Besides concerns about water, Dahl and Dasko wonder what happens to the land after wells are drilled, waste pits are dug and roads are carved out of hillsides.

A March 11 report on the website of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the main regulatory agency, said an inspection found "numerous sediment and erosion problems." It said Pioneer agreed to make repairs and improvements.

At home, Dasko displayed two big binders packed with photos of alleged violations, correspondence with Pioneer and other documents.

"We went into this whole thing very proactive, fairly organized," Dahl said of the landowners´ agreement with Pioneer over use of the surface.

"Most folks are not doing these kinds of things _ and it´s ridiculous to expect a citizen to have to."

 

Published on Oilweek – Canada’s Oil and Gas Authority
 

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