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?

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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" ?

Leave a Reply 14 comments

bob dawn - 7 years ago Reply

You must not be from Trinidad, We were in a drought that is why your wells had dried up. Now that the drought is moving out our water table is up and I have wells all around my water wells which are many. Wake up and find the real reason if the gas companies werent here we still would have had the low water tables because of the drought.

Trinidadco.com - 7 years ago Reply


I have neighbors down the valley that woke up to find concrete residue in their cistern and year old well and one week later their well went dry, just so happens that a methane gas well was drilled not far away during that same time. Would you call that caused from the drought in year 2007? In 2007 we had one of the highest snow years on record and had been officially out of the drought and off of drought restrictions for a few years. Waking up is exactly what I hope to see happen in Las Animas County, before its too late.

Pam Baca - 7 years ago Reply

I take offense to the comment that so much money has made so many so blind. My family earns its living in the gas industry. We don’t want to make a lot of money; we want to pay our mortgage, pay our car loan and provide for our 7yr old daughter. If the gas industry pulls out, we will have no water because we won’t be able to pay the water bill. I am amazed how so many people want to ignore the true reality. If the gas industry pulls out of our county, families lose jobs and homes. Good, hard working people are out of work. Children suffer. Is seeing elk on your front porch worth a child’s life, the food on that child’s table? I don’t understand why pro environment has to be so anti-people.

Pam Baca - 7 years ago Reply

One more comment about what people find on the land they purchased. Everyone who purchased land had every opportunity to educate themselves about Las Animas County and the gas industry before they purchased land. They had every opportunity to find out the facts about gas production and the role it plays in our community. They had every opportunity to research Colorado law and find out about surface rights and mineral rights. They had every opportunity to make the connection between coal and methane. Where there is one, there is the other. Trinidad High School’s mascot is the Miner. We are 20 miles from Ludlow. Why should our town, our county, our schools, our farmers, our families, our children suffer because a minority group of land owners failed to follow the principle of Caveat Emptor, failed to find out surface rights and mineral rights aren’t sold together in Colorado and failed to do a title search before they bought their property? This is Trinidad, not Boulder, not Santa Fe, not California. Don’t get confused.

Trinidadco.com - 7 years ago Reply


I understand that you are just trying to get by and make a living. No one faults you and your family for that. Do you live in the County? and not the City of Trinidad?

If you personally had a $15,000-20,000 water well that you had drilled and it went dry just after a gas well had been drilled close to you by the company that your family works for and they denied that they had anything to do with it what would you tell your child when you have to move?

What happens in 15-20 years when all the ground water removed to the point where it is much more difficult to get water than it is even now?

What will be the true reality when the water can’t be replaced when good hard working people have no water? Will the children suffer then? I guess we could all just move someplace else.

The message of this topic was one of cooperation to find a win win situation not to stop gas well drilling but to find an answer that would benefit all of us. Would you overlook the entire long term future of this whole area for a few meals on your childs table? I would never want you or your child to go without food.

Why should pro gas well drilling have to mean the removal of our ground water in a known area of the west that has had water concerns even before gas well drilling? I guess I don’t understand that.

Trinidadco.com - 7 years ago Reply


“This is Trinidad, not Boulder, not Santa Fe, not California. Don’t get confused.”

Please explain what this means. You mean its okay to not be concerned about what happens to Trinidad and Las Animas County?

I am ashamed because I think that is the general attitude of the industry.

Pam Baca - 7 years ago Reply

Thanks for your dialogue. I am a county resident and I lived “up the river” from 1999 until 2004. I am also a Trinidad native. My views are that of a concerned citizen and mother.

First, I am not uneducated about the aquifers here in Trinidad. The aquifers here are large and plentiful. Pioneer could drill for years and never affect the bulk of the aquifers in our area. I am sorry for anyone who spent money to drill a well only to see it go dry. However, I don’t see any proof that the gas well made the water well go dry.

Telling my child we may have to move is a conversation we have already had around my home, too many times in the psst few weeks when she asks if we will have to move to Texas if Daddy loses his job. Both my husband and I are natives of Trinidad. We love our community. My family has been here for over 100 years.

My comment about Boulder, Santa Fe and California is a comment born of my frustration. It seems like some people who move to our community don’t understand our way of life. We value hard work and taking care of our families more than anything in the world. We remember what our community was like when the mines closed. Our town was devastated and we are all scared that will happen again. It frustrates me that many land owners in the canyon don’t seem to care if that happens. All they seem to care about is sitting on their porches and watching the elk. I love the elk, too. I know there are places in our State where these regulations are desperately needed, but Las Animas County is not one of them. It seems like the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is trying to conserve everything but people’s lives.

Pam Baca - 7 years ago Reply

If I could make one more comment–I can certainly understand anyone who moves to my community for its breathtaking beauty. The beauty of these mountains lives in my soul. My daughter literally grew up riding in our truck, looking at wildlife. My husband and I spent one of our first dates watching elk. However, many of the people in the canyons lived their lives, bought homes, enjoyed the fruits of their labor. I would like to do the same. I just haven’t had enough life yet. Trinidad does not depend upon ground water now to sustain us. We depend upon run-off from the mountains. Even when the drought occurred, ground water was not the solution.

A few meals on our table is all we have right now. I love my community, its people, its land–I love my daughter more. I would move heaven and earth to provide for her and that’s all we’re trying to do. Before Pioneer came here, my husband had to leave to find work and I was left alone with my infant daughter. We were renting a home without heat, barely making ends meet. Pioneer changed our lives for the better. I honestly wish everyone could engage in a dialogue to find that “win-win” situation. I hear my husband talk every night about how hard he works to keep the impact of drilling at a minimum for local residents. He was born in Weston. He knows. The problem is that supporters of the gas industry feel like no one is listening to us–not Bill Ritter, the Oil and Gas Commissioner, Mr. Neslin, property owners. We feel like we’re screaming and no one hears us.

Trinidadco.com - 7 years ago Reply


If you know about our aquifers in this area then you surely must know that they are over 2000 feet deep. All of our ground water comes from underground streams or fizures that hold water above the 2000 foot level. And water from the 2000 foot level most likely has too many total dissolved solids to be potable.

And the gas well drilling is mostly done in the 500 foot to 2500 foot levels which directly affects our ground water.

I have a friend that drilled a water well to 800 feet. This well cost them $14,437 dollars or such. A pump was priced at anywhere from $6,000 to 12,000 depending on the pump etc. Mostly because of the price of the pump and wire cost to go down 800 feet.

If you add that up with the pump that well will have cost them over $20,000. If it goes dry because of activity from the Gas Companies then it is this property owners burden to prove that the Gas Company caused it to go dry. Put yourself in the property owners shoes. Imagine you with your bills not trying to survive and now your well goes dry because of nothing you did.

Sure the drought affected many wells but that just shows you how precarious our water sources are.

I want you to prosper and be financially successful. I want everyone to be so but what I don’t want to see happen is that we lose our water by not thinking ahead and acting irresponsible.

We need our Natural Gas too, until we can figure out other ways to survive comfortably. I am just suggesting that we need to work together for a long term future and not rob Peter to pay Paul. I love Las Animas County and I want us all to prosper.

Trinidadco.com - 7 years ago Reply


Your comment”Trinidad does not depend upon ground water now to sustain us. We depend upon run-off from the mountains. Even when the drought occurred, ground water was not the solution.”

This is totally true. Trinidad, the City of Trinidad has it own water supply in North Lake and it is spring fed by the Snow Pack yearly.

But if you own property in Las Animas County, not in the City Limits and you don’t have a City Water Tap along Highway 12, then your water either comes from a Water Well or you have to haul it from Trinidad or Valdez. Do you know that if you haul water you are hauling City Water? Las Animas County does not own a water source that I am aware of that has potable water for County Residents

Just a few short years ago, when we were in the middle of the worse drought in many years, North Lake was losing water faster than it was being replenished. Just like all the cities along the front range Trinidad went on Water Restrictions. A comment from a City of Trinidad meeting was shared with me that went something like this “What about all of the people living in the County that are hauling water? Why not shut them off to preserve our water supply?”

That would mean that anyone who had drilled a well and it went dry or anyone that was just hauling water would not be able to get water. What if this was you living in the county and your well went dry and the City of Trinidad no longer allowed you to haul water?

What would you have to do?

At that time all towns and cities on the front range were on water restriction. Do you know if you live in Huerfano County you can not buy water in Las Animas County? If you don’t have an Aguilar Address you can’t buy water in Aguilar.

So here you are in Las Animas County and your well is dry and the City of Trinidad won’t sell you water because they are protecting the City Residents and Las Animas County has no water to sell you. Where would your water come from?

I am afraid that your property would be un-saleable and you would be moving but by this time it would be too late to get a home in Trinidad that had City Water.

I am afraid that this is what I see happening unless we protect our water supplies now and I don’t wish this on anyone.

What I pray for is a win/win solution that the Gas Companies can step forward and come up with a solution that will protect our water and still allow them to harvest the Methane Gas. I think that is what a good neighbor and local business venture should and would do.

Pam Baca - 7 years ago Reply

I certainly pity anyone who’s well has run dry after such a significant investment. I would not be happy about it and I would be looking for the cause. However, I have yet to see any real evidence that links gas drilling with water wells drying up. I will readily admit that water has never been further than a turn of a faucet handle for me, so I don’t know what it’s like to have a well run dry. However, I do know that building and living where there is not a water line is a choice. No one forces anyone to live where you have to drill to find water. I do value water. That’s why I choose to live where all I have to do is turn on a faucet. That is my choice. I also know that, here in Colorado, anywhere in our arid West, finding a good well has always been a risky sort of venture. I know people who have many gas wells on their property and their water wells have not gone dry. I know people who had wells go dry long before gas drilling ever began. My family has property very close to gas wells and our well is still going. I agree that our water needs to be protected, but putting people out of work isn’t the way to do it.

This is where the “one size fits all” gas regulations just don’t work. The impression we have is that these regulations are being forced down our throats whether we agree or not. No one can work together if that is happening.

Pam Baca - 7 years ago Reply

I remember the drought well. I was living less than 10 miles from the fires and I remember driving through ash to get home. I respect the concerns of citizens living up the river who have to worry about where their water comes from. Once again, however, living with this worry is a choice. I would not have made that choice. I would not have chosen to live where water supply was an uncertainty. My family had the choice of purchasing a home where we had to haul water. We chose not to do that. My answer to your question of what I would do will sound insentive, though I don’t mean it to be. I wouldn’t live there to begin with. I would never expect an entire industry to change to accommodate my choice. I bought a home next to railroad tracks. Should BNSF stop running trains because the train wakes me up? Of course not. It was my choice and I have to live with it, not urge Bill Ritter to pass legislation restricting when the trains run.

I believe that even if all gas drilling stopped, wells would still run dry. Wells were running dry long before the first methane well was ever drilled here in our county. Like I said, I have yet to see any evidence that says gas drilling will make your well run dry. I have heard information, though I don’t understand it well enough right now, that indicates some gas drilling actually helps water wells, but as I said, I don’t know enough about it righr now to really discuss it.

I honestly wish there was an easy solution, but I confess I am simply scared. We have worked so hard to build what we have and we are scared we will lose that. On that point, it’s clear we all agree.

Trinidadco.com - 7 years ago Reply


This entire issue is more of a case of you buying a home and then BNSF putting in a railroad track next door.

Its not the same as buying a home that sits next to a railroad track where you know in advance. In your case you knew there was a railroad track there.

To this day the Coalbed Methane industry tells us that even though they are removing so much ground water, from the same levels that our water wells are at and below, that it will not affect our water wells.

To prove that our water wells have been damaged by the actions of the Gas Companies is difficult.

Imagine that you have to come out of pocket on your limited income to hire a geologist to prove that 800 feet down that a gas well 1/2 a mile away stopped your well water. But you know your water well worked for the last 10 years just fine until that Gas Well was drilled and during the very same week your water well went dry. So not only do you have the expense of your water well thrown out the window you now have to hire this geologist to prove in a court of law that your well was affected by the gas well half a mile away.

So here you have an industry drilling gas wells that could hit the same underground water vein that feeds your water well that could very possibly stop the flow of water to your water well, they stand up and say that there is no way they could have done it and you would have to prove that they did.

Removing and disposing of millions of gallons of ground water each day in Las Animas County will not affect your ground water availability, that is what we are told by the industry that is removing the water. Kinda like the kid with his hand in the candy jar while you are asking him “are you taking candy?” and he says “No” while putting it in his pocket.

Do you really think you can so easily ignore and overlook how this will affect your friends and neighbors in Las Animas County?

It would seem that as long as your family is earning a decent paycheck from the Gas Industry and you have made the “choice” to live where you have City Water that it is okay.

Is this what you wish to teach your child, that it is okay to hurt others as long as you are getting your paycheck?

Our ground water is not infinite in supply and neither is the Coalbed Methane Gas. It is only a matter of time before both are gone.

Now back to that comment about how money is blinding so many…

And better yet back to how can the Gas Industry supply our needs for Methane without affecting our water supply? If this is not solved soon then it is only a matter of time before the entire industry will grind to a halt. Even though the residents of Las Animas County don’t have a big enough voice to stop this other places that are affected by the industry are making a stand and a difference.

So it is just a matter of time before they are shut down for the adverse effects of the industry. I hope that the industry would tackle the ground water issue in hopes of finding a long term solution because as much as we are dependent on natural gas in our daily lives but we are more dependent on good potable water.

Pam Baca - 7 years ago Reply

I have a few comments with regard to your previous post. First of all, would you rather my child not eat just to prove a point? Would you rather other children not eat and lose the shelter over their head for a principle? It is ok to devastate our community financially for an unproven priciple? It isn’t just my family, it’s 1500 others, it’s the families who own our grocery stores, our car dealerships, retail stores, restaurants, hotels. It’s our schools, teachers, college, county workers. It isn’t just us. Is it OK that thousands of people suffer because of a few? I teach my child that she can do no good in this world if she doesn’t survive. No matter how you cut it, survival is paramount, it comes above all else. I will never teach my child that a paycheck that ensures her survival is less important than a principle. So, yes, I am teaching and have taught my child that a paycheck that puts food on her table and ensures her survival is OK, even if others are hurt. You do what you have to do.

Second, you’re right–I did know the railroad tracks were next to my house, just like every person who purchased land knew or should have known they were putting their homes on top of the largest naturally occurring methane field in the country. Pioneer just didn’t arrive on people’s doorsteps one day. Gas drilling is a natural extension of mining. Where there is coal, there is methane. This is Trinidad’s history and has been for hundreds of years. People had every opporunity before they purchased land to educate themselves about the industry, search their titles for mineral leases, investigate the future plans of gas drilling. It’s easy to find. They knew about gas drilling and still they chose to live on top of it, just like I knew about the tracks and chose to live next to them.

As for the gas industry grinding to a halt, I just don’t think so. While Las Animas County resident may make up a small number, the number of people in the halls of Congress and in the rest of our country who support good, hard working people’s right to make a living are huge in number. My voice and the voice of this community are not alone. We are joined by many people who value the quality of life that good, hard work brings. No one has ever answered why their right to have a well on their property is more important than my families right to make a living. Why is your well more important than my life, my daughter’s life, my husband’s? Why are you more important than us?

The bottom line is that the wonderful things that brought people to community will disappear if the gas industry disappears. There will be no restaurants, stores, entertainment, people. You will be saving water for a community that no longer exists. I don’t say this lightly–that’s what life was like when the mines closed. Trinidad was this close to dying. Is a priciple worth my community?

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