GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Although water monitoring requirements are an important part of current proposed changes to oil and gas rules in Colorado, locally they are far less controversial than talks about how close gas wells can be to homes and other occupied buildings.
The Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on Tuesday decided to urge the state agency to adopt the county's voluntary water monitoring program for use statewide.
But the BOCC offered no other changes to the existing rules on water monitoring, and only a couple of minor changes concerning setback requirements between gas wells and nearby homes and other structures (see related story, page A1).
The proposed new state rules would require water testing and reporting by the industry of groundwater quality, an idea that the industry has consistently resisted.
Currently, Garfield County has a voluntary program that calls upon gas drilling companies to test the groundwater for contaminants just prior to drilling, and within a year after drilling has been completed.
In a recent discussion before the Garfield County commissioners, water monitoring garnered only the briefest of mentions.
Frank Daley of Divide Creek, speaking for the Colorado Cattlemen's Association, spent most of his time on setbacks while discussing his ranch and his dealings with oil and gas operators.
Daley made only a single statement about water quality.
"I think the voluntary has worked fine in our case," he said, referring to Garfield County's existing, voluntary guidelines concerning testing for groundwater contaminants prior to and during drilling activities.
Mike Paules, a regulatory advisor for WPX Energy, told the BOCC, "Oil and gas development does not result in widespread groundwater contamination. He conceded that localized contamination can and does occur in some cases.
Kathy Friesen, environmental lead specialist for WPX in the Piceance Basin, said operators in Garfield County have been monitoring water quality on a voluntary basis for several years already, with results that have satisfied the county's health department.
Doug Dennison, government affairs liaison for the Bill Barrett Corp., said former county environment health manager Jim Rada concluded that contamination of domestic water wells often is the well owner's fault.
"A lot of these problems are because you [the property owner] don't take care of your water wells," Dennison said, explaining that he was quoting Rada.