No immediate plan to intensify Silt Mesa drilling | PostIndependent.com

No immediate plan to intensify Silt Mesa drilling

John Colson Post Independent

Antero Resources currently has no plans to conduct intensified drilling in the Silt Mesa area for the next year or two, a company official said at a public meeting held Wednesday.

But in response to questions from the audience, Antero vice president Kevin Kilstrom said that, after a year or two, the company may renew its applications for 10-acre downhole spacing permits from the state.

In the meantime, he said, Antero is planning to drill 40 new wells around the county this year.

Silt Mesa, however, is likely to see only one new well drilled in 2011 – a fifth test well on what is known as the Jewell Pad at the northern edge of the neighborhood.

The company already has drilled four wells in the Silt Mesa area, which has prompted some residents to join together in opposition to the intensified drilling plan.

Approximately 200 people jammed into the central common space at Coal Ridge High School on Wednesday evening to hear from Antero Resources about its gas drilling plans for the area.

The high school, located between New Castle and Silt, sits atop a potential natural gas deposit itself, which now is leased to Antero by the Garfield Re-2 School District.

Seated at folding tables or standing in the back of the room, the audience listened to Kilstrom talk for about an hour.

Kilstrom addressed a broad range of topics, touching on everything from what he felt has been slanted news coverage of the local gas drilling industry, to semi-technical explanations of how the company is working to avoid contaminating local ground water supplies.

That effort, he said, has included conducting more than 80 tests on domestic wells, which he pointed out is not required by the state.

“We’re not immune to the fact that this has created a lot of concern here,” he told his audience, referring to Antero’s drilling plans.

He proposed holding four community meetings over the course of the coming year, one each quarter, to talk about the residents’ concerns.

“Just covering water might be a couple of meetings in itself,” he noted.

Kilstrom went over the basics of a proposed settlement between Antero and Garfield County, aimed at convincing the county government to withdraw its interventions in Antero’s well-spacing permit request before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Garfield County intervened in the case after Antero applied for permits for “down-hole well spacing” of one well for every 10 acres, on two separate 640-acre parcels of land on Silt Mesa.

Kilstrom noted that Antero is dropping its application for the 10-acre spacing permits as part of its settlement offer, along with a pledge to only operate one well pad per 40-acre section and to keep its wellheads at least 500 feet from any nearby occupied structures.

But in response to a question from former Garfield County commissioner Tresi Houpt, Kilstrom said the company may resubmit the 10-acre request in a couple of years.

By then, he said, the company will have reviewed the data compiled from the four recently drilled exploratory wells, and have a better idea of the potential of the gas deposits under the ground.

“All four wells discovered gas,” he said.

At the end of his presentation, Kilstrom asked the assembled crowd to split up into small discussion groups to talk with the six other Antero officials who attended the meeting.

Within a short time, however, more than half of the people in the room had put on their coats and headed out into the cold. Some who had come prepared for a lively public debate were disappointed by the small-group arrangement.

“If a measure of success is how little time you can actually spend with a community, Antero was very successful,” declared Fiona Lloyd, an activist in the Silt Mesa controversy who has participated in direct talks with Antero.

“Within 40 minutes, two thirds of the audience had left,” Lloyd continued. “The meeting lasted, what, an hour and a half? In contrast, the RSPN [Rifle, Silt, Peach Valley and New Castle] meeting at the firehouse didn’t break up until 10 p.m.”

Lloyd was referring to a Jan. 20 meeting at which Silt Mesa residents, and Antero officials, discussed Antero’s drilling activities in the neighborhood.

Another community activist working on the issue, Leslie Robinson of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, said GVCA members “appreciate Antero’s attempt to outreach into the community” but added, “We were disappointed that more questions weren’t taken from the audience.

Lloyd said Kilstrom had promised to draw up a letter for the Garfield County Commissioners about the meeting, to be submitted to the commissioners at a meeting on Monday.

Kilstrom did not respond to calls by the Post Independent seeking further comment for this story.

jcolson@postindependent.com