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Alliance members doubt EnCana cutback

Post Independent Writer

A move by EnCana Oil & Gas to cut back its drilling operations by one-third in the Mamm Creek field south of Rifle and Silt is meeting increasing skepticism from members of the Grand Valley Citizens AllianceBY DONNA GRAYPost Independent StaffA move by EnCana Oil & Gas to cut back its drilling operations by one-third in the Mamm Creek field south of Rifle and Silt is meeting increasing skepticism from members of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance.EnCana, Garfield County’s largest natural gas producer, has said it plans to redeploy six of 16 rigs now in the Mamm Creek field.Peggy Utesch, who lives south of Silt and is the secretary-treasurer of the GVCA, said she was told by EnCana representative Sher Long that the rigs would be removed from Grass Mesa, which is only part of that gas field. If so, the move was already mandated by Bureau of Land Management regulations, she said.EnCana must cease drilling operations on Grass Mesa from Dec. 1 to March 31 because of elk migration in the area, which is also their winter habitat, Utesch said.EnCana spokesman Walt Lowry said the decision was to reduce the number of drilling rigs in the entire Mamm Creek field by one-third.”Currently there are 16 rigs running in Mamm Creek field. As of Jan. 1, there will be 10. It has nothing to do with how many we take off Grass Mesa,” Lowry said.Lowry agreed that EnCana was ordered to cease drilling operations from Dec. 1 to Mar. 31 due to wildlife concerns. Whatever rigs are taken off Grass Mesa due to that restriction would be counted as part of the overall one-third reduction in the entire Mamm Creek field, which covers 887,000 acres, Lowry added.Utesch said EnCana’s announcement jibed with her suspicion that the company would shift its focus to the Parachute area north of Interstate 70, where it had purchased land from former oil shale developer Unocal. Lowry said EnCana purchased 28,000 acres of mineral rights from Unocal in the north Parachute area.”We are currently drilling in there now; we only have one or two rigs,” Lowry said, and pointed out that Williams Production is heavily involved in gas development in that area. “We don’t plan on having that level of activity.”He also said some of the rigs removed from Mamm Creek field could be redeployed in Parachute. “We won’t know until we complete our evaluation.”Those decisions will be made in January, he added.Many people impacted by gas drilling are frustrated because they had hoped that EnCana would remove drilling rigs from the area around a natural gas seep on Divide Creek south of Silt, Utesch said.”The experience of landowners is that EnCana continues to be a bad actor … and their press releases continue to intimate that they’re not responsible for the gas seep,” Utesch said.Said Lowry, “We already have a two-mile moratorium around the gas seep area. We have not drilled or completed a well since April 1 when the gas seep first discovered.””We’re trying to do the right thing; we really care about the community. We’re doing the right thing not based on any purchase or being forced by BLM or anything else,” Lowry said.”We’re trying to do the right thing; we really care about the community. We’re doing the right thing not based on any purchase or being forced by BLM or anything else,” Lowry said.


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