BLM gives EnCana another extension
Post Independent Staff
The Bureau of Land Management on Friday gave EnCana an extra nine days to access one of its Grass Mesa drilling pads this month.
The decision to grant the extension was based on “the risks to public safety and the environment associated with not completing drilling operations,” said Steve Bennett, the BLM’s associate field manager in Glenwood Springs.
This is the second access extension BLM has given EnCana this year.
In late November, the BLM gave EnCana a five-day extension for all its Grass Mesa drilling activities.
The Grand Valley Citizens Alliance appealed the first extension in a letter to the BLM dated Dec. 2, citing impacts to wildlife and big game hunting.
“This industry should not be given special consideration over local economic interests whose businesses depend on the scenic beauty and wildlife resources managed by the BLM in Garfield County,” said the letter, which was signed by Alliance President Peggy Utesch and six board members.
“We believe strongly in the BLM’s mandate to manage public lands for multiple use,” the letter also states. “What we see increasingly in our area are public lands managed for the benefit of the gas industry.”
In a Dec. 5 letter, BLM Glenwood Springs field manager Jamie Connell gave EnCana the second extension so the company can encase the Jewell 22-10 natural gas well with cement and complete drilling operations. The access was set to expire Dec. 14.
“Suspending drilling operations on this well will require re-entry of the well next spring to deepen to the permitted depth, using a slim-hole drilling process that will increase the risk of well failure and reduce our ability to capture the resource,” EnCana said in its extension application.
The BLM regulates EnCana’s access to Grass Mesa subdivision south of Rifle through a lease that covers the company’s private road across federal lands.
EnCana’s agreement with the BLM calls for it to stop using the Grass Mesa access road from Dec. 1 until April 30 each year.
Connell agreed that if drilling were suspended without casing, gas could migrate up through the well and reach the surface.
“This would lend itself to serious human and environmental safety concerns,” Connell wrote in her letter to EnCana. “Suspending drilling operations and moving off the well without setting casing is not a viable alternative at this point in the drilling process.”
In July, EnCana said it planned to drill 29 wells on Grass Mesa through Oct. 31, and a total of 250 in the area south of Silt and Rifle.
Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534
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