COGCC puts off moratorium decision |

COGCC puts off moratorium decision

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has postponed making a decision whether or not to lift a ban on natural gas drilling south of Silt. COGCC director Brian Macke said the commission decided not to hold a hearing on the matter Monday in Glenwood Springs but will hold it at the next regularly scheduled meeting in Denver in April. The commission held its March meeting in Glenwood Springs so local people interested in the matter could testify.Macke said last-minute information about two wells it allowed to be drilled by Bill Barrett Inc. within the moratorium area around the West Divide Creek gas seep caused them to continue the hearing.Both wells had high bredenhead pressures at the wellhead which could indicate leakage of natural gas from the production zone to the surface of the well.Last summer the COGCC lifted its ban within a two-mile moratorium area around the gas seep to allow Bill Barrett Inc. to drill up to 20 wells.It imposed new cementing rules throughout the Mamm Creek area to ensure wells are properly sealed to prevent gas from rising up the well bore. The West Divide seep was found to contain a carcinogenic chemical – benzene – within the gas leaking from a natural geologic fault that intersected the production area on an EnCana well. Benzene continues to occur in the seep itself.EnCana was fined a record $371,000 by COGCC in 2004 for causing the seep.The two Bill Barrett wells posed no threat to human health or safety, Macke said, but “it has made us consider that we have to have further conversations with the operator” about continued drilling in the area.A hydrogeological study commissioned by the Garfield County Commissioners presented to the COGCC Monday revealed that the area around the Divide Creek and Dry Hollow areas have numerous natural and deep-seated faults that could present a challenge to operators to keep the gas within its intended pathways.”We know this area warrants special consideration,” Macke said, especially in light of the West Divide gas seep, to ensure another seep does not occur again.Garfield County attorney Don DeFord said the county commissioners, who filed a motion to intervene in Monday’s hearing, agreed to the continuation in order to have more time to consider the hydrogeological study that was released last week.Several residents who live near the seep urged the oil and gas commission not to lift the drilling ban.”The seep is still active,” said Pepi Langegger, whose property encompasses the seep. It is still spewing BTEX (contaminants associated with production gas) into the environment.”He asked the commission to take the time to study the hydrogeological study before deciding whether or not to lift the moratorium.

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