County, Presco negotiate
Garfield County this week attached a number of conditions to its acceptance of a plan by Presco to drill within a half-mile buffer zone around the Project Rulison underground nuclear explosion site.If Presco would withdraw its application to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to increase drilling density to 40 acres on the surface and 10 acres underground, which would put it within the 500-acre buffer zone, the county would withhold its objection to the plan.The county will approve the drilling of one well with the pad sited on the surface within the buffer zone, but the bottom of the hole would be outside the zone. In turn, Presco must submit to the county all its drilling data from that well pertaining to the extent, if any, of radioactivity underground in the buffer zone. All drilling fluid and natural gas would be monitored by both Presco and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.Further, Presco would agree to withdraw its application to increase its drilling density until January 2006.”We would have one year to evaluate the information,” said Commissioner Larry McCown.However, county attorney Don DeFord pointed out that “if the company doesn’t wish to accept the conditions, it won’t work.”On Monday, the commissioners heard from their consultant Dr. Geoffrey Thyne, a research associate professor of geology and geologic engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, who evaluated U.S. Department of Energy data collected in 1970 during venting of the gas released by the 1969 explosion. At that time, after venting the gas from the drilling hole three times, the DOE said the radioactivity levels were not harmful.Thyne said Presco should not drill more than one well until the DOE issues a new report in 2007 on whether or not there is residual radioactivity at the Project Rulison site.Commissioner Trési Houpt said she strongly opposes allowing drilling within the buffer zone.”It’s important to remain conservative in judgment until the DOE report comes out,” she said.The COGCC ruled in February 2004 that Presco could not drill within the buffer zone without approval from the DOE because of concerns about potential residual radioactive contamination.Garfield County notified the COGCC in March that it would file a motion to intervene to block the increased density.The county commissioners also considered taking Presco to court over the issue but have held off on that tack pending a COGCC hearing in July, where Presco’s request for a waiver of the half-mile buffer will be heard. The meeting is expected to be held somewhere in Garfield County rather than in Denver, where the COGCC usually meets.
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