EnCana opening communication pipeline with public

by Lynn BurtonPost Independent Staff

EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) pumped plenty of drillers mud south of Silt and Rifle during the past year, but last week it spread a little printers ink as well.For the first time, the Canadian energy company issued fact sheets to residents in its Mamm Creek field that explain how it plans to drill 250 new gas well this year. The fact sheets are part of EnCana’s stepped-up effort to let hundreds of residents south of Silt and Rifle know how they will be impacted by its drilling activities.”Now we have someone people can call,” said Sherry Long, EnCana’s first-ever local public affairs spokesperson. “We’re trying to put faces with the names.”Grass Mesa resident Garland Anderson said he applauds EnCana’s newfound interest in communicating with residents affected by the company’s drilling.”But we’re dubious to say the least,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a lot of ill feelings.”EnCana drilled 90 wells in and around its Mamm Creek field last year. The company was created when Alberta Energy Co. and PanCanadian Energy merged in April 2002, creating the largest North American independent oil and gas company, and one of the largest in the world, according to a corporate information packet.At the time of the merger, Alberta Energy was already drilling gas wells in the Mamm Creek field, sometimes a short walk from residents’ back porches. EnCana continued the drilling.”Before now, we were just out drilling,” Long said. “Now, we’re trying to open lines of communication.”EnCana inherited a tanker load of bad blood, when on at least two occasions before the merger, Alberta Energy contractors blocked the private Grass Mesa Road that accesses the 3,000-acre subdivision.After the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission cited Alberta Energy for near accidents its contractor’s trucks caused on the road, the company built an alternate route to Grass Mesa across U.S. Bureau of Land Management property.”The new road has helped tremendously,” Anderson said. “We are grateful and appreciative.”In the past few months, EnCana held several meetings with residents south of Silt and Rifle, including those on Grass Mesa, Hunter Mesa, Divide Creek and Dry Hollow. EnCana also held a media tour Tuesday.At a barbecue for Grass Mesa residents May 21, EnCana passed out its activity update that shows the company expects to drill 29 wells, using four rigs, on Grass Mesa through Oct. 31. Anderson, who has lived on Grass Mesa since 1993 and edits the homeowners’ newsletter, said he was relieved to learn EnCana plans to drill six fewer wells than previously announced.”That’s welcome news to us,” Anderson said, but mistrust lingers.EnCana recently reached a deal with a property owner to relocate a road easement, without also winning approval from the Grass Mesa road committee.”We’d like for them to contact us before they do something on our land,” Anderson said.Anderson said one problem seems to come when EnCana’s “right hand doesn’t know what its left hand is doing.”Long agrees that EnCana could do a better job with its in-house communication. She said EnCana has separate departments to negotiate with property owners, drill wells and move the natural gas to market.”When I first came, they were pretty separate departments,” Long said. “But now, we’re getting better feedback. We are starting to work together as a seamless team, rather than everyone on their own team. That’s our goal.”Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext.

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