Energy Advisory Board discussion grows testy
RIFLE, Colorado – The conversation grew heated Thursday evening when the chairman of the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board (EAB) moved to cut off a local resident who was complaining about a dispute he was having with a gas drilling company.The monthly meeting is an opportunity for area gas drilling companies, residents and community representatives to gather and talk about the industry and its effects on the area. The September meeting was held Thursday at the Garfield County Sheriff’s Annex near the county airport.Gas company representatives also reported on current drilling and production activity, which continues to remain steady but much lower than it was in 2008, at the height of exploratory activities.But one of the main purposes for the EAB has long been to give area residents a place to air complaints about specific industry-related incidents.A man who identified himself as Thomas Thompson claimed that EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) had illegally installed a culvert and bridge over a local creek. During recent heavy rains, the culvert got blocked up and caused “thousands and thousands of tons of mud” to overflow the creek banks and cover some of his property, which he described as “an area twice the size of a football field.”The muck is 10 feet deep and more in places, Thompson said. “It’s an environmental disaster.”Thompson lives on Porcupine Creek on the south side of I-70, between Rifle and Rulison, he told the EAB members, and has been there for a decade.Sher Long, a spokeswoman for EnCana, said at the meeting that she had heard that the company was planning to install a “low-water crossing” to replace the culvert.”We are in touch with Thomas on this, and working hard to resolve it,” Long said.True, Thompson confirmed, but he said EnCana’s plans would only remedy half the problem, and the company had told him that was all they would do.At that point, EAB chair Jeff Simonson, the citizen representative for Divide Creek, broke in to the exchange, interrupting Thompson.”We’re not going to be able to deal with this issue right here,” Simonson said. The EAB is not the venue for resolving this problem, he said, partly because Long had said she did not have sufficient information to tell EnCana’s side of the story.Marion Wells of Rulison and Linda Dixon of Wallace Creek objected, asking Simonson to let Thompson finish.Garfield County’s new oil and gas liaison, Kirby Wynn, suggested that Thompson call Wynn for help in figuring the issue out.But Dixon persisted, telling Simonson she would prefer to “hear what he’s dealing with.”As a property owner herself, Dixon said, “It’s good to know about … so you can be forewarned and forearmed.”The discussion ended with Thompson being told the county government and EnCana would continue to work on the matter. Efforts to reach him on Friday were not firstname.lastname@example.org
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