Garfield County can inspect oil and gas pipelines
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Buried pipelines used by the oil and gas industry in Garfield County are open to inspection by county officials to determine that the work was done correctly, officials confirmed this week.
But those same officials were reluctant to discuss such issues this week due to an ongoing pair of court cases involving an Antero Resources pipeline project.
“This is all in litigation, so I can’t say too much,” said the county’s chief building official, Andy Schwaller, on Wednesday.
One of the cases is a condemnation suit by Antero against landowner Bob Regulski, concerning a pipeline easement across Regulski’s property at the confluence of Divide Creek and the Colorado River near New Castle.
The other is a suit filed by Regulski, accusing Antero of trespassing and fraud, among other charges. Antero, after signing an easement agreement with Regulski, dug a trench and began laying the pipeline outside the original easement, according to Regulski and the county, and instead of resting the pipeline on a bed of gravel, the company filled the trench with boulders and large rocks.
The pipelines are partly meant to carry a variety of liquids, potentially including oil, natural gas and produced water that comes out of gas wells, which often contains toxic chemicals.
Regulski believes the pipeline poses a health hazard due to its proximity to the Colorado River and the possibility the pipes might break apart and spill toxins into the ground and the water.
Regulski complained, and the county imposed a “stop-work” order on the project. Schwaller stated in a written affidavit that the pipeline is in the wrong place and improperly installed.
Antero, in documents filed as part of the court cases, has said the pipelaying work was not finished when the work crews were forced to leave, and that had they been allowed to finish the quality of the work would not have been an issue.
Regulski has asked the board of county commissioners to consider making a study of other pipelines that have been buried around the county, but the BOCC has not agreed to do so.
“I’m sure we’ll be discussing that in the weeks to come,” said Schwaller about the state of pipelines in general, although he added that the board of county commissioners has not called for a public discussion on the matter, to his knowledge.
Garfield County regularly issues grading and, in come cases, land use permits for pipelines related to the Piceance Basin gas drilling industry.
While the county does require specific development plans for pipelines that are at least a foot in diameter and two miles long, according to county codes, the Antero project across Regulski’s land involves a pipeline that is exempt from that requirement due to its smaller size, Schwaller said.
The county does not have any policy for generally inspecting pipelines during the installation process, said Dale Hancock, director of general services, but it does check on revegetation plans after installation is complete.
As for lifting the stop-work order, Schwaller said it will take some negotiations between the county and Antero, adding, “We’re in the process of working on that now.”
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