Garfield County reconsiders ‘intervention’ in drilling plans |

Garfield County reconsiders ‘intervention’ in drilling plans

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Garfield County this week opted to not interfere with an application by the Berry Petroleum Co. to drill for natural gas at a site that officials believed to be near the controversial Prather Springs location, in between Parachute and DeBeque in western Garfield County.

As it turned out, this particular application to drill involved a site that was “several drainages over” from the Prather Springs, according to one official, which erased any need for county involvement.

But on Feb. 16 the board of county commissioners voted to hold off on mounting an “intervention” concerning Berry’s applications for permits to drill, which is a formal process before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Two of the commissioners made this decision even though they had earlier initiated intervention proceedings against a different company, Marathon Oil Co., which wants to drill in the same area.

The most recent vote to not intervene was 2-0, with commissioners John Martin and Mike Samson concurring. Commissioner Tresi Houpt recused herself because she serves on the COGCC, which oversees oil and gas drilling in the state.

The BOCC initiated the Marathon “intervention” on the grounds that the state has yet to finish its investigation of a 2008 case of contamination of a spring belonging to outfitter Ned Prather. Drinking from the spring sent Prather to the hospital, and some officials worry that further drilling in the area could create further contamination or otherwise confuse the issue.

At the Feb. 16 meeting, Commissioner Mike Samson noted that treating the two cases the same “would only be reasonable,” but added that he has been “frustrated with the COGCC” over, among other issues, a lack of any conclusion to an investigation to determine responsibility for the poisoning of the Prather Spring.

County attorney Don DeFord told the BOCC that filing an intervention could mire the county in “a very technical issue.” He noted that the county staff does not have the necessary expertise, and that expert consultants probably would be needed.

Samson made a motion to stay out of the Berry Petroleum application process, asking Martin, “We would get ourselves in a bind, correct?”

Martin concurred, and at one point said, “We have no proof, we have nothing” upon which to base objections to Berry Petroleum’s drilling plans.

On the board’s instruction, Judy Jordan, the county’s oil and gas liaison, talked with the Prathers about the situation in the days following the Feb. 16 meeting, and learned that they had discovered that the Berry Petroleum permit did not threaten their spring.

But officials are still wondering about the county’s role in the Marathon Oil application to drill on land that is closer to the Prather spring.

Martin suggested a special meeting of the BOCC to discuss that, although apparently no date for that meeting had been set as of Feb. 19.

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