Gas e-mails fuel frustration |

Gas e-mails fuel frustration

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

BATTLEMENT MESA, Colorado – Not all of the debates about gas drilling activities in Garfield County and their effects on the local populace are taking place in the halls of government. Some are occurring in Cyberspace.

For example, a recent e-mail exchange between a local activist and a bureaucrat in Denver highlighted some of the frustrations and difficulties that arise from the debates.

The local activist, Dave Devanney of the Battlement Concerned Citizens organization, was not happy with the final outcome of the exchange, which he says had little explanation or answers to his questions about the safety of area residents.

“We have no desire to be the subjects of a grand ‘drug test,'” Devanney wrote on Dec. 29 to Margaret Ash, manager of the Field Inspection Unit of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which oversees gas and oil activities within Colorado.

For her part Ash acknowledged that she had not provided certain information as quickly as she might have, and quipped, “I know I’ve learned my lesson” about such future requests from individuals.

Devanney, a vocal critic of Antero’s plans to drill up to 200 natural gas wells inside the Battlement Mesa community boundaries, contacted Ash in September about a complaint against Antero.

Specifically, he wanted to know what the COGCC was doing about reports of foul fumes and odors from an Antero Resources drilling pad just outside Battlement Mesa’s boundaries, the Watson Ranch Pad, which had sickened some residents and prompted formal complaints to the state.

Ash’s duties include inspection of well sites, initial investigation of complaints against gas drilling companies and providing information to the public.

She e-mailed Devanney in late October, sending a copy of a notice of alleged violation (NOAV) issued to Antero as a result of the July complaints.

Her message included an apology to Devanney concerning the difficulty he encountered in getting the information himself from the COGCC website, as well as a pledge to get back to Devanney once Antero’s response to the NOAV had been reviewed.

But she did not contact Devanney until, on Dec. 16, he e-mailed her and asked, “Has there been any progress with this NOAV?”

Again, Ash apologized for being tardy, explaining that other e-mails between her and Devanney led her to “think I had already sent this information.” The information was that Antero had satisfied the COGCC’s requirements for resolving the NOAV and the case was closed.

“I am extremely disappointed with your response,” Devanney replied, admonishing her that she “did not honor your intent to notify me directly” about the resolution of the Antero NOAV.

“While this may just be another incident of simply forgetting or being too busy, it does little to allay the fears of Battlement Mesa residents that the COGCC is more concerned with protecting Antero than public health, safety and welfare.”

Ash, in her e-mail, noted that the COGCC concluded that Antero used “best management practices” in operating the Watson Ranch pad, and that the company had “met the corrective action requirement” imposed by the COGCC.

Among those, she reported, was that Antero would “monitor completion operations for odor, and adjust operations, as needed, to eliminate all nuisance odors.”

Devanney responded, “It is hard to imagine that Antero’s drilling practices can make people sick and that there are no consequences. … It is little comfort to know that ‘best management practices’ were being used a the time.”

He suggested the COGCC travel to Battlement Mesa for a hearing “to explain to area residents why their health concerns are being ignored. We have no desire to be the subjects of a grand ‘drug test’ – namely, to permit Antero to drill in our community and then monitor how sick we get!”

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