Gas well density plan delayed by COGCC |

Gas well density plan delayed by COGCC

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colorado – A group of local residents this week failed, at least for now, in their bid for a three-month delay concerning a high-density, gas-well “spacing” plan for Silt Mesa.

But critics of the drilling activities caught a break when a representative of Antero Resources, which has two wells in the Silt Mesa area already, balked at having their application go through a public hearing on Oct. 21.

Instead, the matter will be taken up at a formal hearing at the next Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission [COGCC] meeting, on Nov. 29 in Denver.

Antero has applied for permission to increase the well density on Silt Mesa, from its current level of one well per 120 acres, to one well per 10 acres.

With a recommendation for approval from the COGCC staff, the request was placed on the “consent agenda” at the Rifle COGCC meeting.

The consent agenda covers a number of items that typically are approved all together with a single vote by the commission members, with little or no discussion.

But numerous residents spoke up against the Antero request during the meeting, arguing that they had not received sufficient notice to mount a challenge to the company’s plans, and that they were concerned about what a large number of wells would mean for their neighborhood and their health.

“These are heavily populated rural areas,” said one Peach Valley resident, maintaining that the density of wells being suggested would “decimate our property values” as well as threaten the health of those living nearby.

The director of the COGCC, Dave Neslin, explained to an audience of 50-60 people that if granted, what is called a “10-acre spacing request … does not authorize any development,” and that it deals with “down-hole” issues related to geology and natural subterranean fractures.

Neslin said that such issues as environmental impacts and local concerns are all addressed during the “application for permit to drill” process, or APD, adding that all APDs are forwarded to Garfield County as a matter of course.

But after hearing residents speak against the request, COGCC member Tresi Houpt, who also is a Garfield County Commissioner, asked that the item be taken off the consent agenda so it could be discussed.

Houpt asked Neslin if there had ever been a case where a spacing order had been approved and later changed due to citizen input, and Neslin answered, “I don’t know,” although COGCC hearing officer Carol Harmon said that normally such concerns would result in the commission applying “conditions of approval” rather than altered spacing.

“The spacing order does deal with geology, I understand that,” Houpt responded, adding, “but it also lets the train out of the station” by precluding consideration of public concerns about the spacing itself.

The COGCC chairman, Joshua Epel, interrupted Houpt to say he had already taken it off the consent agenda and combined it with a “hearing item” that would be considered by the commission later that day.

At that point the Antero official rose to ask that the item be delayed until next month.

Neslin and Harmon said citizen input will be welcomed for the hearing, whether in writing or in person. Harmon pointed out that, in order to have comments included in the packet of information that goes to the COGCC members, the comments must be received at the office no later than three days prior to the Nov. 29 meeting.

Comments may be sent to 1120 Lincoln St., Suite 801, Denver, Colo., 80203.

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