Legal action taken to halt drilling near Rulison Blast Site |

Legal action taken to halt drilling near Rulison Blast Site

Phillip YatesPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO

BATTLEMENT MESA The Western Colorado Congress, the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and three area couples filed a legal objection with the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission on Thursday to stop drilling activity within a 3-mile area of the Project Rulison nuclear site.The groups and couples have objected to the COGCCs issuing of 16 permits to drill in near the blast site south of Rulison, where the Atomic Energy Commission, in cooperation with Austral Oil, detonated a 43-kiloton nuclear device 8,426 feet below the surface on Sept. 10, 1969, according to the documents filed with the COGCC on Thursday. The experiment was an attempt to free up commercially marketable quantities of natural gas, but the gas it produced proved to be too contaminated.The DOE prohibits drilling lower than 6,000 feet in a 40-acre area around the site. The COGCC requires a hearing for any gas wells proposed to be drilled within a half-mile of the site.Noble Energy Inc. has 13 of the contested drilling permits, while EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) has the other three. The permits were issued from Aug. 7 to Dec. 5, according to the COGCC filing.The nuclear detonation necessarily created a variety of toxic and radioactive contaminants, which persist subsurface in the blast area, group and couples COGCC filing said. They argue that the concentrations of the contaminants and their distribution in the subsurface have never been adequately determined.Drilling as close as (a) half mile from a nuclear bomb site should raise some questions as to the public safety and environmental protection, said Pat Warren, whose family lives near the blast site, in a prepared statement. Weve asked questions and are tired of not getting answers, all the while permits continue to get granted.In the filing, the groups and couples say that if the contaminants reach the surface or near surface environment, they could create serious and persistent contamination of soils and groundwater creating a danger to public health, wildlife and the environment.Employment of fracturing technologies, designed to stimulate greater production of natural gas from the subsurface formations, increases the risk that contaminants from the Rulison blast site may reach the surface or near surface environment, the filing said. The WCC, the GVCA and the three couples argue that the permits to drill should not be approved because EnCana and Noble have not demonstrated that they will meet the legal requirements for protection of the environment, wildlife, and the health, safety and welfare of the public.Doug Hock, a spokesman for EnCana, said the dispute about the permits is an issue the company has been aware of.Our wells are on the very edge of that 3-mile area, Hock said. It has been our contention that we are following the rules in place. As far as safety goes, there has been no documented evidence that those particular wells would create an issue. Obviously (the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and the other groups) are allowed to file legal objections, but we firmly believe that we can safely operate in that area. We dont see a need for those (permits) to be halted.An attempt to reach Noble was not immediately successful late Thursday.

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