Negotiations under way between Antero, citizens
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
SILT MESA, Colorado – Initial negotiations about gas drilling in the Silt Mesa/Peach Valley area, between New Castle and Rifle, appears to have yielded a working rapport between the opposing camps.
Based on direction from the Garfield County commissioners earlier this week, representatives from Antero Resources and two citizen action groups, along with some interested citizens at large, held a lengthy meeting on Thursday.
The goal was to hammer out an agreement concerning Antero’s request to intensify its existing drilling activities in the area, and the stiff opposition to that plan by the Rifle/Silt/Peach Valley/New Castle group, and the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance (GVCA).
The company has applied to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for the right to drill at a density of one well per 10 acres, in two square-mile sections of Silt Mesa and Peach Valley.
The current allowable density is one well per 40 acres, under COGCC rules.
Garfield County, on behalf of residents, has intervened in Antero’s request, citing concerns for the public health, safety and welfare.
Antero has pointed out that because of modern drilling techniques there will be fewer well pads than might historically have been needed, because of the ability to drill multiple wells from one pad.
Nearby residents have objected to the plan, citing concerns that the intensified drilling may heighten the chance of groundwater contamination from the wells, and that the drilling activity generates fumes that some say is making people sick.
Antero, and the industry in general, say their activities are closely monitored by state officials to prevent such contaminating effects.
The battle began last summer, when Antero dug the first of four wells, and now involves a growing list of residents.
“Today GVCA found some common ground with Antero and we look forward to working with Antero representatives,” wrote Leslie Robinson of the GVCA.
She noted that the work ahead will include updating a Community Development Plan drawn up in 2006 after months of negotiations among Antero and the communities of New Castle, Silt and Rifle.
Robinson also said the talks on Thursday seemed to foreshadow citizen involvement in the drafting of a “comprehensive drilling plan” that will lay out exactly how many wells the company is planning to drill and other, related issues.
“We are pleased,” Robinson continued, “that most likely the 10-acre spacing debate will not be the main focus of our immediate discussions with Antero.”
A vice president with Antero, Kevin Kilstrom, also took part in the Thursday meeting.
In a letter to the Board of County Commissioners, he gave no details about the discussion but stated, “We are proud of the collaborative effort that has taken place,” and expressed the hope that the final results will convince the commissioners to withdraw their intervention.
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