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New emissions study planned

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Local government and industry partners are developing a program to monitor potentially toxic airborne emissions from gas drilling activities in Garfield County.

County government officials have met twice with industry representatives, scientists from Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science, and officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

David Ludlam, director of the Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said on Tuesday that an initial meeting was held in mid-September to talk about the study idea.



A subsequent meeting and tour of well pads in the Parachute area in late October was also attended by Dave Devanney and Bob Arrington, two members of the Battlement Concerned Citizens group worried about drilling plans for their neighborhood.

A preliminary study proposal is expected from CSU professor Jeff Collett by the end of November, according to the Garfield County environmental health manager Jim Rada.



Ludlam and Rada both said talks about air monitoring are at a “very preliminary” stage. Ludlam said four companies drilling for gas in Garfield County – Williams Production RMT, EnCana Oil and Gas (USA), Bill Barrett Corp. and Antero Resources – have indicated interest in paying some of the study costs but have made no firm commitments.

The same is true of other potential funders, Rada said. These include Garfield County, the CDPHE, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a branch of the Centers for Disease Control.

The air monitoring effort comes on the heels of two previous efforts to monitor gas drilling impacts on air quality and public health, prompted by plans by Antero Resources to drill 200 wells from nine surface pads within the Battlement Mesa community.

Garfield County contracted with the Colorado School of Public Health in late 2010 and early 2011 to conduct a Health Impact Assessment to establish a database on public health of residents in the Battlement Mesa area. The Garfield County Commissioners terminated the study in May, while it was still in draft form.

In August, the CDPHE scuttled its application for an EPA grant for an air quality study, which was also to be conducted by the Colorado School of Public Health, because parties to the study could not agree on its approach.

Ludlam said industry partners were uncomfortable with involving the School of Public Health because it had reached conclusions the industry considered biased and flawed in the earlier Health Impact Assessment.

Rada said on Wednesday that the current study effort would be much like the concept that was abandoned in August, although government and industry partners are looking to Colorado State University to carry out the monitoring work.

Although the study has not been mapped out, Battlement Concerned Citizens member Bob Arrington is worried it will not cover emissions of hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas known to have been encountered at area well pads. Arrington said there is sufficient evidence of area residents suffering from what they believe is H2S exposure to warrant further study.

Industry representatives, along with state officials, have said they do not believe H2S at the well pads poses a public health threat to residents of Garfield County.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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