Presco wants to drill four wells, not one |

Presco wants to drill four wells, not one

Donna GrayPost Independent Staff

Presco, the natural-gas production company that wishes to drill in the vicinity of the Project Rulison nuclear blast, threw Garfield County a curveball last week.While the county was under the impression it had an agreement with Presco to drill one well from the surface inside the half-mile buffer zone around the blast site, in a letter dated May 24, Presco’s attorney William Keefe said not only does the company disagree with the condition imposed by the county, but it now wants to drill four wells in the buffer zone.In a special meeting Wednesday morning, the commissioners reacted strongly to the latest development in an ongoing case.”We can spend another $400,000 and go to battle to oppose the four wells,” said Commissioner Larry McCown. “I’m really torn where to go with this.””I felt we had come to terms (with Presco) to share information, do the analysis for one year … I thought we had a gentleman’s agreement, and they need to stand on it,” said Commissioner John Martin. Under the terms of the agreement, the commissioners agreed to lift their opposition to Presco’s plan to drill a well from the surface in the buffer zone, but the bottom of the well would not be in the zone. In turn, Presco would withdraw its application to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to increase drilling density to 40 acres on the surface and 10 acres underground, putting it within the 500-acre buffer zone. Presco would also submit all its drilling data to the county, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment and the COGCC.The county’s expert, Dr. Geoffrey Thyne, research associate professor of geology and geologic engineering at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, who evaluated Department of Energy data collected in 1970, said Presco should not drill more than one well until the DOE issues a new report in 2007 on whether or not there is harmful residual radioactivity at the Project Rulison site.In 1969, the federal government set off a proton bomb underground to see whether the explosion could free natural gas from sandstone formations. The test was considered a failure because of the radioactivity in the gas. Since then, federal and state governments have said nearby gas drilling doesn’t present a danger.In his letter to county attorney Don DeFord, Keefe said, “Apparently someone at Presco left the impression that it would drill only one well from the surface inside the one-half mile buffer this year. … Presco has plans to drill as many as four wells from the surface inside the one-half mile buffer this year.”Further, Keefe said in his letter, if the company “fails to complete its obligations under the COGCC’s amended order, Presco does not want that to result in automatically having to postpone drilling within the one-half mile buffer zone until completion of the next DOE modeling report currently anticipated in September 2007.”Commissioner Trési Houpt said she was as opposed to letting Presco drill four wells as one. “We need to wait for the DOE report,” she said.”You have a lot more faith in the DOE than I do,” said Martin. “They haven’t come up with anything.””It’s most likely the DOE will be reliant on Presco’s activity in and around the blast site for their modeling. I don’t think they have plans to garner new evidence. There is no new information for the DOE to have their modeling on,” said McCown, who added that opposing Presco’s plan could negate any opportunity for the DOE to gain new data on drilling in the blast zone.He also pointed out that if Presco encounters any radioactivity while drilling that it must cease operations and report its finding to the CDPHE, COGCC and the county.At the end of the meeting, the commissioners voted to reject the four-well plan and stand by the previous agreement. Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext.

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