Presco’s Rulison plans delayed but not shelved
A company that hoped to win state approval for drilling within a half-mile of an underground nuclear blast site has put off its request until next year.However, a Presco spokesman on Monday denied rumors that the company’s president has decided against trying to drill for the time being that close to the Project Rulison site.”That’s not true,” said Kim Bennetts, Presco’s vice president of exploration and production.Alan Maitland, chair of the Rulison committee of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, said during a GVCA meeting Saturday that he heard that Presco’s president, Art Preston, flew over the area and decided to put off trying to get the moratorium lifted. Instead, Preston reportedly decided to drill increasingly closer to the moratorium area, and seal up wells if any radioactivity is discovered.Bennetts said the company has delayed seeking approval to drill within the moratorium area while it drills more wells outside the area. The company will test drilling mud and cuttings to test them for radioactivity, “as we’ve always planned to do voluntarily,” he said.But Bennetts said Presco continues to plan to seek approval to drill closer to the blast site because it feels the work can be done safely and the moratorium isn’t necessary.Presco hopes to persuade the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to lift the moratorium. The COGCC hearing was scheduled for October, but now is set for January.”Before we do go to the hearing we plan on working with Garfield County people to try to make people understand the safety of our operations,” he said.Bennetts said Preston has visited the area, and has a plane, but Bennetts believes he flew into Grand Junction, not over the blast site.In Project Rulison, the federal government set off a nuclear bomb deep underground east of Battlement Mesa in an attempt to free up natural gas. It ended up producing contaminated gas, but Bennetts said that gas was all flared off and burned up.The state must notify the federal government when wells are drilled within three miles of the test site.Bennetts said numerous wells have been drilled within the three miles over the years, and testing has shown no radioactive contamination. Presco drilled one well within the area a year and a half ago, and is drilling two more now. EnCana Oil & Gas USA also is drilling wells in the vicinity.Alan Maitland and other critics of Presco’s plans say the company should put off its plans until a Department of Energy study is completed, sometime in 2007-2008, to determine if its plan is safe.”We asked, are you prepared to evacuate people if something happens?” he said.But Bennetts said that study only will provide statistical analysis of existing data.”The only thing that will prove safety is drilling wells and testing the gas,” he said. “There’s no point in waiting for the DOE study.”GVCA President Duke Cox said Monday he also had heard the rumor about Presco possibly putting off its plans for the moratorium area.”I’m really disappointed but not surprised” to hear it’s not true, he said.When it comes to energy companies, “There aren’t too many surprises coming our way. They’re pretty predictable. They’re going to do whatever they downright please anyway. That’s pretty much the way it goes.””It all depends on the dollar bill, that’s the way they’re going. … It doesn’t really matter how it affects the community – at least that’s my opinion.”Garfield County Commissioners have endorsed letting Presco drill one well in the buffer zone if the bottom of the well goes outside the zone. However, they opposed a later plan by Presco to drill four wells in the zone.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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