Regulator: Battlement pipeline work sloppy
Summit Midstream, the company installing pipeline in Battlement Mesa, has engaged in “improper practices” regarding soil and stormwater handling, according to a report sent to Garfield County by Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Environmental Manager Greg Deranleau.
Deranleau recommended that the county refer the sites to the Colorado Water Quality Control Division for review and inspection, but the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said that it did not have the resources to investigate the matter, according to Garfield County oil and gas liaison Kirby Wynn.
Wynn said Tuesday that he and the county are already directly working with Summit Midstream to address Deranleau’s concerns about site preparation and topsoil management. Summit is preparing the site within the Battlement Mesa residential area boundaries for natural gas drilling by Ursa Resources.
“We’ve known about the issue since January 27 and have been working with Summit Midstream to get the issues addressed,” Wynn said. “We’ve been communicating with them directly, flagged some of the issues that we’ve identified and have been working closely with them to get the issues addressed.”
“COGCC observed improper practices at the BMC B and BMC D Pad pipeline staging areas that would not be in compliance with COGCC rules, including inadequate topsoil protection, insufficient stormwater management and a lack of effective stormwater controls,” Deranleau wrote in his Jan. 27 letter to Wynn.
“It’s encouraging to see the COGCC regulators keeping an eye on what is going on in Battlement Mesa, but we are just at the very beginning of Phase I and we are already seeing potential problems with operators,” said Dave Devanney, co-chair of the Battlement Concerned Citizens, who have fought drilling within the residential area.
While Ursa will soon take over the well pad, Summit Midstream owns the pipeline, which is regulated by the county, under county-issued permits. Once Ursa takes over the project, it will be monitored by the COGCC and therefore will have to follow COGCC rules. Deranleau believes that in its current condition, that may be a challenge.
“Based on our observations of actions taken by Summit Midstream during their construction activity at the sites, Ursa may have difficulty complying with those rules upon taking possession of the sites,” Deranleau concluded.
A COGCC reclamation inspector examined the BMC B Pad and BMC D Pad on Jan. 12 and 13 and took photographs that are included in Deranleau’s report. The photos show that the topsoil was not removed before commencement of construction and that it is not being protected, two things that are required by COGCC rules.
At neither the BMC B Pad nor BMC D Pad was the topsoil removed or segregated for protection, which Deranleau lists as one of the several insufficient best management practices he observed.
“Heavy equipment operating on the site and other vehicle traffic observed can damage the topsoil,” Deranleau wrote. “This activity will damage the soil structure and potentially affect the biological activity within the topsoil, which can delay revegetation and impede site stabilization efforts.”
The rules are in place to minimize damage to the land, drainage and wildlife habitat from oil and gas operations.
While the project is currently under Summit Midstream’s control, it won’t be for long, as Ursa Resources will soon take over and thus these issues will need to be addressed right away.
“Ursa, once it begins construction of the BMC B and BMC D pad, will access, address and make modifications to protect the topsoil per the regulations,” said Don Simpson, Ursa Operating Co. vice president of business development.
“We trust that the COGCC will provide enough transition time between Summit’s current pipeline construction operations and Ursa’s pad construction so that we may bring whatever deficiencies that might exist into the COGCC’s specifications.”
“We do not see these operations as affecting Ursa’s current good relationship with the community,” Simpson said.
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