Releases of drilling waste in Garfield County currently under investigation |

Releases of drilling waste in Garfield County currently under investigation

Phillip Yates
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE ” The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) announced on Thursday that it is investigating four large releases from oil and gas reserve pits near Rifle. The agency said that an operator failed to report two of those releases for two months.

The agency would not name the companies responsible for the releases until the investigation is complete. The COGCC also announced it would withhold 80 drilling permit applications near Garden Gulch, west of the Roan Plateau, until the investigation is resolved.

All of those releases occurred from November through February and drained into Garden Gulch, according to a statement from the COGCC.

In the announcement of the investigation, the agency said that one release of about 30,000 barrels of drilling mud was immediately reported to the agency.

Another operator reported a second release immediately, but the same operator

failed to report two other releases, the statement said. The volume of those three

releases has not yet been determined.

“Releases of drilling mud from pits are not uncommon,” said Dave Neslin, acting

director of the COGCC. “But releases of this magnitude in this kind of terrain and

without notification are extremely rare.”

The reserve pits hold the water, mud and additives used in drilling, according to the


“Even though the pits are well-built and lined, it appears the releases were due to

failures in the lining,” the statement said.

Some of the drilling mud from the releases remains within a frozen waterfall that will

flow into the West Parachute Creek in the spring, according to the agency.

Neslin also said an agency concern is that as heavy snows melt, “runoff may cause

problems for oil and gas operators in Western Colorado. The agency said it is “prepared to take action that will allow companies to move drilling fluids away from the drainage and better contain them during the spring snowmelt.”

In the statement, Neslin stressed concern about the risks from heavy runoff and will welcome “operator’s ideas about handling snowmelt that could potentially fill and spill from reserve pits.”

“We’re looking at possible ways to address situations like this both proactively and when the come up,” Neslin said. “Operators must notify the COGCC immediately when this occurs.”

In response to the COGCC investigation, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association issued a statement.

“The COGCC’s current investigation is a clear example that the existing rules and

regulations ” developed through years of collaborative rule-making with local governments and others ” are working,” said Meg Collins, president Colorado Oil and Gas Association in a prepared statement. “On behalf of the 70,000 Coloradans working in our industry throughout the state, we are steadfastly committed to keeping

our work sites in a condition that meet and even exceed current regulations. As

Acting Director Neslin states, these situations are rare.”

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117

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