Residents near Rulison blast site push for an independent study
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. – Kim Bennetts, vice president of exploration and production for Presco Inc. was not surprised to receive a letter from Gunnison lawyer Luke Danielson.Danielson represents three families who own property near the Rulison nuclear blast site and the letter voiced their concerns about gas exploration in the area.”We haven’t responded to the letter yet but we will get back to them,” Bennetts said. “We’ve tried talking with them before and they didn’t want to hear what we had to say. And now they’ve got this attorney trying to resurrect this thing all over again.”According to Bennetts, this isn’t the first time Presco has been confronted by the Kent, Warren and Weldon families who have homes near the 40-acre test site where a 43-kiloton nuclear devise was detonated in 1969. Hopes of releasing natural gas from “tight formations” deep underground were expected of the blast, however, that didn’t happen.Danielson’s clients are concerned drilling in the area may still have the potential to contaminate water supply, soil and the air near their homes. They are hoping an entity independent of the gas companies will test for radioactivity in the area to determine if these dangers are still present.The families declined to comment, leaving Danielson to speak about the issue. Sharon Kliewer, a representative from Danielson’s office, indicated they were still awaiting responses from the gas companies who have interest in or are already drilling in the area.Robert E. Moran of Michael Moran Associates LLC in Golden, is a hydrogeologist and geochemist who researched past studies conducted on the area since the blast for Danielson and the three families. His research showed that all of the most recent studies have been done by gas companies and none have been done by independent groups.”We just want some independent studies done,” Moran said. “None of us are saying that we know what the actual situation is.”The point of the letter, according to Moran, is for the citizens to start a discussion with the gas companies who have drilling permits on the stated land on the best possible way to proceed for gas development in a safe manner. And that if the Rulison test area is still contaminated, drilling should not be permitted within a safe perimeter.But, Bennetts contends tests have been done, time and time again, proving the site safe to drill since the early 1970s. Presco, which currently has seven natural gas producing wells within the three-mile radius of the 40-acre blast site are not the only company to do so. Presco has given community presentations, according to Bennetts, illustrating the “lack of risk associated with drilling in the area.””We don’t understand why they (Kents, Warrens and Weldons) keep bringing this up,” Bennetts said. “We think that those guys are really interested in preventing drilling up there for logistical reasons because they don’t own the mineral rights and won’t benefit from the drilling.”The Department of Energy (DOE) requires notification from the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission when a company applies to drill within the three-mile radius of the blast site, according to Bennetts. He said Presco does periodic “pressurized samples” of gas produced from their wells. The samples are sent to an independent laboratory in Illinois that is recommended by the DOE, and if any radioactivity was found, Bennetts said, drilling would halt immediately and the state health and human services would be notified. But that has never been the case, he said.”Naturally we haven’t found any (radioactivity) because there isn’t any there,” Bennetts said. “We have no say in what they put in the reports.”A number of oil and gas companies in the area received the letter, including Williams and EnCana. Susan Alvillar, spokesperson for Williams said that the closest well in the area is over three miles away from the 40-acre moratorium and Williams is reviewing the letter with intentions of responding sometime this month.As far as Presco is concerned, Bennetts said they will respond soon.”We always try to talk, we’re not afraid,” Bennetts said. “We think we’re doing a good job up there.”Contact John Gardner: email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
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