Residents ready to take argument to the county
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
BATTLEMENT MESA ” Residents who live near the Project Rulison nuclear blast site intend to ask Garfield County commissioners to seek a hearing before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission over 11 drilling permit applications near the site.
But since a 10-day deadline to apply for a hearing on the permits was fast approaching and commissioners won’t have a quorum for a meeting until March 10, the residents also have requested that the county ask the COGCC for an extension of time to request a hearing.
“The only way we can get a hearing about these concerns is if our county commission asks for an extension so this can be considered carefully in an open meeting,” said Pat Warren, whose home is near the blast site. “We really need our county to stand up for our right to be heard.”
Luke Danielson, the attorney representing three couples who live near the blast site, wrote a letter to county attorney Don DeFord, saying Danielson and the three couples expect to appear before the county commissioners on March 10. They plan to ask commissioners to request a hearing over permit applications filed with the COGCC on Feb. 12.
However, DeFord said he did not know if the county would make that request because it lies in the hands of county oil and gas liaison Judy Jordan, who probably would seek informal input on how to proceed. Jordan was not available for comment late Friday.
Danielson said it was his interpretation that the deadline for the county to request an extension would come on Wednesday because the 10-day deadline did not include holidays or weekends.
“We are not asking the county to take our side,” Danielson said. “All we are asking them for is (to request an extension).”
Noble Energy Inc. is the company behind all of the 11 drilling permit applications, which are for locations about one mile away from the blast site, according to documentation included with Danielson’s letter.
Stephen Flaherty, director of government relations for Noble Energy, said the company has worked with the COGCC and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop a plan for sampling and monitoring that protects the public’s health, safety and welfare.
“That plan incorporated Garfield County’s comments as well,” Flaherty said.
The couples, along with the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and the Western Colorado Congress, filed an objection with the COGCC over 16 permits within a three-mile radius of the blast site earlier this year. The couples and groups aligned against drilling permits in the area argue that the use of fracturing technologies, which are designed to stimulate greater production of natural gas from subsurface formations, increases the risk that radioactive contaminants from the Rulison blast site may reach the surface.
However, the agency said the couples did not have standing to request a hearing over those permits.
Danielson said the residents were appealing that decision as well.
In the COGCC letter, the agency wrote that couples could ask for the county to intervene in the matter, but the deadline for that had already passed. It was also the COGCC’s interpretation that the county will not request a hearing for permits to drill for wells that are more than a half-mile away from the blast site.
The 1969 Project Rulison experiment was an attempt to free up commercially marketable quantities of natural gas, but the gas it produced proved to be too contaminated with radioactivity. The DOE prohibits drilling deeper than 6,000 feet in a 40-acre area around the site, and the COGCC requires a hearing for any gas wells proposed to be drilled within a half-mile of the site.
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