Silt resident concerned about gas-well flaring |

Silt resident concerned about gas-well flaring

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

SILT, Colorado – A critic of the gas drilling industry believes the Bill Barrett Corp. is polluting the air here with ongoing well-flaring activities not far from town.

“The stuff is just hanging there,” said Peggy Tibbetts, who lives in Silt and writes an Internet blog titled From the Styx. “It sinks into the river valley and just sits,” causing health difficulties for her and her husband.

Town officials do not necessarily agree with Tibbetts, but Mayor Pro-Tem Rick Aluise said he might go along with paying for air quality monitoring to see if things have gotten worse since previous testing.

“I told them that, while I do not experience any health problems that I believe are related to oil and gas activity, I would support using a small amount of our mineral lease and severance money to establish a monitoring system in town,” Aluise wrote in an email to the Post Independent.

A spokesman for Bill Barrett Corp. said on Thursday that his company already is “operating to the highest public health standards” by burning off gasses being vented into the atmosphere.

And, said public relations spokesman Jim Felton of Bill Barrett Corp., “Air quality [in Silt] has to be pretty good these days. I mean, you’re looking at a fraction of the activity that was going on a few years ago.”

Tibbetts, who maintains that air quality is worse today than it was in years past, said there was some air quality testing done in the Silt area in 2005, and that she has asked for an update to the data to see if the air is worse now than it was then.

“None of this was going on around here back then,” she told the Post Independent, referring to intensive gas drilling activities in Silt’s immediate surroundings.

Barrett, she said, has been flaring from its wells off and on since mid-August in the Dry Hollow and Divide Creek areas, a fact confirmed by Felton.

Tibbetts reported that the flaring is producing plumes of black smoke that sink to the lowest areas they can find.

Felton, however, said flaring is approved by state and local health officials as the best way to deal with gasses being vented from wells into the atmosphere.

“It meets exactly what’s been prescribed by the public health experts,” he said, naming the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Tibbetts said she contacted the Garfield County Environmental Health Department to complain about the matter.

Paul Reaser, director of the county’s environmental health department, was out of the office for the week and also could not be reached for comment.

Morgan Hill, an environmental specialist with the department, confirmed that Tibbetts’ complaint had been received and that Reaser had done some work on the matter. She said she could not disclose what had been done because she was not authorized to speak to the press.

The town of Silt has no environmental health department, but Town Manager Pamela Woods said she was aware of Tibbetts’ complaint.

She had not received any other complaints about the matter, Woods said, and that she intends to keep open the lines of communication with Tibbetts to learn more about the issue.

Aluise said he, too, was aware of Tibbetts’ complaint, but told the Post Independent on Aug. 29, “The town really has no role in controlling the flaring.”

Besides that, he said, he had not noticed anything wrong with the air in Silt.

“I didn’t even know they were flaring until Peggy told me,” he remarked. “I haven’t noticed anything, personally.”

In an email, Aluise elaborated that Peggy and Tod Tibbetts had spoken with him about their conclusions about the area’s air quality.

His goal, he wrote, would be to “determine … whether or not the air quality is worse” than it was in 2005.

Calls to Garfield County Oil and Gas Liaison Kirby Wynn were not returned.

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