Storage pits on Roan Plateau will be held to new standards |

Storage pits on Roan Plateau will be held to new standards

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colorado ” The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is about a week away from finalizing new standards for oil and gas storage pits located on private lands near the rim of the Roan Plateau.

The new standards come in the wake of four large spills from storage pits that occurred on Chevron-owned land from November to late January in the Garden Gulch area northwest of Parachute. The new requirements include prohibiting oil and gas companies from building pits on “known intermittent or perennial springs, seeps or other water features.”

Dave Andrews, northeast engineering supervisor for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said the agency is now drafting a Notice to Operators (NTO), which outlines a series of requirements that companies must follow if they want to maintain storage pits near the rim of the Roan Plateau, and near the Parachute Creek and Roan Creek drainages.

COGCC approval of drilling permits near those areas will be contingent on companies following the requirements outlined in the NTO, Andrews said. The final language of the NTO will be approved on June 12.

“We are reacting to these releases and are attempting to reduce the potential for further releases,” said Andrews, who outlined the new standards during the Northwest Oil and Gas Forum meeting in Rifle on Thursday.

Requirements in the draft NTO mandate that if companies encounter groundwater during the construction of a pit, they “shall cease” building of the pit and that “the location shall be reclaimed,” according to a second draft of the NTO. An alternate location or an alternate plan, which can include the use of metal tanks that can contain drilling fluid, must then be approved by the COGCC director before drilling operations resume.

Other conditions include requiring operators to visually monitor the pits and to maintain fluids in the pit “at (their) lowest practicable level.”

The NTO said that the COGCC wants to encourage companies to continue infrastructure development and evaluation of “systems that minimize the storage of liquids” in the area, according to a draft of the new requirements.

The NTO comes almost four months after the four spills by Berry Petroleum Co. and Marathon Oil Co. occurred on private lands near the Roan Plateau rim.

Environmental Protection Agency and the state’s Water Quality Control Division sampling of the area, which also occurred about two months after the spills, revealed that they did not cause any lingering environmental impacts.

A COGCC analysis of the four water releases also revealed that they did not violate federal drinking water standards. Agency testing of the spilled water occurred at a tributary in Garden Gulch below where the spills occurred.

Chris Freeman, an environmental manager for Berry Petroleum, called the COGCC’s new requirements for storage pits near the Roan Plateau rim area a “reasonable middle ground.”

The investigation into Marathon and Berry’s releases is still ongoing, said Dave Neslin, acting director of the COGCC.

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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