Waste pit problems could lead to fines | PostIndependent.com

Waste pit problems could lead to fines

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RULISON ” State oil and gas regulators have proposed levying fines of $138,000 against a company that allegedly failed to prevent melting snow from overflowing waste pits near the Project Rulison blast site, state records show.

The proposed fines against Presco Inc., which sold its interests in western Garfield County to Houston-based Noble Energy, stem from May 2007 inspections COGCC staff conducted at Presco drilling sites near the Project Rulison blast site in the Battlement Mesa area. That is where the Atomic Energy Commission detonated a 43-kiloton nuclear weapon 8,426 feet below the ground in a 1969 experiment to free-up natural gas.

During the inspections, oil and gas regulators found that Presco had flawed “stormwater best management practices” that failed to divert melting snow from running onto several drilling locations, according to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) records.

They also found puddles of natural gas condensate and unidentified “chemical residue”on several drilling locations, along with “sacks of chemicals and drums” floating in pits. In another instance, an overflowing pit caused water to breach a nearby berm and to flow into a tributary of Battlement Creek, state records show.

Presco has not admitted to the allegations against it, but agreed to pay the fines in late November to “resolve the matter without the necessity of an extended, contested hearing before the commission,” according to state records. State oil and gas commissioners will review the fines and the allegations against Presco during a Jan. 13 hearing in Denver.

The Colorado Water Quality Control Division indicated it agreed with the $138,000 in fines outlined by the COGCC and that it will not pursue any additional penalty.

The COGCC was alerted to the alleged violations by area resident Wesley Kent, according to state records. He said the Presco fines are a sign that area residents’ concerns over drilling near the Rulison blast site are validated.

“We are not just flapping our jaws and running around like Chicken Little,” Kent said. “We have got valid concerns.”

Kent and his wife, Marcia, along another couple and two Western Slope advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the state oil and gas agency lastweek over drilling within a three-mile area of the Project Rulison blast site. Their lawsuit seeks to a court order “compelling” the COGCC to hold a hearing over disputed drilling permit applications near the blast site.

Residents who live near the blast site 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.

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117


Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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