EnCana reforms to be tested in ’05
If EnCana Oil & Gas were a family sending out a holiday missive on the events of 2004, it could be tempted to skim over the activities of its problem child in Garfield County.This has been a tough year for EnCana in Colorado, largely because it’s been a tough year for EnCana in Garfield County. And by extension, that means it’s been a tough year for residents living in EnCana drilling country here.EnCana has been the leading natural gas producer in the county. Unfortunately, it’s also leading the state this year in violations and fines – a dubious distinction. It has racked up fines totaling $454,200 this year. That’s thanks in large part to the gas seep south of Silt that resulted in a record $371,200 fine – more than the total fines imposed against all companies by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission in any fiscal year dating back at least to 1990-91.But EnCana’s problems have gone far beyond the gas seep. It has violated state regulations and laws in connection with 17 wells this year, which is more than any other company. The company recently was hit with another fine of $25,000 for drilling without a permit, and also was found in violation of recompleting seven wells without permits. These latest violations all occurred in Garfield County.EnCana is a company that proudly and repeatedly cites its commitment to being a good neighbor. But residents of western Garfield County have reason to doubt this pledge. While EnCana has been aggressive in responding to problems such as the seep, its real challenge is to avoid such violations to begin with.Accidents can happen, and human mistakes leading to state sanctions can’t always be avoided. But their occurrence should be rare. A lot of companies doing oil and gas development in Colorado go through a whole year without receiving a single notice of alleged violation from state regulators.And in fact, EnCana has said its goal for next year is to do just that. It has told the state and the public that changes it is making in areas such as staffing, drilling oversight and regulatory compliance will bring an end to the kinds of problems it has experienced this year.State regulators take heart in both the changes EnCana is making and the commitment it has made for 2005. But they note that results will speak louder than words. As residents living amid EnCana operations look to the year ahead, they can only hope that the company makes good on its New Year’s resolution.
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