San Luis Valley Oil & Gas Regulations in The News
Article from the Del Norte Prospector
Oil and gas reg changes possible
Modified: Wednesday, Nov 24th, 2010
BY: GENA AKERS
DEL NORTE — San Francisco Creek residents held Rio Grande County’s Planning and Zoning Commission’s (P&Z) feet to the fire a week ago Tuesday, demanding that the county’s oil and gas regulations be reviewed for consistency.
As a preamble to the Rio Grande County regulations on water quality, 8.8.1: “The value of both surface and ground water and the life and land that depend on them is immeasurable, by any method of assessment, and more valuable than all currently known or projected oil and gas reserved that may lie beneath the county’s surface. Therefore, the county finds that the protection of water resources is of primary importance, and must be adequately ensured by any oil and gas company.”
Clarifying this, 220.127.116.11 states, “The oil and gas company shall not cause degradation in the water quality or water pressure of any public or private water well within three miles of the site.”
However, under Monitoring, 18.104.22.168, “Water well testing shall be required at the start of the operation and up to five years after drilling is completed within a one-mile perimeter of the facility. The fees incurred by the testing shall be the responsibility of the oil and as company.”
Hearing the public’s concerns, the P&Z unanimously recommended extending the water well testing requirement from within a one-mile perimeter of the facility to within a three-mile perimeter of the “bottom hole location,” a technical term recommended by Glen Nebeker, Western Land Services Project Manager, denoting the bottommost location of the well, clarifying the perimeter for directional and horizontal drilling.
Planners also recommended changing the monitoring regulation from “up to five years after drilling is completed” to once a year for up to five years after drilling is completed.
“We should make it as difficult as possible to drill this well,” said Rob McConnell, Del Norte. “A lot of people don’t understand that a company can come in on private land six miles from town and drill for minerals. Anything that results from the drilling is something we have to live with for the rest of our life.”
Consequences are what San Francisco Creek residents pressured the county to plan for.
In October 2008, Dan A. Hughes Petroleum Exploration and Production Company (Hughes), held a meeting to give landowners in the San Francisco Creek Ranch development the opportunity to learn about company’s local plans for gas development. The San Francisco Creek Ranch development is on the western perimeter of the San Juan Sag, a 5,000 square mile basin accessible through BLM, state and fee leases.
Since February 2006, Hughes has leased the mineral rights of 3,428 acres of Rio Grande County in the San Francisco Creek Ranch area. Of that, 1,512 acres have been leased from the Bureau of Land Management, 1,240 acres from the state of Colorado and 676 acres from private landowners.
Many landowners who do not own their mineral rights were unaware they could be leased without notice.
In addition to leasing mineral rights, Hughes purchased 35.42 acres of land, where the first test will most likely be located.
In late summer, San Francisco Creek residents within a one mile radius to the proposed exploratory test site received a request by Western Land Services, a major oil and gas brokerage service company employed by Hughes, to run water tests for BTEX, an acronym for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes, compounds found in petroleum.
The amount of “Total BTEX” is used to aid in assessing the relative risk or seriousness of contaminated locations and the need of remediation of such sites.
Since that time, Western Land Services has tested the water in all landowner wells within a one mile radius from the proposed site.
Though P&Z inevitably decided to recommend changes, some confusion was had over the necessity of the extension. “What would turn up in a three mile radius that wouldn’t turn up in a one mile radius?” asked Craig Franke.
Vern McCallister challenged that the flow of the water under the region may not even fit in line with a three mile radius.
“We’re just talking about our neighbors and protecting each other.” said Scott Sobel, Frisco Creek. “No one else will do it, the onus is on us to extend out to our neighbors.”
For the complete article see the 11-24-2010 issue.