Glenwood quartet sings drilling blues
Ryan Summerlin May 12, 2008
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. ” A video of local musicians – including a workers’ compensation attorney – singing a less-than-flattering song about EnCana may have been viewed by some 350 million people in various parts of the world.
Clips of the song were featured in a 10-minute BBC World News America television segment on natural-gas drilling in Colorado. The four musicians are Don Kaufman, with the law firm Kaufman and Kaufman LLC, plus Don and April Paine and Dustin Micheli. They all perform with the Last Minute String Band.
The BBC reportedly approached Kaufman after hearing an original recording and requested to film it on location on the banks of Divide Creek in Garfield County.
The song was written after one of EnCana’s wells leaked into West Divide Creek in 2004. The seep was found to contain the carcinogenic chemical benzene, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission fined EnCana a record $371,000.
The video shows the four musicians along the creek in a traditional string band arrangement with guitar, upright bass, banjo and mandolin. It starts with harmony singing, “What have they done to the old home place, and how did they blow it down, and how did they poison my water and hay, by drilling for gas in the ground.”
Kaufman solos other lyrics including: “They drilled my ranch, they sucked my gas, they bulldozed my homestead, too,” and, “Land values went south, a cold wind blows as I sit here and hang my head. I’ve lost my ranch, I’ve lost my home, and now I wish that I was dead.”
It ends with, “And how did they put benzene in my creek, by drilling for gas in the ground.”
BBC News correspondent David Willis, who reported the story, wrote in an e-mail, “BBC has an audience of about 350 million people around the world – so plenty will have caught Don and his chums.”
The video has also been making the rounds via the popular YouTube website.
EnCana spokesman Doug Hock wrote in an e-mail, “This song is actually a revamp of a song called ‘The Old Home Place’ performed by The Dillards in the 1960s. While Don Kaufman and his group are certainly talented musicians, we prefer the original version for obvious reasons.”
He said nothing EnCana did was out of compliance with regulations at the time and that the company learned, along with regulators, that a different cementing procedure was needed for well casings given the area’s geology. Extensive monitoring indicates there was no contamination of residential water sources, and the contamination has been effectively stopped and contained within an area of about a half-acre, Hock said.
There’s also an air-convection system in place to remove benzene from the groundwater, Hock said, and most importantly, the seep caused EnCana to reassess its approach to working with landowners in areas where it drills.
Reached for a comment, Kaufman said, “I can neither confirm nor deny any involvement in the song.”
Willis says in the news segment that Divide Creek is the main source of drinking water for 10,000 people. He mentions the 2004 seep and leads into the clips of the song by saying, “Still nothing grows there, and locals have taken to venting their frustration in song.”
He says they call it the “EnCana Bluegrass Blues” after the company that poisoned the water with levels of benzene 80 times higher than officials deem safe.
Willis closes the segment with the conclusion, “The energy companies are making billions of dollars in Colorado, yet that’s not enough money to comprehensively research the effect they’re having on the people who live here.”
The BBC segment aired April 29 and was repeated several times. A video of the segment can be viewed at http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=y5iSPFbj6Zc. That segment and a video of just the song can be viewed at www.dividecreek.com.