Commission takes up gas drilling at nuclear test site |

Commission takes up gas drilling at nuclear test site

Emily Anderson
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” An informational session on drilling into a nuclear test site 40 miles northeast of Grand Junction will take up most of a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission meeting Tuesday on the Western Slope.

Much of the meeting, which convened at 8 a.m. and is scheduled to adjourn at 4:30 p.m. at the old county courthouse will focus on the possibility of drilling on the Rulison nuclear test site on the north part of Battlement Mesa in western Colorado.

A 43-kiloton bomb was detonated at the bottom of an 8,426 foot shaft at the site in 1969, according to the Center for Land Use Interpretation. The Atomic Energy Commission and two private companies funded the experiment to see if the explosion would produce natural gas. It did, but the gas was too radioactive to sell.

Commission and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment staff, along with representatives from the Department of Energy, surface owners, and the oil and gas industry will present information at the meeting about what drilling on Rulison to extract natural gas would mean for the industry and the environment.

Rich Alward, the only Grand Junction resident on the commission, said he’s glad the committee is meeting close to the Rulison site so everyone involved in the meeting can get close to their discussion topic. Tuesday’s COGCC meeting is the only one held outside of Denver so far in 2007, aside from an August meeting in Longmont. The commission meets 10 or 11 times each year; typically about three of those meetings are held outside of Denver.

Alward also said this meeting “will probably be our first contentious meeting” since he first joined the commission in July, after two spots were added to the panel. The meeting will also be chock full of descriptions, scenarios and perspectives.

“We will definitely get inundated with information. Hopefully, it will be factual,” Alward said.

Alward, Tresi Houpt of Glenwood Springs, and Thomas Compton of Hesperus are all Western Slopers appointed to the commission by Gov. Bill Ritter in July. The three join existing Commissioner Kimberlee Gerhardt of Durango as West ern Slope residents on the commission.

Alward, Houpt and Compton’s appointments, along with those of new members, Michael Dowling of Denver, Joshua Epel of Greenwood Village and Aurora’s Mark Cutright, will need to be confirmed by the Colorado Senate next session for their four-year assignments to be solidified.