EnCana requests end moratorium on drilling
EnCana Oil and Gas USA is asking the state to lift a moratorium on natural gas drilling within a two-mile radius of a natural gas seep in West Divide Creek south of Silt.The company filed an application with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Dec. 27 in order to begin drilling in the moratorium area. Bill Barrett Corp. won the commission’s permission to drill 20 gas wells in the area in July. The commission established the moratorium in 2004 after gas from an EnCana well seeped into West Divide Creek. Barrett asked the commission in July for permission to drill wells in two areas just inside the edge of the moratorium area. The moratorium remains in effect for the rest of the area for all energy developers. The commission decided last summer that stricter drilling regulations in the Mamm Creek Field have limited the chance of another seep occurring. EnCana sent a letter to West Divide Creek residents on Tuesday informing them that the company believes it has met the remediation criteria established in the moratorium order, allowing the commission to lift the moratorium. Company spokesman Doug Hock said in an e-mail Thursday that the remediation involved taking water samples from 28 domestic water wells, two irrigation wells, four ponds, three springs, three creeks and 27 groundwater monitoring wells along West Divide Creek. The monitoring, he said, indicates that the migration of the gas plume beneath the seep has been effectively stopped and contained within an area of approximately one-half-acre. EnCana is also using an air convection system to remove benzene from the groundwater in the plume area. “Monitoring indicates no contamination of residential water sources as a result of the seep,” Hock said. “We will continue to run this remediation system for as long as necessary. We will also continue to implement groundwater surface sampling within a half-mile of all drilling locations” in the Mamm Creek Field.The Oil and Gas Conservation Commission plans to hold a hearing on the matter on either Feb. 13 or 14 in Denver at commission’s headquarters. Tricia Beaver, the commission’s hearings manager, said Thursday the exact date for the hearing will not be set until late this month.Hock said EnCana waited until now to submit the application in order to give Garfield County time to complete its hydrogeological study of the area, which he said is complete and expected to be submitted to the county and Oil and Gas Conservation Commission this month. The study’s status could not be confirmed Thursday, but Beaver said she doesn’t know if it is complete and it is not likely in its final form. Duke Cox, president of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, said it doesn’t surprise him that EnCana would want to lift the moratorium.”They’ve got a lot of contracts over there to drill,” he said. “I would like to see the county’s hydrogeological study evaluated prior to any lifting of the moratorium.”Cox said he believes it is inevitable that the moratorium will be lifted. “If in fact the hydrogeological study indicates that proper safeguards are in place, we’ll take a wait-and-see attitude on how it shakes out,” he said. “Our primary concern is that the hydrogeological study is done and that the proper safeguards are put in place” to prevent a seep from occurring again.
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Colorado’s Western Slope is considered a climate hot spot where temperatures are increasing faster than the global average. This warming has contributed to more than 20 years of dryness, which scientists are calling a megadrought.