Misidentified photo spurs new probe into possible Roan Plateau violations
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” A photo released by an environmental group mistakenly identified a frozen waterfall as one that included waste liquids from gas drilling storage pits. The photo has spurred another investigation by the state.
The photo widely distributed by media, including The Associated Press, purportedly showed one of four large releases ” including one of more than 1.25 million gallons ” from pits operated by two companies on top of the Roan Plateau near Rifle.
Instead, the photo released by the Western Colorado Congress March 20 showed a waterfall that contained dirt and sediment from stormwater runoff from construction of a natural gas pipeline, not waste liquids.
The picture, taken during a flight over the 2.5-mile-long Garden Gulch site, looked similar to a photograph released earlier that was taken from the ground.
“Turns out we were within a quarter-mile and we took pictures of a spill that had not been reported,” Matt Sura said Wednesday.
Deb Frazier of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources said state regulators are investigating two possible violations based on the picture, including an apparent lack of fences to hem in dirt and sediment and a failure to report the incident.
Frazier didn’t immediately know the name of the construction company.
The investigation comes as the state is revamping oil and gas regulations. Industry officials have criticized the proposed rule changes as too stringent.
The commission says the spills from the waste pits occurred from November through February and drained into a gulch west of the Roan Plateau. The state hasn’t named the companies, but Marathon Oil and Berry Petroleum Co. have issued statements discussing their parts in the releases.
State officials said both companies are working to clean up the spills and address any damage.
The pits hold water, mud and additives used in drilling. State officials said the lining in the pits apparently failed.
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a limited-liability company has proper standing to sue the city of Aspen over its affordable-housing fees.