Oil and Gas

State Senator Gail Schwartz will moderate a public hearing on Saturday, January 28, on the BLM’s proposal to lease some 30,000 acres of oil & gas mineral rights in the North Fork of the Gunnison valley.  The hearing will be held at the Hotchkiss High School  from 1:00 to 5:00 pm.  Representatives from the offices of US Sen. Mark Udall and US Sen. Michael Bennett will attend.

Testimony will be recorded and presented to BLM as part of the public record.  Here are some tips if you plan to make a statement in opposition to the lease sale:

  • Sign up begins at 12:30 pm.
  • Plan your statement so it fits in the 3 minute limit.
  • Begin your statement with “I am here today to ask the BLM to remove the 22 parcels from the August oil and gas lease sale”.
  • Make your most important points first in case you run out of time.
  • Be as specific as possible about your concerns.  If you have personal knowledge of an area, be sure to mention it.

If you can’t attend the hearing, visit the BLM’s website to submit your comments before the Feb. 9 deadline.

The meeting is organized by Citizens for a Healthy Community.


Drill rigGarfield County residents met Tuesday, June 17, in the new Rifle campus of the Colorado Mountain College to hear about the risks of living in the gaspatch.

Even though recent headlines stated, “No Health Crisis in GarCo,” researcher Teresa Coons of the Grand Junction-based Saccomanno Research Institute noted there may be certain trends that warrant additional attention.   Other presenters repeatedly pointed to elevated background levels of benzene, a known carcinogen.  Benzene and other volatilized organic compounds (VOCs) escape into the atmosphere at all stages of natural gas development, said Dr. Russ Walker, professor of Environmental Sciences at Mesa State College.

According to the speakers, more data was needed to reach definitive conclusions about the health risks of living in Garfield County.   “Maybe we didn’t collect enough data,” said Jim Rada, Garfield County Environmental Health Specialist.  The researchers suggested more data collection and sample sites, different sampling techniques, and sampling at well pads during all stages of the drilling process.

Members of the audience, which included concerned citizens and energy company representatives, asked Dr. Russ Walker if he would live in a house that had a drilling rig installed nearby.  He responded by saying that it depends, but he’d “seriously consider moving” if the operators did not use “green completion” techniques.

Dr. Teresa Coons, researcher for the Saccomanno Institute, and Mayor Pro-Tem of Grand Junction, recently  explained her findings during an interview with Colorado Public Radio.

The report didn’t cost tax payers anything.  The study was funded by the fees collected from EnCana for their responsibility with the Divide Creek seep.

Please consider writing a letter-to-the-editor in response to the article in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, “Drilling good for wildlife? Commissioners Meis, Rowland believe drilling helps the herds“.  While the Sentinel published its own, spot-on editorial (Out of the mouths of commissioners) on Meis’ comments, we need to reinforce the fact that reclamation is not happening in the gas patch. 

You can send a letter to the Sentinel at letters@gjds.com. Be sure to include your name, city and phone number, and keep your comments to 350 words.

On April 30, a US District Judge ruled against a request for a preliminary injunction against the US Forest Service’s and Bureau of Land Management’s approval of construction of the Bull Mountain Pipeline.

The pipeline would connect gasfields in the North Fork Valley (north of Paonia) with a main pipeline in the Interstate 70 corridor. It includes an eight-mile stretch through three separate national forest roadless areas.

Because bulldozers could start rolling within days to clear the pipeline route, WCC and a coalition of conservation groups have filed an appeal to the judge’s decision with the Tenth Circuit Court, again requesting a preliminary injunction.  Without the injunction, the pipeline route could be cleared while WCC and its allies wait for the judge to decide on our lawsuit, doing irreparable harm to the roadless areas.

Earthjustice filed our lawsuit in federal district court on March 5 challenging the Forest Service and BLM on their approval of this 25-mile natural gas pipeline.  The lawsuit argues that the agencies’ approval violates the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule by allowing a de facto road to be built through three national forest roadless areas. It also asserts that the agencies failed to consider the impacts of hundreds of additional gas wells that would be made possible by the new pipeline capacity.

On April 17th our Earthjustice lawyer, Robin Cooley, argued our request for a preliminary injunction before U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn in Denver.  In denying our request, Blackburn said that in order to win an injunction, we must show that we are likely to win our overall lawsuit.  He concluded that our case was not strong enough to merit the injunction.

Western Slope Environmental Resource Council (a WCC affiliate serving Delta County and western Gunnison County) and High Country Citizens Alliance (based in Crested Butte and covering Gunnison County) are the local citizens’ groups joining with WCC in the lawsuit.

Pitkin County also joined the lawsuit as officials there fear construction of the pipeline could lead to the drilling of gas wells in the western part of the county near Carbondale. No new wells have been drilled in the county over the last few years, but thousands of acres of public land have been leased to gas companies.

Black Mountain evaporation pitsAs the last day of the Colorado legislature came to an end yesterday, Representative Bernie Buescher and Senator Josh Penry helped push through important legislation for Mesa County citizens.  House Bill 1414, increases protection for communities that are effected by evaporative waste pits. Waste pits are created by the oil and gas industry when they need to dispose of toxic waste generated by the production of natural gas. 

The increase in oil and gas production has effected towns like DeBeque – a small, economically depressed town on the edge of Mesa County.  DeBeque residents have lived with a large waste pit (Black Mountain) in their community for years.  When two proposals for additional waste facilities hit the drawing board in the last year, residents fought back and avoided having their close knit community become an industrial wasteland.

DeBeque has been targeted by the industry as a waste dump because of the easy interstate access the town provides.  DeBeque also sits in the middle of two Colorado Counties that are seeing increased production: Garfield County is the epicenter of western Colorado oil and gas activity.  With BLM lands being leased all over the County, including inside the town of Palisade and Grand Junction watersheds, Mesa County is sure to see more activity in the coming years.

Thanks to Representative Buescher and Senator Penry for their leadership on this important human health and environmental issue. 

Drill rigs do not make good neighborsCheck out this recent segment done by the BBC on the health effects of gas drilling in Garfield County, “a bucolic corner of the Rocky Mountains.”

Rick Roles, who has 19 wells on his property all within 300 yds of his house, points to blood tests as evidence that he’s being poisoned.  “I’m positive for benzene, toluene.  These aren’t substances that should be in your body.  These should be in the gasoline in the tank of your car.”

Rapid and careless oil and gas development in Colorado is hurting wildlife, water quality and the health of people who live in the gas patch.  New draft rules would protect our environment and human health in new ways.  Government officials need to hear that we support the draft rules and want them to be even stronger. 

WCC and two of our member groups have filed for party-status for the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC’s) rule-making hearing scheduled from June 23 – 27.  We will be represented by Western Resource Advocates and Earthjustice.  Being a party to the rulemaking gives us the legal right to present testimony and expert witnesses and cross-examine other witnesses. 

However, you — as an individual citizen — can submit your own comments on the draft rulesComments must be sent by May 29 to Dave Neslin, Acting Director, COGCC, 1120 Lincoln Street, Suite 801, Denver CO 80203 or to dnr.ogcc@state.co.us