Ex-official: Study suggests methane in water from rigs

The woman who was recently fired as Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison says an ongoing study is suggesting a link between natural gas development and methane in shallow groundwater south of Silt.

However, Judy Jordan said she hadn’t seen results indicating a definitive link as of the time of her departure.

In an interview, Jordan also expressed concerns that at times in her job, “It was kind of like the county really wasn’t being my boss, the industry was being my boss.”

She said the county could do more to regulate the industry, as other counties do, but instead comes across as being “beholden” to it.

Jordan said the reasons given for her recent firing were “amorphous and petty.”

“I’d rather not go into the details of that because it was so ridiculous,” she said.

County Commissioner John Martin said Friday that commissioners don’t get involved in personnel issues. County manager Ed Green couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

The county has been involved in a hydrogeological study involving drilling groundwater-monitoring wells south of Silt. It follows a previous study that led county geological consultant Geoffrey Thyne to conclude methane levels were increasing in domestic water wells in that area, apparently as a result of gas development. The industry challenged Thyne’s conclusions.

Jordan said a first round of testing from the new groundwater wells found methane that is thermogenic. That means it was created through heat, as is typical of gas produced from deeper underground by energy companies, rather than originating from shallower, biological processes.

Other hydrocarbons indicative of a thermogenic source also were found. However, Jordan said it’s possible the thermogenic substances are naturally occurring and not a result of drilling. She said she was awaiting further analytical results when she was fired.

Jordan also said new state oil and gas rules designed to better protect the public and environment turned out “much weaker” than draft ones. She said some drilling-area residents concerned about impacts complained to her that county commissioners cared about the industry, not them.

While she has high regard for some energy companies and officials, she said others sometimes would complain about her directly to commissioners, or challenge her for things such as speaking to the media without consulting the industry first.

Martin said Jordan’s job was to be neutral, and she was not to take orders from the industry, residents or environmentalists.

He said that to ensure fair decisions, he neither opposes nor favors oil and gas or any industry, and that oil and gas is regulated as an industrial operation by the county, as well as by the state and federal governments.

“We feel that we’re comfortable regulating in our capacity through our rules and regulations that we’ve had,” Martin said.

He said it would be up to the county administration to recommend whether Jordan should be replaced, but she filled a “valuable position,” and he hasn’t heard any talk of eliminating the job.


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