Silt-area drilling report contentious

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County commissioners want the state to take another look at their consultant’s concerns about the West Divide Creek natural gas seep as yet more drilling is being proposed in that area.

Commissioners decided to make the request last week after their oil and gas liaison, Judy Jordan, contended the state has been more interested in discrediting geologist Geoffrey Thyne and the county than working constructively with the county to resolve issues surrounding drilling in the area south of Silt.

Commissioners revisited the gas seep issue at the request of Lisa Bracken, who lives near the site of the seep, which was discovered in 2004. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission blamed gas in the creek on an EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. well. Gas continues to surface from that seep, but the state has let drilling resume in the area, and Bracken said EnCana wants to drill an estimated 10 new wells from a pad adjacent to the seep site.

Garfield commissioners declined Bracken’s request that they oppose state approval of those wells, but they asked the state to reconsider Thyne’s questions about drilling in the Divide Creek area.

Those include whether repairs to the EnCana well stopped the seep, and whether it was even limited to one well. Oil and gas commission staff say residual gas from the 2004 seep is just taking time to surface.

They also dispute Thyne’s contention that methane levels in domestic water wells south of Silt have been increasing, at least partly because of drilling.

In a memo to Garfield commissioners, Jordan said oil and gas commission staff “arranged for a multiparty attack,” including from the industry, on Thyne’s work at a state commission hearing last summer. Instead, state regulators should have met with Thyne and the county to discuss their differing views, Jordan said. Thyne’s analysis since has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, she said.

Dave Neslin, director of the oil and gas commission, said that rather than meeting behind closed doors, his agency held an open forum to hear from Thyne and other experts.

“I would characterize that as an appropriate public proceeding to evaluate this issue, not an organized attack,” he said.

He added, “We will consider any requests that the county makes for additional study or consideration.”

One request is to have the state look into 97 mostly older gas wells in the area with surface casing shallower than the 600 to 1,200 feet the state now requires in that area to protect domestic water aquifers.


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