Abandon pipeline, rebuild road, firm ordered

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A pipeline being built by Noble Energy must be abandoned and a damaged roadway rebuilt under a decision made by Garfield County commissioners Monday.

The decision comes after Noble acknowledged what it said was poor performance by the contractor hired to build the pipeline along County Road 306 southwest of Battlement Mesa.

“We are displeased in the extreme with the efforts of the contractor enlisted,” and Noble has fired the contractor, Chad Williams, an attorney representing Noble, told commissioners.

County officials closed the road last week and suspended Noble’s construction permit after rain made the road unsafe and barely passable in the construction area. Noble’s permit had required that it keep one lane open.

Williams said Noble was ready to fix the problem immediately with the county’s blessing. But commissioners chose to go another route after the daughter of area landowner Muriel Dutton said Noble was trying to use the county to bypass contractual agreements with the family, and that Noble doesn’t have a legal right of way for the pipeline. Linda Dixon said the family deeded a right of way a half-century ago for a school bus route, but not a gas pipeline.

Nate Dutton, Muriel’s son, said much of the blame for the road problem lies with the county, not Noble. He said the county has handed over road projects to energy companies and failed to monitor them.

“We entrusted you guys to be stewards of the land, to look after the land for the landowners,” Dutton told commissioners.

After going behind closed doors to confer with their attorney, commissioners unanimously voted without comment to continue suspension of the county permit on the project, require abandonment of the pipeline and have the roadway restored by a third-party contractor under the county’s supervision. The work will have to be paid for by Noble or its bonding company.

County attorney Don DeFord said Noble had $100,000 and $5,000 bonds posted for the work.

Williams and a Noble representative declined comment after the commissioners’ decision. Dutton said that decision was the only possible outcome left to the county given the unresolved legal issues surrounding the project.


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