Board seeks fine for leak in pipeline

Oil and gas regulators are being asked to find Antero Resources in violation of six state rules in connection with a pipeline leak near Rifle, and to allow penalties above $10,000 per violation due to the severity of the situation.

Staff of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission are asking the commission to take the actions at its meeting in May.

The request comes in response to a leak discovered July 27, 2010, in a produced-water pipeline near a gravel pit owned by Doug and Dan Grant.

According to the notice of hearing on the matter, the leak prompted a complaint by the Grants about a groundwater seep of an oily, paraffin-like substance in a wall of the gravel pit, “which gave rise to a small surface stream in the bottom of the gravel pit.”

Commission staff contend the leak continued to contaminate groundwater and soil at least until Antero completed excavation of the contaminated area around Sept. 28 of last year.

By state law, commission rules allow for a fine of $1,000 a day per violation. The commission also caps fines per violation at $10,000 regardless of the number of days, with exceptions that include violations that result in a significant adverse impact to public health, safety, welfare and the environment. That’s something that commission staff believe occurred in the Antero case.

The leak came from a faulty pipeline weld. The Grants say the incident resulted in high benzene levels in groundwater.

The notice of hearing on the incident doesn’t include a recommended total fine amount. Antero vice president Alvyn Schopp said he expects Antero and the COGCC will seek to come to some kind of consent agreement resolving the matter.

He also said he expects the COGCC to put off any decisions on the matter until the end of this year, to allow for a full year of monitoring to confirm the cleanup efforts were a success.

Assuming the monitoring shows no problems, Schopp said, he doesn’t believe significant environmental damage occurred because the contamination was removed.

“It’s 100 percent cleaned up,” he said.

Denver-based Antero recently sold its holdings in western Colorado’s Piceance Basin to Ursa Resources and is focusing on drilling in the eastern United States.


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