Company increases drilling near Silt

A Denver energy company is proposing to expand on its drilling program between New Castle and Silt by putting in nearly 200 wells over four to seven years.

Orion Energy Partners has submitted a master development plan with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that would result in as many as 186 wells being drilled from six proposed and 10 existing well pads on Jolley Mesa, four miles southwest of New Castle.

Most of the well pads would be on private land. Twenty-three of the wells already have been drilled.

The mesa is just west of the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area, where Orion Energy also has begun drilling, to the consternation of the state Division of Wildlife, which doesn’t own the mineral rights beneath that area. The DOW has been concerned about the recent BLM leasing of crucial big-game habitat near the wildlife area and the Colorado River for oil and gas development.

DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said it’s too early to know where his agency stands on the new development plan, but that the DOW will be looking into it.

Orion’s proposal comes as a bit of good economic news from an energy company at a time when many oil and gas developers are cutting back their local drilling activity.

Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said Orion’s proposal sounds as if it could provide long-term employment and a welcome source of revenue at a time of concern about how drilling cutbacks will affect government tax streams. But he said it will be important to look at land use aspects of the proposal, and for Orion to “keep the safety
factors in line.”

In December, hundreds of feet of steel pipe being installed for Orion slid off Jolley Mesa, over a county road and into the Colorado River.

Orion’s proposal involves about 1,200 acres on public and private land with mineral rights granted by the federal government. Also part of the plan area are about 1,040 acres of private surface and mineral estates. The BLM has no authority over this acreage, but it is including it in the planning process so it can take a more comprehensive look at the impacts of the proposal, agency spokesman David Boyd said.

The BLM is accepting public comments as it begins an environmental assessment of the project. It asks that those comments be received by Feb. 16. The BLM plans to post more information under the oil and gas section of its Glenwood Springs Field Office Web site, http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/gsfo.html.


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