Drilling lawsuit delays talks between Antero Resources, Silt Mesa residents

Citing a recently filed lawsuit, Antero Resources has decided to delay discussions with residents about reducing impacts of planned drilling in the Silt Mesa and Peach Valley areas of Garfield County.

The company also scrapped a plan to potentially drill one more well from a Silt Mesa location this year. In an email to residents, county commissioners and others, Antero Vice President of Production Kevin Kilstrom said the company anticipates providing an update at an annual Silt-area public meeting early next year, including about “the potential for resuming a series of discussions on relevant topics regarding a drilling program on Silt Mesa.”

Silt Mesa resident Fiona Lloyd said that while the postponed drilling might be a small victory, drilling there is inevitable if natural gas prices rise enough, and a year’s worth of negotiations is being lost.

“It’s just the same fight. We’re going to have it all over again,” she said.

Antero began drilling on Silt Mesa and in Peach Valley last year. The company sought approval of 10-acre well density for two, square-mile sections there from the state.

The county initially opposed the request, citing concerns about the possible cumulative health and other impacts of that much gas development on residents there. County commissioners dropped the opposition in February after Antero backed off the request for the time being and agreed to conduct meetings with resident over the next 18 months.

In late March, Bill and Beth Strudley of Silt Mesa sued Antero, claiming their family suffered ill health effects from Antero’s previous drilling there.

Kilstrom declined to comment beyond his email, in which he said the delay in public meetings is “prudent” because of the recent litigation.

The Strudleys are being represented by one of two New York City law firms that also are speaking with other residents in Garfield County about possible lawsuits, including in Battlement Mesa, where Antero plans to drill up to 200 wells.

Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said dealing with companies such as Antero in the courtroom rather than through regulatory venues is an option residents have.

“It’s all part of the process,” he said, although he added he doesn’t encourage that approach.

Lloyd said she believes the Strudleys’ suit is “completely valid.” She said discussions ended because for Antero to talk about steps to reduce impacts would be to concede that “we need protection and we haven’t had it, and as a consequence the Strudley family is sick.”


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