GarCo: Gas rules not tough enough

Garfield County has told the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in a legal filing that its new rules “fail entirely” to address cumulative effects on the public of increasing the density of natural gas development.

The county lays out a litany of areas where it says the rules come up short in addressing not just disturbances and nuisances but also the “increased risk of accidents that result in exposures and other contamination” when the density of development increases.

“No agency, including the COGCC, can guarantee the Garfield County residents that exposures to oil and gas emissions will not produce illness or latent effects, including death,” the county said.

It cited the cases of three people — Chris Mobaldi, Verna Wilson and energy industry worker Jose Lara — who died after suffering from what they said were drilling-related maladies in the county.

The county makes its case in a document challenging applications by Antero Resources, which wants state regulators allow gas development of one well per 10 acres on square-mile sections on Silt Mesa and in Peach Valley north of Silt. The oil and gas commission is scheduled to hear the applications next month.

The document led Ken Wonstolen, an attorney representing Antero, to seek and obtain assurances during a recent oil and gas commission meeting that its staff would make a case countering the county’s assertions. He said it would be unfair for Antero to be left with the entire burden of defending the rules against such “wide-ranging attacks.”

“This, commissioners, is a fundamental indictment of your rules,” Wonstolen said during a commission meeting this past week.

The oil and gas commission in 2009 began implementing rewritten rules that were designed to provide more protections of public health and the environment.

But the county contends the rules fall short in areas such as:

Addressing the disturbances of well-pad lighting and truck traffic.

Establishing dust and volatile-organic-compound-emissions standards.

Protecting ground and surface water from contamination of the kind that has occurred in the county as a result of improper well construction and from spills, including recent ones from pipelines.

Requiring any inspections of well facilities and pipelines.

Establishing adequate company bonding and other financial assurances for cleanup projects.

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Director David Neslin said he couldn’t comment because the hearing on Antero’s applications is pending. Commission staff previously said they can adequately address cumulative effects on residents when considering permit applications for wells and pads.


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