Garfield proceeding with state hearing on drilling in Silt area, at least for now

Garfield County commissioners on Monday rejected an agreement Antero Resources had proposed to head off a state hearing over proposed natural gas well spacing near Silt.

However, commissioners called for their legal staff to continue negotiations aimed at settling the matter before the Jan. 13 hearing in front of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

County Commissioner Mike Samson also called on Antero to meet with area residents and other interested parties to try to work though concerns related to its drilling plans for the Silt Mesa and Peach Valley areas.

The county has intervened with the state commission over proposals by Antero to increase the allowable well density to one per 10 acres for two square-mile sections in those areas.

County officials are acting at the behest of some area residents who are concerned about the possible cumulative impacts of that much gas development.

Before Christmas, Antero sent the county a settlement offer under which, if the county dropped its intervention, the company would commit to practices including limiting drilling pads to four per square mile and locating them at least 500 feet from homes.

Antero officials told commissioners that the offer was good only through Monday and the company couldn’t postpone its well spacing applications because of contractual obligations. Company representatives couldn’t be reached for comment on the possibility of further negotiations occurring.

Samson said that with the holidays, commissioners didn’t have enough time to digest the offer and he wasn’t comfortable agreeing to it under the pressure of Monday’s deadline.

Several residents encouraged commissioners to stick to their plans to intervene.

Beth Strudley, whose family lives near the first well Antero drilled on Silt Mesa, said her well water now smells like rotten eggs, her family is being forced to haul water to their home, and her son began suffering from rashes and bloody noses after the drilling started.

“We need to get out of there because of my son’s health,” she said.

Jack Pretti said water rights need protection, and the state’s rewritten oil and gas rules should help do that.

Meanwhile, he said the rights of mineral owners also need to be protected, and that the jobs generated by energy development represent “probably the shortest path to economic recovery in Garfield County.”

Samson said he understands residents’ concerns about drilling on Silt Mesa, but that it’s going to occur regardless.

“There’s going to have to be some inconveniences and we’re going to have to work together,” he said.


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