State rejects bid to delay energy work over water worries

State officials have rejected a resident’s request that they order an energy company to stop work on wells near her home south of Silt.

David Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, informed Lisa Bracken in an e-mail that an order delaying fracturing of drilled wells isn’t warranted.

Bracken wants the fracturing delayed until the state can consider implementing a new moratorium on oil and gas development in the area to protect water while the possible threat of contamination is evaluated.

The work was scheduled to begin on one well pad Monday, the same day Garfield County commissioners considered a request by Bracken that they seek a temporary court order to halt the fracturing. County attorney Don DeFord said commissioners decided they aren’t in a position to consider making that request until they hear back from a geological consultant who is evaluating Bracken’s concerns related to resumed drilling in the area.

Bracken and neighboring resident Jim Eubanks fear the fracturing, which involves cracking open underground formations to help gas flow, could result in gas contaminating ground and surface water.

The wells are in the area of the 2004 West Divide Creek gas seep, in which gas and benzene from an EnCana well appeared in the creek. EnCana resumed drilling in the area after the state lifted a previous moratorium there.

County commissioners recently agreed at Bracken’s request to seek another moratorium because she believes the new drilling is causing new seeps. But commissioners are holding off on asking for the moratorium until they hear from their consultant.

Neslin wrote that issues Bracken has raised surrounding proper cementing of well casing and loss of well control at EnCana operations in the area are separate from fracturing. He also said a new state requirement to monitor gas pressure in wells during fracturing “is sufficient to safeguard the aquifers” in the area.

EnCana and the state say tests have shown renewed drilling in the area isn’t contaminating well water.

Neslin wrote that it would be prudent to monitor water wells after the fracturing, and that EnCana has agreed to do more sampling then. However, Bracken and Eubanks also want water tests conducted to gather baseline data before fracturing starts.

EnCana declined to retest Eubanks’ well after having already tested it in January.


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