State steps into well-road dispute between Encana, Rifle-area man

A Rifle-area man says he is surprised and pleased that state oil and gas regulators have cited Encana USA for alleged stormwater violations in connection with an access road to a well pad.

Thomas Thompson said the notice of alleged violation issued by Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff is a rare instance of the agency being willing to accept jurisdiction regarding energy development issues near his home in the Porcupine Creek area.

“That will be one of the very few times that the oil and gas commission has actually done anything,” he said.

Thompson and Encana have been embroiled in litigation over the access road. He also says fumes, dust and other impacts from area operations by Encana are causing him and his wife to be ill.

Heavy runoff from Porcupine Creek damaged the well access road across Thompson’s property in 2011.

According to a suit filed by Encana, Thompson repeatedly sought to prevent the company’s attempts to make repairs to the road, in violation of a surface use agreement.

A judge has granted a preliminary injunction barring Thompson from interfering with Encana’s operations in areas covered under the agreement.

Thompson has countersued. He contends the agreement doesn’t allow Encana to take actions such as building what he says is an inadequate culvert that has exacerbated flooding problems on his property.

The state citation says an inspector found evidence of erosion on the road and culvert, including stormwater running down the roadway and overflow creek channels that cross the road.

Encana spokesman Doug Hock said “water did breach some of our stormwater controls on this road,” and the company is addressing the issue as required by the citation.

Thompson says the home his wife and he bought as a dream retirement spot has turned into a nightmare between the drainage problem and air pollution that has caused them to suffer nosebleeds, headaches, upper-respiratory ailments and other health problems.

His suit initially made claims related to the health concerns, but he recently dropped those claims, leaving only the stormwater/road issues still to be resolved in court.

“He withdrew (the health-related claims). I think that kind of speaks for itself,” Hock said.

Thompson said he knows Encana’s operations are harming his health, but proving that legally would be highly expensive because of the amount of court time and expert witness testimony that would be required.

Hock said Encana always tries to mitigate air and water impacts and also has environmental regulations it must follow.


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