State to appeal ruling against drilling near Rulison nuke site
State oil and gas regulators have decided to appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court after a lower court decided Garfield County landowners are entitled to a hearing over efforts to drill for natural gas near the Project Rulison underground nuclear blast site.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted 8-1 Thursday to take the matter to the high court. Commission member Tresi Houpt, also a Garfield County commissioner, voted against appealing.
The commission’s decision comes after the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the landowners June 24.
That ruling overturned a district court decision to dismiss a lawsuit against the state commission and EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc.
Plaintiffs Cary and Ruth Weldon and Wesley and Marcia Kent, along with the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Western Colorado Congress, contend that commission rules barring them from seeking a hearing over drilling permit approvals violate state laws.
The Weldons and Kents own property in the area of a 1969 nuclear blast carried out by the federal government south of Rulison in an unsuccessful experimental attempt to safely produce natural gas. Several companies have begun drilling in the area.
The closest well is just over a half-mile away; EnCana’s are about three miles away. Some residents worry the operations could create health dangers by tapping areas of radioactive contamination.
The commission said in a brief to the appeals court that requiring the types of hearings sought by the plaintiffs would overwhelm it.
The appeals court held that the commission director’s consideration of the plaintiffs’ concerns in lieu of a hearing was insufficient.