Texas firm to pay $138K over drilling violations

A Texas company has agreed to pay $138,000 in fines for stormwater and other violations at its former oil and gas operations in western Garfield County.

Last year’s citations by the state drew extra attention because the company involved, Presco, was one of those drilling in the vicinity of the Project Rulison nuclear blast site, and the company had sought to drill even closer to the site.

Presco sold its 11,000 acres of oil and gas interests in the area last year to Noble Energy, just days after Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff members inspected some of its wells. The state said it found numerous problems, including allowing runoff of water and produced water from drilling pits into a tributary of Battlement Creek, and having drums and sacks of chemicals floating in pits.

The commission issued citations against Presco in June 2007, after the sale to Noble had occurred.

Commission records show Presco hasn’t admitted to committing the violations but has agreed to pay the fines. The agreement with oil and gas commission staff is conditional on approval by the commission itself, which will consider it in January.

Tricia Beaver, the commission’s hearings manager, said the number of wells involved raised the level of the fine.

“What happened is, we had a complaint on one of them and then our folks went out and inspected all of the Presco sites and found some issues with the stormwater best management practices not having been implemented,” she said.

The penalties are based on maximum fines of $1,000 per day, per violation. The highest fine imposed in connection with any well, $48,000, involved eight violations lasting at least six days, the state says.

Project Rulison involved detonating a nuclear bomb thousands of feet underground in 1969 outside Rulison and Battlement Mesa in an experimental attempt by the federal government to free up natural gas reserves. Presco had sought approval to drill a well within a half-mile of the blast site, but later withdrew the request


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