GarCo oil/gas liaison re-evaluating limits

Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison has begun to re-evaluate her analysis of possible wildlife-related limits on natural gas drilling because of concerns raised by the energy industry.

Companies have taken issue with Judy Jordan’s conclusion that the state’s proposed seasonal limitations on drilling would have minimal effect on their operations in the county.

“She’s clearly wrong in her interpretation,” said Scot Donato of Bill Barrett Corp., one of several companies that laid out their concerns in a joint interview with The Daily Sentinel.

As part of a comprehensive rewriting of its rules, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is considering annual three-month restrictions on drilling to protect wildlife in certain areas. The commission is expected to deliberate the wildlife proposal in hearings this week.

The industry says seasonal shutdowns would result in job cuts and decreased tax revenue.

Jordan wrote in a memo to county commissioners that nearly 12,000 more wells on affected lands could still be drilled year-round in the county under the proposed rule. She said her analysis was based on an exemption that would allow one well pad for year-round drilling on every 320 acres, with an average of 12 wells being drilled directionally from each pad.

Industry representatives say the blanket analysis doesn’t account for on-the-ground realities. The factors include:

• Topographical challenges to well-pad placement;

•  Landowners opposed to pad placement on their land for directional drilling beneath adjacent properties;

•  Limitations of pipelines and other infrastructure, and;

•  An inability to directionally drill many wells from some pads because the angle would be too sharp to reach natural gas reserves in shallow underground locations.

Industry representatives object to Jordan reaching her conclusions without consulting them. Susan Alvillar,
spokeswoman for Williams Production RMT, said part of being a liaison is to work with industry and tap its expertise.

Jordan said she agreed to meet with the industry to hear its concerns at the request of Garfield County Commissioner Larry McCown because of industry pressure. But because she has heard from residents who say they also should have been able to provide input, Jordan is wondering whether the fairest thing would be to hold a public meeting on the matter.
She said her job is to advise county commissioners, not consult with industry. And she never intended her analysis to include all the factors that affect individual companies, she said.
Jordan is continuing to recalculate her estimate. So far, her analysis still indicates a lot of wells could be drilled year-round even with the restriction, she said.
“It still doesn’t show the whole industry getting wiped out,” Jordan said.


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