Gas industry critic sues over drilling pad

A Rulison resident who has been sharply critical of energy companies in recent years is taking action against one of them in court.

Marion Wells is suing energy giant Williams, contending it violated a surface-use agreement with her and has caused multiple damages to her property.

Wells has been a regular industry critic in the monthly meetings of the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board. That board consists of industry, citizen, government and other representatives and was formed in part with the goal of trying to resolve conflicts between residents and energy companies.

Its future role is up in the air after several companies said it has simply become a forum for vicious and unproductive attacks against them, and the industry and others have questioned its effectiveness as a conflict-resolving body.

Although Wells has contended companies have failed to respond to concerns she has raised before the board, she said the lawsuit has little connection to her frustrations regarding the board.

“For me those are two different issues. What the lawsuit covers is what my personal issues are,” she said.

The suit contends Williams built a larger-than-allowed drilling pad without obtaining Wells’ permission as required by the surface-use agreement, and that the company failed to comply with a requirement to remove construction materials and drilling waste. The lawsuit also says Williams didn’t do required reclamation, failed to pay her as agreed for surface damages for that part of a pipeline that was built outside a right of way, and released water from a pad, resulting in mud and rock descending 3,800 feet onto her property, causing flooding damages including a broken waterline.

Wells wants Williams ordered to remove unauthorized materials and waste, pay for flooding damages and cover costs related to the suit.

Williams spokeswoman Susan Alvillar said she couldn’t comment on the lawsuit’s allegations. But she said she sees it as a separate issue from the current concerns involving the Energy Advisory Board. She said Williams continues to believe the board isn’t the best way to resolve conflicts.

“We are very successful with working real-time, one on one, with people who have issues. We do it every day, and I have always said waiting doesn’t help anybody. And since EAB’s once a month, we do much better to spend our resources solving problems in real time,” she said.

She cited a recent case in which she said a resident complained about odors, and Williams was able to fix the problem within a day.

Wells said she filed her lawsuit after several years of discussion failed to reach a resolution.


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