DAILY SENTINEL 9-18-18 Debate in local gas patch

Sep 18, 2018

Debate in local gas patch

Oil, gas panel meets with opponents of Jordan Cove



Original article:


Several simmering local, state and interstate controversies involving oil and gas development were aired out Monday in western Garfield County as the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission met in Rifle and opponents of local drilling projects and the proposed Jordan Cove gas export terminal in Oregon visited the county's gas patch.

Glenwood Springs resident Cheryl Brandon told the state's oil and gas regulators that she moved from Battlement Mesa "with a lot of sadness" after seeing drilling impacts that included nearly impossible-to-remove pollutants coating her windows and floors.

"This sweet little community has been damaged, taken advantage of and frightened by money-hungry and shameful individuals," she said.

Francis Eatherington, who lives along the route proposed for a pipeline project in Oregon that would support the Jordan Cove plant, told the state commissioners not to expect extra gas produced in Colorado to get an eventual new outlet to Asian markets from the Jordan Cove project.

"You should know that we plan to stop that Jordan Cove project. It's not going to happen, so you will not be able to export that gas as you'd hoped," she said.

A couple of Oregon Jordan Cove opponents visited Colorado on Sunday and Monday to meet with critics of oil and gas development in the North Fork Valley and Battlement Mesa area. The group plans to head to Oregon today to talk to residents there opposed to the pipeline and export project.

State regulators also heard Monday from numerous industry representatives who cited the job and tax-revenue benefits of oil and gas development and what they said is extensive  regulation of it in Colorado to protect the public and environment. Chris Clark of Laramie Energy cited those regulations while noting he lives on a property with one well pad on it and one 500 feet from his home.

"I feel safe about raising my family and bringing them up" there, he said.

Derek Davis, with CEO Operating in Rifle, which provides oil and gas production services, said energy companies "are going to drill somewhere. It may as well be here where we can watch it and make sure it's done correctly."

The state commission's meeting was one of a couple it schedules each year in areas of the state other than Denver. Its Denver meetings recently have been characterized by extensive public comment from Front Range residents concerned about drilling increasingly encroaching on residential areas.

In Rifle, the comments centered in good part on the drilling that has been occurring around and within Battlement Mesa, an unincorporated community of several thousand people in western Garfield County.

Leslie Robinson with the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance told the commission about some 300 proposed and developed wells within a two-mile radius of Battlement, a number she noted doesn't include tank farms, pipelines and other support infrastructure.

"What are you trying to do to those people?" she asked the commission, adding that the agency doesn't care about the cumulative effects of drilling in the area.

"Obviously you only care about the industry's bottom line," she said.

"What can the citizens of Battlement Mesa do to try protect their quality of life?" Dave Devanney of Battlement Concerned Citizens asked the commission.

He then asked after a pause, "Any response?"

Oil and gas commissioners listened attentively but didn't respond to comments offered Monday.

John Doose, a landman for Ursa Resources, which has been drilling inside Battlement Mesa, told the commission he has worked hard to listen to residents. He also disputed an allegation from a resident that drilling has driven down property tax revenues in Battlement Mesa.

And he added, "The oil and gas industry has been very good to western Colorado. You can see that with our low taxes. It's very important."

Jeramy Stehman, area manager for Red Deer Ironworks USA in Fruita — which makes, tests, sells and services high-pressure well fracturing and flowback equipment — said working in oil and gas means he earns enough that his wife is able to stay home to raise and homeschool their children.

"The wages in other industries just don't even compare to the cost of living and housing over here," he said.

Glade Park resident Mark Mayo said it's important to remember that people who work in oil and gas like him "are your friends and neighbors," serving in capacities such as hospital boards, and in his case having coached youth sports and been a 4-H leader.

He said he believes the industry can act "in a responsible and safe manner."

Others dispute that idea, with at least one Front Range resident on Monday warning the oil and gas commission that residents would approve Proposition 112, the fall ballot measure requiring a minimum 2,500-foot setback between drilling and homes, waterways and other resources, because of the commission's failure to listen to their concerns.

Meeting separately in Glenwood Springs on Monday morning, Garfield County commissioners approved a resolution opposing the measure.

"In my opinion this is a gun to our head," said Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, citing an oil and gas group estimate that it would effectively prevent drilling on more than 99 percent of private land in the county.

He said the measure would send the Parachute and Rifle areas back into a recession and gut the tax bases of governmental jurisdictions from the county to local fire and hospital districts.

Some Battlement Mesa residents point to what they say are the perils of allowing drilling too close to homes. Larry Forman told state regulators his house is 800 feet from a well pad and he dealt with noise and odors during drilling and fracking, with the odors still continuing after those operations ended.

"The residents of Battlement Mesa deserve a better deal," he said.

Garfield County public health officials have been doing air-quality monitoring around the Ursa Battlement Mesa drilling sites and so far, including in results released Monday, the county has been reporting pollutant emissions within acceptable health levels.

But residents such as Devanney question the methodology of that monitoring, given what residents are experiencing.

Some North Fork Valley residents attended Monday's state oil and gas commission hearing and later in the day joined Jordan Cove opponents from Oregon in touring oil and gas facilities in Battlement Mesa to hear more about local residents' concerns. The visit also included an overflight of the gas patch. Activists in the North Fork Valley have opposed energy companies' drilling plans and federal oil and gas leasing proposals there, and now are hoping to team up with Garfield County activists and those in Oregon to work together to oppose Jordan Cove, both where some of the project's gas could be drilled in Colorado, and where the pipeline and export facility would be built in Oregon.

Paonia resident Lesandre Holiday told the oil and gas commission that people in Oregon are hearing that everyone in Colorado wants gas extraction, and people in Colorado are hearing Oregon wants the export project, when that's apparently not the case.

She said drilling it here and shipping it to Asia doesn't seem like it will leave much money for communities.

"But we're going to be left with those externalities (drilling impacts), and our children and our grandchildren are going to be left with those externalities," she said.

Eatherington said landowners such as herself aren't willing to give up their land for the project, meaning those behind it will have to pursue the land through eminent domain.

Stuart Taylor, a Jordan Cove LNG official who visited Grand Junction last week, said in an interview then that the goal is to have landowner agreements covering 80 percent of the pipeline mileage by the end of the year.

Jordan Cove opponent and Oregon resident Alex Budd seemed to appreciate the chance to see local oil and gas operations up close Monday and hear from residents.

"I knew there was drilling out here," said Budd, who grew up outside Boulder. “But it means a lot more and it really hits home if you're meeting people and hearing individual stories."