|Week Ten November 26 - December 02|
The rig on the Schwartz site is being replaced. [12-01-07]
Entry - 11-30-07
Stakeholder Relations called this week and reported no changes.
On November 30, they called to say a rig move was in progress.
We learned, through filing a
complaint with the COGCC regarding the 'gunky eye' issue (Canary
Watch), that the rig is
apparently having problems and is being replaced. Whether this is due to
mechanical issues or technical drilling difficulties is beyond my knowledge. The neighbor's
observations a few weeks ago about EnCana seeming to have problems with the rig
suddenly make sense, but perhaps Stakeholder Relations doesn't get very
good updates either.
|Entry - 11-27-07
Aspects of the report, prepared for EnCana Oil and Gas (USA) Inc. by Cordilleran Compliance Services, Inc. are quoted as follows:
While we appreciate EnCana volunteering to sample the site, once our concerns were raised and we had waited a significant period of time to determine that the bubbling was in fact present and increasing; and, while we were grateful that the information was shared; and, while the results were not surprising given that similar conclusions were reached during previous sampling of the previously built pond in 2004, we are disappointed that the line of inquiry ends here. And we feel this way for a number of reasons:
1) The bubbling is not normal activity, despite the assurances that the environment is conducive to it, and despite the claim by those who have never lived here that the natural gas seeps have been "known in the area for many years.". We've never noticed any bubbling - let alone to this degree in the ponds before. And the Turkey Point pond is many years old.
2) The bubbling occurs only in localized regions of one pond - despite assurances that the silt was described in the report as 13-20 inches deep (13" in one location - 20" in the other) and "highly organic". The bubbling is also some distance from the dam - despite assurances that the "highly organic" sediments build up behind the dam. Further, it is decomposition of organic matter which is cited as the cause of the bubbling. While the gas may in fact be biogenic now - did it originate as such? The pond was created this spring and there is submerged vegetation in shallower areas throughout the meadow complex, yet - once again - the bubbling is quite localized.
3) These dams are in the middle of the streambed and experience a relatively high flow rate of water. They are not stagnant. The "Langegger 2 pond" noted on the soil gas survey document referenced below is separated from the stream bed by a road, and can therefore be expected to experience less flow.
4) There is no odor accompanying this significant rate of gas expression. In areas where there is a great deal of organic decomposition - that is, sufficient to produce the observed level of relatively intense bubbling - there is typically an associated unpleasant odor.
5) Interestingly, according to the soil gas survey conducted in the fall of 2004, an area just to the South-East and perhaps only 50 yards away from our pond, was a site of "detected hydrocarbons". And this area (another pond, noted as the "Langegger 2" pond / see COGCC document no. 01489021) in the soil survey was the only other area with detected hydrocarbons within a mile radius. Is it possible that the biogenic methane which has suddenly appeared, is following formerly established pathways of thermogenic (that is, formation sourced) gas, which is surfacing at a slow enough rate to allow metabolism by a bacterial presence? It is interesting that, according to EnCana's subcontracted data, there was, at one time, detected hydrocarbons nearby. (I am waiting to learn whether the hydrocarbons detected were analyzed as biogenic or thermogenic, or whether the contractor, retained by EnCana in a process approved by the COGCC was only tasked with detecting gross methane - that is, methane in general.) There are doubtless a great many variables associated with this type of biologic activity and therefore, many factors which influence it. Yet, more reasons why, if EnCana and the COGCC were, in 2004, interested in determining the extent of the seep additional testing would have been conducted to determine the origin of the soil gases.
6) Why has activity increased and continues to increase as the weather cools? This type of activity should be expected to increase as the weather warms.
7) The bubbling appears to be under pressure, and is venting with relatively predictable regularity, in a consistent location - all this, given the soft and light nature of the silty bottom and opportunity for the gas to migrate within the extremely loose and water-saturated soil structure.
8) The bubbling has appeared coincident with a 'shut-in' of the Schwartz well found to have been responsible for the seep in 2004. This raises the question of re-pressurization. Further, the bubbling has appeared coincident with renewed drilling from a pad shared with the Schwartz well found responsible for the '04 seep. Could one or both of these activities be contributing to the bubbling detected this year?
9) Our suspicions also include the inexact nature of methane analysis - which EnCana used as a defense in the COGCC seep hearings of 2004. How is it that, in their defense, conclusions are inexact. But, in sampling our pond the same methods produce dependable results?
After observing the new bubbling activity first-hand, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission had expressed an in interest in sampling the area. Because I had not heard from them since, I sent an e-mail letting them know that EnCana's sampling results had come in, and reminding them of their former interest in sampling.
The methane has been deemed purely biogenic; and, I'm not necessarily disinclined to believe those results, though I acknowledge the possibility of conflicts of interest among a contracted service provider. Further, I observed the collection effort and feel it was conducted quite well, so I must trust the results of these conclusive efforts. However, if it is biogenic, then our question is: What is causing it? Conducive environmental conditions seem insufficient to account for the level of regularity associated with its expression (relatively vigorous - compared to historic observations - and predictable). Further, consistent environmental conditions seem counter to producing the kind of irregularity observed in some of the observable characteristics of the venting gas (localized, appearing to be under pressure, increasing).
Science is great. I love science. I love physics, chemistry, biology and geology - you name it. This particular situation represents micro-biochemistry - a specific subset of a much broader embrace of two different, though complimentary, scientific disciplines (that is, biology and chemistry). To further complicate the scenario is the implication of geology and hydrology, together with the introduction of industrial activity and its potential disruption to these environs which could result in producing understudied anomalous phenomena.
Science is similar to a computer in that it will only do what you tell it to do. Under ideal and controlled conditions, with all variables accounted for, science is still subject to presumption, which is the foundation of hypothesis and, of course, eventual conclusion. Although science is what science is, our ability to recognize it in its totality is highly subjective. To complicate things further, toss motive into the mix - that is, a desired (or perhaps required) conclusion in order to support a certain activity. In some cases, like, for instance, in pharmaceutical studies or in other areas where policy is dependent on scientific claim, there exists the potential for a less than objective effort.
In the process of pursuing scientific conclusion, all manner of controls can be imposed, including scope, timing, methodology, and a reluctance to recognize what could otherwise be considered relevant factors.
If one can't contain the conclusion, then one can contain the approach, relying on insufficient yet, in and of itself, supportive data to base a claim.
Liz Chandler, President of the Grand Valley Citizen Alliance, put it succinctly in a recent Glenwood Post article which revealed the notorious difficulty in linking health ailments to natural gas air-polluting activities: "My answer is the absence of proof is not the proof of absence."
It appears to us that EnCana, and the COGCC who seem willing to accept the results of EnCana's sampling, are 1) placing a great deal of faith in their own presumptions, 2) relying on a broad and dated geologic subsurface survey (which should be presumed to have altered since the Arbaney kick in '04), and 3) generally dismissing other aspects of relative circumstances in order to produce one answer to one question. Producing one answer to one question is in fact, good science. The more narrowly you can define outlying influential parameters, the better. However, turning one's back on the questions which arise from that single and narrowly defined line of inquiry when its resultant conclusions don't quite fit together with other obvious influences, is bad science. Well, it's bad form, at least. Perhaps selective science is a better description. The same thing happens with statistics - which are basically used to support one position or another and can be extrapolated and framed in a way which disregards certain relevant data. The problem is, this kind of selective use of data has the potential of rendering the resultant quantifying study essentially useless.
Anything can be argued. Anything can be framed and packaged. And, since 2004, it's our opinion that the scientific scope of inquiry around the seep event was and continues to be neatly packaged.
This is evident to us due in large part to the evident disregard of our honest observations based on 20 years of living on this land. There also appears to be selective recognition of anomalous surface characteristics. This suggests that, of the science undertaken, the results may be sound, but is the science sufficient to draw any conclusions beyond the obvious. The scope of inquiry seems incomplete and disproportionate to the level of damage which has occurred and that which a reasonable person could suspect may once again be manifesting. A great deal of effort has certainly gone into ascertaining the obvious. But is there a will to ascertain the whole truth? It doesn't appear so.
To review a pictoral/text
timeline of events from January 07, 2007 through the seep to current,
please click here.
At the urging of one public official, I called the COGCC to again remind them of their interest in sampling the pond. Because I am not necessarily disinclined to believe the results from Cordilleran, and I do not want to waste state resources, I encouraged the COGCC staff specialist to determine whether he saw a compelling need. Both the state and EnCana sampled the old beaver pond in 2004 and all results showed biogenic activity. That is why I don't know that we need more sampling from the same sources, using the same techniques. Can we reasonably expect anything different, particularly when the surface characteristics are so similar? Once again, I think the investigation should move beyond the obvious and look at the broader picture.
The beaver ponds now rest under a layer of ice. It will be difficult to detect any bubbling until Spring - or perhaps January thaw. Chalk one up for industry - they just scored a pretty fat reprieve. Out of site out of mind - at least for most... at least for now. [12-04-07]
In The News
Note: The summary below each headline and corresponding date is my own account of the referenced article (strong editorial license included). Each article is, of course, recommended reading... if you're coming to this posting late, the Post Independent has an archive search feature.
In the Grand Junction Sentinel...
Energy effects could drive people from area if
left unmitigated, new study says
My summary of the article follows: This article examines some of the impacts of the energy industry on regional county economies. The consultant says that Garfield County 's newly diversified economy is in a better position to absorb the effects of an energy bust. I have to disagree.
Twenty plus years ago oil shale pulled out of the area and deflated a lot of investor's anticipated wealth. The area languished in a state of semi-rigor - as if in some kind of commercial vacuum along, surprisingly, one of the most undervalued commercial corridors in the country - the Colorado River valley corridor - and only gradually becoming an area of outside interest in the early to mid nineties. The diversification that I've seen over the past 20 years has become primarily one based on tourism and relocations from California (where a homebuyer sells a place in CA, and buys or builds an upscale property here, investing the surplus in a portfolio and/or maybe developing a business.)
Construction and local services relative to immigration from other areas of the U.S. took off. Gradually, as housing prices rose, agriculture gave way to development and we began to see an economy based on tourism. Then, kablam - a left hook out of right field, and we open a swollen eye to the energy industry sniffing around again. Why? Mostly because of congressional mandate forcing manufacturing plants to switch from coal to natural gas... and of course a new national energy policy friendly to and supporting industry. Lobbyists, politicians, policy... and the rigs began rolling in. With the speculative exploration and extraction came gas field workers from Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming - and BOOM baby - you got your man-camps! Housing prices soared and banks began laying brick.
The reason for the new and sudden influx of people to the region is because they followed the money trail of industry through the passes and right onto the county roads. It's the food chain. And who's pushing the cash cart? Industry. All these folks who are dishing up plates of hash, pulling the tap and fixing the motors of diesel fleets are here because of the other fish who follow the reef sharks. When the sharks move on, guess who goes with them.
Why is it consultants are always required to demonstrate the on switch in a dark room? If our local politicians had read "Boomtown Blues" by Andrew Gulliford, like I had, or even listened a tiny bit to what I warned of in my letter to the editor (the one that changed the word count policy of the Post five years ago), they could have reasonably foreseen the threat the energy industry poses to socio-economic stability. As usual, it takes a "study" for anyone to be able to say with any authority what an average person, with a little bit of common sense and facts to back it up, can tell them for free. Go figure. By the time all the studies are finally commissioned and take place, the results are obsolete - and there's a whole new load of crap to shift through. Where, pray, is the logic in that? Or, is it simply structured ignorance?
So, anyway, the consultant says - and I do agree with this observation - that he wonders how a booming energy industry and other businesses can or will coexist. In the article, Walt Hecox, an economic professor with Colorado College notes that "sudden spurts of growth strain infrastructure and damage social as well as environmental fabrics of sensitive rural regions. " I bet who ever paid for that study could have just picked up the phone and asked this guy for his opinion, and he would have happily shared it. Where is the common sense? Where?
In the Grand Junction Sentinel...
Gas panelists lack expertise
My summary of the article follows:
In this article, Mesa County Commissioner and owner of Cordilleran Compliance Services (which is contracted to sample the West Divide Creek Gas Seep) Craig Meis, took exception to Gov. Ritter's appointment of new and more commissioners to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission saying that he felt they lacked the "required expertise to make proper decisions regarding the oil and gas industry." He cited an instance where he felt a well was left improperly plugged, and generally expressed his believe that the previous COGCC commission (composed almost entirely of industry insiders) did not pose a conflict of interest. This belief is counter to outcry from the public that in fact, the industry was represented to the exclusion of other valid interests, such as those voiced with regard to landowner rights, public health and safety and environmental integrity..
Evan Dreyer, spokesman for Gov. Ritter, countered that claim noting that expertise is a legislative requirement in filling the commission, and further noting Governor Ritter's commitment to the benefit of diverse experience and viewpoints. The spokesman added: “We are experiencing an energy boom. Our energy resources are very valuable and can lead us to energy independence, but we can’t get there at the expense of other resources, including our environment, our water, our air quality. The key to how we develop our energy resources is balance; that is the long-term goal.”
Mr. Meis cites the allowance of un-plugged well as an example of the commission's lack of expertise; and, I wonder why the well was left unplugged. Is the board ignorant of the need to properly reclaim a well, or were there sound and complex reasons for their decision? I suspect there is more to this story than is being revealed.
I appreciate the Governor's commitment and find Mr. Meis' view of conflict of interest compelling. You know the old saying, "it takes one to know one"? Maybe the same could be said for those who don't recognize similar circumstances in others because they cannot or will not see the same in themselves.
Entry - 11-27-07
Today an immature bald eagle soared out of Summerhawk and over-head, circling around our home before flying south on a prevailing wind current. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera on-hand when it did, and rather than haul-butt to grab it, I stood still and simply listened.
This event holds very significant meaning since we have not seen eagles here in a long while. In fact, not since I saw the eagle below (see photo). By the way, I wrote the piece associated with the eagle photo below before I saw the juvenile eagle this week.
Regarding the photo below: I have had (since I took this picture in December of 2005) a printed copy of it taped to a shelf near my computer lest I forget the impacts of this industry upon those with no voice. And I've been digging around looking for the original digital photo for a long time, but could never find it. I wanted to post it on this website. This past week we had a researcher up to spend a few days and I removed the picture to show it to them. I left the photo on the kitchen table and did not re-hang it (got busy). Within two days the original surfaced. A reminder not to forget. To pay closer attention. Then, a few days later, the eagle circled our home. Another message.
Eagles play a significant role in our spirituality and played a direct role in the ceremony performed on behalf of my father, Blackcloud, upon his transition to the spirit world. In fact, I had a vision prior to his passing of an elder placing the tip of an eagle feather upon his chest at the moment of his transition.
The spirit of the eagle is speaking to me in the way that animals do - when we settle ourselves and choose to listen to them.
Click here or on the photo
below to see a larger image and learn more
of the eagle's message.
|"Ethical axioms are found and tested not very differently
from the axioms of science. Truth is what stands the test of experience."
-- Albert Einstein
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otherwise noted are copyrighted by Lisa Bracken, 2007. All rights are