|Week Forty-Six August 04 - August 10|
|Entry - 08-10-08
|Day 43 of new seep and still no interest from COGCC in identifying gas emanating from black seep area. Nor the white corrosive-appearing substance Nor has there been any interest in testing the ground water. Thanks for protecting the public there, folks, we sure appreciate it.|
Entry - 08-05-08
We've mailed out letters, now all we can do is wait. We hope the COGCC will see the wisdom in testing the groundwater, as we draw our drinking water from there. If not the state, then our last hope is the county. Ground water contamination is becoming widespread in the region due to poor drilling practices and we don't want to be the next victims - again. We're doing all we can to help defend our health and the sanctity of the environment, but it is an uphill battle, such that I cannot even describe.
It's like an ant trying to roll a boulder uphill - it isn't about whether you'll push it to the top - it's how badly will you be crushed in the effort
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The 6 Billion Dollar Question
I was just thinking this morning.... another and even more disturbing theory about what we might be observing in Summerhawk is that all the weird stuff that burbled up out of the ground may be fracing fluids. I mean, I thought that before to a degree - that maybe some fracing fluid had made its way to the surface. But, reflecting on the bigger picture - the suspected hydrocarbons feeding the microbial growth... the biofilm (which our recent review of video from the '04 seep shows as burping up with the natural gas that released into the creek).... the strange corrosive appearing stuff.... the diesel hydrocarbons found in higher concentrations only inches form the surface, (presumably originating from a much deeper and enriched source) [Week 45 letter to officials for more on what this means].... the water.... and the fine grey clay only a few inches from the surface all point to drilling mud and fracing fluids. I could be wrong, and that's what we're trying to figure out in asking the COGCC to properly investigate.
But, there is a lot of incentive to cover-up the presence of fracing fluids. Why? Number one, if fracing fluids are associated with blow-outs and surface expression, this dangerous technique, which enables the drilling in our regional tight-sands formation to be so profitable, suddenly comes into greater focus when its effects on ground water and surface waters are scrutinized. That's part of the reason the fluids have been exempted form the Clean Drinking Water Act. That's also why corporations work their tails off to keep the formulas secret. It isn't all about proprietary profit seeking. Yes - there is that - but if the chemical compounds were disclosed and could therefore be traced, people would actually know what they are being poisoned with. And if enough people died, then questions would be raised, and eventually a campaign would spring up, and then there would be all this political pressure, and then palms would have to be greased. Better to just nip it in the bud. This industry has wisely devised two very effective means of covering their tracks and their asses.
And they are willing to let people die to protect those asses. Take the nurse in Durango for instance [Week 43 - In the News]. They were willing to watch her die from exposure to fracing fluid rather than reveal their "secret" formula. Her physician had to guess how to treat her as she fell into massive organ failure. Such a caring culture - this industry. So willing to trade human life for a buck or two.
Remember back when EnCana held that town meeting and we raised questions about another seep and asked about fracing fluids, and the same frac manager that ran the operation that caused the seep in 2004 promised they'd give us a list of their fracing fluids? Well guess what. Do you think we ever got that list? Nope.
Even in 2004, there was a tremendous effort to curtail knowledge of constituents released into Divide Creek. That whole fiasco resulted in a two year moratorium which EnCana lobbied hard to have lifted. That's understandable from their perspective. With 150 million in estimated profits from a well drilled five years ago, lots of money was at stake. Now, with thirty more wells to go and the price of natural gas having nearly doubled since then (demand, don't you know) EnCana's looking at maybe a 6 billion dollar bottom line - in the black baby. You factor in the ten more wells they appear to be pushing a neighbor for on top of the thirty projected, and you can tack on 2 more billion. That's 8 billion. Man, what you and I couldn't do with that kind of cash. Tax subsidies make this such a profitable business.
So, to actually know what is in fracing fluid and to possess the political will to detect it when it threatens the publics' health is a pretty controversial subject. The fact that it may be seeping into Divide Creek again under stipulations that may have proven ineffective at protecting people and water resources - well, it's just so damned inconvenient and it really mucks up the whole money making thing.
So, we end up quietly and unknowingly trading water for gas. Gas that burns up and chokes the atmosphere. Water that we need forever. Everything needs water. If there is no water left that isn't poisoned, everything dies. So, we end up not just trading water for gas - we end up trading everything for gas. 6 billion or not, folks - you gotta ask yourself if it's worth it.
How about no fracing - or if you frac,
full disclosure and protections for the public who may drink it. That might
mean a little less profit for the fat cats, but it might mean the rest of us
get to live. There's no reason we can't have drilling and public
safety at the same time. No reason we can't have a clean environment and
profitable enterprise at the same time. What we have now,
however, is a gross imbalance driven by under-regulation and greed at the
expense of public welfare. Of all the questionable ingredients in fracing
fluids, the one glaring ingredient missing from this whole ridiculous mix is
As noted a couple of weeks ago, I mailed certified letters to the agencies below on July 31st. The following have received their letters - the latest of which was received on Monday this week.
EPA - Region 8 Certified letter received:
April 04, 2008 (I think they meant to say
Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission - No date of delivery noted, but return receipt received. Of all agencies to receive an advance e-mail, the COGCC's was the only one returned three days later - and noted as 'unable to deliver'. I sent it to the Acting Director, however, and the address was entered correctly.
Bureau of Land Management - Certified letter
received: August 04, 2008
Despite most agencies having received
advanced e-mails a couple of days ahead of the mail-out, so far, none have
bothered to call to discuss this issue. The Colorado Department of Public
Health and Environment declined to accept an advance e-mail letter.
Interestingly, they are the only agency which appears to have not received a
Somewhere between investigation and the truth, obstructionism takes root once again. At least something flourishes in the presence of methane.
I've been in communication with some folks who received copies of the letter sent out last week and I am unhappy to report that the COGCC is holding firm on their stand that there is nothing of concern in Divide Creek and no further testing should be conducted.
The position taken by the COGCC Environmental Manger, who led the investigation in the 2004 seep has been communicated to Garfield County. Unfortunately, if the COGCC is unwilling to seriously consider the full scope of this matter, it is the county that must compel the COGCC to conduct further testing, and it up to the COGCC whether the wish the area operator - in this case EnCana - to look at whether this latest seep may have been the result of their on-going, nearby operations.
To us, such a possible correlation is all the more obvious given our observations which have been presented on this website for anyone to consider for themselves.
We have always felt that the investigation in 2004 was aggressively and improperly minimized despite a final ruling by the COGCC finding fault with EnCana. Now, this same supervisor stands between what is really going on in Divide Creek and the truth. And they aren't budging an inch. If the Environmental Manger is so certain that the ground water is safe, why not just sample it? Why throw up barrier after barrier? What motive would inspire such behavior? Serious ass covering perhaps? Maybe the Environmental Manger really believes all is lovely in la la land, in which case, they probably need to be filling staplers not leading investigations.
I don't like to point fingers, but I'll tell you what I like even less.... seeing my family's health and welfare sacrificed for the benefit of ignorance and all the tarnished glory it brings to those who champion its tainted cause. And if the COGCC thinks we're letting this one slip under the rug they are sadly mistaken. We've been put up against the wall before, and it won't happen again.
At the county level, we may have to formally request that this issue be added to the agenda. It's looking like we will receive no help from the COGCC. So be it. We only hope the Commissioners recognize the need to know if our water is safe in light of detected contaminants at the surface.
What's more, today, I spoke with another hydrologist who noted the following: CO2 or carbon-dioxide usually accompanies natural gas. If natural gas has been introduced to the surface in an aquatic environment, the presence of CO2 could alter the Ph in the water - elevating it. This causes two things: 1) it creates positive conditions for iron-reducing bacteria to flourish and 2) it can mobilize metals into the water that ordinarily would not migrate. Two of these metals are arsenic, fluoride - for which there are drinking water standards. Given the supposed expertise of the COGCC - who is making the call on whether or not this seep may have been caused by drilling activities - these environmental folk should have known to test for Ph - which they did not. And they should also know the risk of metals. But then again, maybe they do.
This CO2 phenomena certainly explains why we see so much microbial growth on the wetlands banks of the "main seep" area some 1500' upstream or so where we know what was released into the environment. Isn't it interesting that the COGCC thinks it's impossible for the same thing to be occurring here.
Entry - 08-07-08
All New Video - and more stuff they [substitute appropriate entry here] don't want you to see....
You can finally access the whole shootin' match - some
32 video clips on YouTube that show everything from the nasty Arbaney flare
resulting from the kick that we believe set this whole thing in motion, to
Blackcloud lighting vents on fire here and there to demonstrate consistency
among expressing gas - including in our pond. Lots of stuff - gross
iron-reducing bacteria and blue biofilm - man, you can just click right
through and match grossness for grossness and be your own judge of whether
there's - as the COGCC insists - nothing of concern.
Entry - 08-05-08
Entry - 08-07-08
In The News....
Hey! Garfield County got a new big-time smog detector! This is a great step forward.... five years too late, but uh... when are we gonna get our Beijing Slings?
CLEAN WATER.... or not....
Independent [August 8, 2008]
Why do people say "pushed back" when it seems like they ought to say "moved forward?" Doesn't time move forward? I always miss meetings because of this. Is it just me? Probably.
So, The COGCC has decided to 'wait' until sometime in September to come out with their final rules, thereby continuing deliberation of contentious issues and language.
states: "The state’s rule-making process has been engulfed in controversy
from the very beginning, with the oil and gas industry criticizing the
proposed rules and its trade groups running hundreds of newspaper and radio
ads saying they could cause serious economic consequences to the state.
Damn right. I am quite relieved that such rule-making is extended since there is a big-time industry-wide effort to, all at once, curtail stronger regulations that protect the public's health, while hustling through minimal requirements and avoiding any further responsibility. And, I think the Commissioners should also be made aware of staff apparent efforts to minimize awareness of the new seep found in here in June.
For example, relative to water quality standards, industry stands to enjoy all sorts of exemptions - particularly where they have polluted and continue to pollute West Divide Creek. Despite assurances we keep receiving from EnCana that the seep upstream is likely to go away, some folks appear to be reserving serious doubts. This has been pretty typical over the years. We're told all sorts of stuff, when reality is often something very different. But, an ignorant public is a placated public.
Basically, what you see below is a lot of scientific sounding stuff, but what it appears to mean is this: Limits to contaminants are to be kept low in normal circumstances, but where contamination has occurred before September 14, 2004 - a higher level of toxic metal and other contamination is to be acceptable. Acceptable to who? Not us, for sure! Who is deciding here and on what basis who gets clean water and who doesn't. Of course, the seep in 2004, occurred in April of 2004. So, EnCana gets a fat exemption and we get to be poisoned. Why should EnCana benefit from these lower standards, by not being required to clean up to a safer standard the contamination they were found by the COGCC to have caused. And how did they cause the 2004 seep? The Schwartz well bore hole lost hundreds of feet of cement - presumably into a fault they intersected while drilling. They knew they had lost the cement, but decided to frac (blow the hell out of production zones with explosives) anyway. The same genius who ordered that frac job was still conducting the orchestra when we first started noticing bubbling again in 2007 after the Schwartz site was re-entered. It seems, based on staff-recommended "clarifications" of the safe levels rule, the COGCC feels that since it's just our one well in the creek downstream (plus all of Silt and Rifle), it's okay for us folks to suck up some extra "contaminant of concern" like toluene: 560 / 1,000; or, xylenes: 1,400 / 10,000. This is how the public is protected from industrial pollution.
As you read the stuff below keep in mind the "fist number / second number" thing. Basically, the first number is considered the safer number. The second number is considered "maximum exposure" - you know... how much you can be expected to consume before your asshole falls out - stuff like that. How about these schmucks that decide it's okay for all of us to drink it, come and drink it themselves.
"Concentrations taken from CDPHE-HMWMD Table 1 Colorado
Soil Evaluation Values (December 2007).
Now, if I am misinterpreting this, then someone from the OCGCC needs to point it out. But it sure as hell looks to me like once, again, our health is on the chopping block for the benefit of billion dollar business.
If you want to check these re-writes out for yourself, Go to the COGCC homepage http://cogcc.state.co.us/ and scroll down the page until you find the big blue link to: "Draft Rules with Clarifications (06/20/2008): Draft rules including previously released clarifications and alternative language"
Oh, and the COGCC staff have clarified other stuff too, stuff that pertains directly to how we define "water" or the things that may indicate a impact to it - like "aquifer", "barrel" and Bradenhead Test Area". Careful clarifications are how billion dollar business skirts responsibility and leaves the rest of us swinging in the wind.
Though I cannot find a reference to it in the rewrite, I've been told the COGCC has backed off requiring sensible setbacks from public water sources. And also, that "public" and "private" are distinguishable. I always considered us as part of the public, but you know, when it comes down to municipal water treatment and private water wells out in the county - I guess the country bumpkins can drink contaminated swill - or pay thousands in private treatment facilities to eliminate or even minimize contamination in aquifers. That seems pretty unfair since most of us moved out here and have enjoyed access to clean water until industry came along. Of course the same goes for our air quality, and look where we are now.
The "Sensitive Area Decision Tree" has been scratched out altogether. Huh.... I wonder what that means.
And Chemical inventory took a significant hit when the following aspects of disclosure were scratched out: "The chemical inventory shall include how much of each chemical was used, how it was used, and when it was used." Remember that nurse in Durango who nearly died from exposure to fracing fluid? [see Week 43 "What the hell is wrong with this Industry?"] Hmmm.
Here's a good thing staff is recommending: "Marking" That is, the "marking" of pipelines. Here's what they say:
"(1) In designated high density areas, and where crossing public rights-of-way or utility easement, a marker shall be installed and maintained to identify the location of pipelines.
(2) The following shall be written legibly on a background of sharply contrasting color on each line marker: "Warning", "Caution" or "Danger" followed by the words "gas (or name of natural gas or petroleum transported) pipeline" in letters at least one (1) inch high with one-quarter (¼) inch stroke and the name of the operator and the telephone number where the operator can be reached at all times."
This is great, because a few years ago EnCana tried to force the installation of a gas pipeline, under our right-of-way, with thingies sticking out above ground that could have been easily swiped with a snow plow. They fought quite hard on this issue forcing us to seek legal counsel and threaten lawsuit. There were all sorts of letters that had to be written and we and a neighbor went to considerable expense urging EnCana to relocate the pipeline a few feet north, off the actual roadway. They finally relented. Guess what else? None of their pipelines are marked even where they cross under the right-of-way. Under the old COGCC - 'do whatever you want and screw the public policy' - they didn't' have to, and they don't exactly put public safety first when it comes to saving a buck here or there. Better to spend that money buying a college or a ball field.
All of this said and notwithstanding my extreme disappointment and frustration in the COGCC's allowance of higher toxic content in contamination already in place - which stands to directly and adversely impact my family and successive generations of residents on this property, I could not ask for more transparency or dedicated participation in proceedings from the Commission. I credit Harris Sherman for this approach and I, for one, deeply appreciate this monumental and extraordinary effort by he, the Acting Director of the COGCC, the COGCC Commissioners, and - with all due respect - COGCC staff.
Some of these folks may think I'm unduly hard on them, but you know what? If you want to put yourself in the privileged position of holding my family's wellbeing in your hands - I expect it to be a responsibility taken seriously. And I'll tell you something else, when I took an oath to protect and defend this country and stood at my post 60 miles off the Soviet coast during the cold war - I damn sure took the wellbeing of you and your family seriously. Even more seriously than I took my own.
Sometime after September 11, 2008 the final rules should be out.
Solving Shale with CO2....
The Daily Sentinel [08-07-08]
According to this article, Chevron is hoping to use CO2 (carbon dioxide - a greenhouse gas and constituent of natural gas) to bind with rock and liberate oil shale from its formation. Both Chevron and Shell are researching ways to sequester CO2 and other additives from groundwater. In the article, Jim Koffer, a Chevron engineer was quoted as saying, "We have to know if we put fluids underground, where they’re going to go,”.
But it isn't just the introduction of foreign fluids that should be considered. It is also the physical and chemical reactions and the creation of new compounds that must be considered.
Thanks to a conversation with a hydrologist this week, we now know that CO2 can mobilize metals in the soils and allow them to migrate into ground water sources. This is yet another concern which I bet state regulators aren't even considering.
Hopefully, any chemical reactions induced in the water-bearing geology will take into consideration the full range of dynamics and potential consequences associated with such an allowance. Only then can appropriate technologies be fully developed and implemented.
Shout-Out to Binghamton, N.Y.
Hey folks - welcome aboard the No B.S. Blog! Good
luck to everyone up there!
Special "In The News" Item:
New York Times
Industry has got upstate New York on the radar and the Catskills are target one. I can only echo David Hutchison, a retired geology professor from Oneonta when he says the state's inspectors ...."need to get up to speed fast". Yep - them and everybody else who gives a hangnail about their water, air, soil and wildlife resources, because it's been our experience that this industry - to any meaningful degree - doesn't give a rat's patootie about any of it. In this super-charged, probably pre-designed economic environment, all you can hope for is to hedge against being a poster city for full-on post-exploitation as the Bush administration readies to hit the road leaving regular folk and environmental protections scattered asunder in their wake
This website is the first place to start to follow
development on the Western Slope, shore up your knowledge base and branch
out from the resources I've provided here: Stand
Here's my quote of the week. I just made it up. I might change it if I get
in a better mood, but I just puked my dinner into the trash can under my
desk after trying to find a Western Slope water consultant and learning
there's an unwritten rule that if you work for industry - and all of them
love the money - you don't work for anyone but industry. I
can't blame the little guy for trying to make a buck for their family. Not
at all. But industry sure likes to tie things up tight for their own
powerful benefit. That's alright, there are still qualified professionals in
this state willing to work for a landowner, but I will obviously have to go
far afield to find them. Chalk another one up for industry.
"You can curse the darkness, or you can light a candle, or you can blow the f------ roof off and let the sun shine in."
The videos I've been uploading for the last three days that have made me so frigging sick I'm about to pass out? The videos no one has ever seen before which show the 2004 seep and the new seep in all their fully lit but disgusting truth? That's me blowing the roof off.
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