|Week Fifty-One September 08 - September 14|
|Entry - 09-14-08
Broken promises, lack of federal
oversight, disappearance of evidence....
and a rising
Day 77 and we're still back at square one. No investigation.
On the 28th of July, an environmental specialist from the Colorado Oil and Gas
Conservation Commission visited to conduct soil, gas and water
sampling. After two months of requesting such sampling, we were elated and
prepared to assist in any way we could. Upon their arrival, however, the COGCC environmental specialist instigated a confrontation, remained
irrational and demanding, refused to conduct the sampling and ultimately
walked off the project demanding that we provide evidence of impacts to him. As he walked away, I gave him 30 minutes to leave
The Director promised to discuss the sampling effort after I notified him of the incident. We waited a week. No call. I began to prepare a letter, but called Monday the 8th to offer another opportunity to discuss sampling. But I was asked to wait another week. We waited. No call came. I understand that the COGCC is busy with a rules re-write. I also understand that our family is increasingly subjected to whatever is seeping into West Divide Creek. I also understand that had this all been properly acted upon when it was first reported, we wouldn't be having this conversation.
I also understand there have long been COGCC rules in place to protect human health and safety. Those rules should be enforced, and have been on the books long before this new legislative mandate became the ardent focus of the COGCC. Despite the "protection" of the rules already in place, we GO ON BEING EXPOSED TO A SEEP in Divide Creek, drinking from its source and EnCana GOES ON PUNCHING MORE AND MORE HOLES IN THE GROUND AS FAST AS THEY CAN.
It's awfully difficult to go on being 'understanding' as you're family is being sold down the river.
I'm not sure what is worse. The COGCC's blatant and continued refusal to investigate the seep or our outrageously impossible efforts to mobilize agencies into action in response to it.
We cannot even count on assistance from the Colorado EPA. Because the EPA has delegated jurisdiction over these matters tot he COGCC, involvement of the EPA comes at the expense of greater delay and a more thorough and multi-agency coordinated inquiry.... which will take who knows how long to even dissect let alone act upon.
Because of this stupefying delay, thanks in very large part the COGCC environmental manager and team, valuable evidence has been lost which could have not only helped identify at least some of the contaminants, the full scope and source of this event, but also would have likely been instrumental in the prevention of YET ANOTHER one.
Even more disturbing, we may never know what we have been and continue to be exposed to.
The COGCC presumably had planned to sample a number of locations at the seep area. At his point, however, the corrosive stuff appears to have been neutralized through rains and is now largely gone. I no longer detect the gas I smelled as early as the 17th, emanating from the drying area of the seep. The iron-reducing bacteria has largely retreated. The biofilm is gone. The water is no longer expressing to the surface, and the ponded areas have dried out. The dead crawdads are long gone.
It's almost as if such a delay were planned. Yes.... I know it's hard to believe, but yes, planned.
On August 22nd, 2008 I found another exit point for the seep at the opposite end of our property from the one we found on June 28th. It is relatively small - maybe six feet square, but it suggests the area of impact was much larger than we first suspected. The trees and shrubs in this newly discovered area are in great decline.
On August 30, 2008, I tracked evidence of impacts to Turkey Point pond (now abandoned by the beaver family and even the muskrat that moved in for a while), and along most of a neighbor's property, suggesting the impact area is larger, still, than we first suspected.
COGCC continues to ignore the problem.
If I hear industry belly-ache one more time about how unfair these new rules are to their profit-driven interests, I'm going to puke. It's pretty clear to me that even despite old rules that mandated the COGCC protect human health and safety, industry has some pretty strong allies on their side within the very agency tasked to regulate them.
Chalk a big one up for industry and toss another American family in the can.
I presented to the Garfield County Commissioners on August 18th, two pieces of evidence that should have been considered as possible causes of the seep we are now seeing in West Divide Creek. Interestingly, on 09-06-08 I researched the COGCC website to see if any descriptive documents could be found which might shed light on what occurred - since there is no apparent interest form the COGCC staff to investigate.
On looking at the on-line record for the 11-2A well, the one that documented a "loss of well control" event and a subsequent notice which documented an "order to remediate" - neither record could be found. The only record found was a non-descript visit by an inspector no longer employed by the COGCC.
So interesting. Where did the records go? They just jumped right out of the on-line database!
Think I'm making this up? Do you think - like I, and any other reasonable person would - that such a thing is unlikely. That professionals in a regulatory agency would not conduct themselves in such a way as to remove evidence from public accessibility? I used to think that way too. And again and again this agency amazes me.
Don't be too quick to dismiss corruption where corruption is given a place to flourish. A September 12, 2008 Rocky Mountain News article details rampant corruption in the Denver office of the Interior Department. 13 employees and a fat handful of oil and gas biggies - drugs, sex, sweet deals, royalties... all the ingredients of a first-rate public rip-off.
Here are the pictures of the documents that have disappeared from the COGCC on-line database so you see them for yourself. Luckily I copied them before they disappeared. These two documents, coupled with the sudden appearance of methane in our water well during the Jan - March period following the order to remediate strongly suggest the likely cause of this seep event.
Certainly, if EnCana caused this latest seep, they will likely not admit it (it took them years to acknowledge even their involvement in the 2004 seep - which goes on to this day), which leaves us to depend upon the COGCC to investigate its cause. EnCana still will not take responsibility for causing the 2004 event the COGCC could no longer themselves refute had been caused by EnCana's improper drilling.
PS - I doubt you'll be able to find these on-line, unless the COGCC hurries to remedy what is beginning to look pretty obvious. Also, you cannot conduct a document search on-line despite a document number being assigned to them - such a convenience has never been an option. At this point my guess is that you would have to drive to Denver and try to find them, or get them through subpoena, if they don't end up being permanently 'lost'.
The above document is a "Loss of Well Control" Report. Below, are the COGCC's own rules regarding such events.
327. LOSS OF WELL CONTROL
The document above is a "Sundry Notice" to Remediate - issued either by or to EnCana by or to the COGCC. (Who, I ask you - who can understand the inner sanctum of the COGCC) Below are the COGCC rules on pollution.
a. The operator shall take precautions to prevent significant adverse environmental impacts to air, water, soil, or biological resources to the extent necessary to protect public health, safety and welfare, by using cost-effective and technically feasible measures to protect environmental quality and to prevent the unauthorized discharge or disposal of oil, gas, E&P waste, chemical substances, trash, discarded equipment or other oil field waste.
b. No operator, in the conduct of any oil or gas operation shall perform any act or practice which shall constitute a violation of water quality standards or classifications established by the Water Quality Control Commission for waters of the state, or any point of compliance established by the Director pursuant to Rule 324D. The Director may establish one (1) or more points of compliance for any event of pollution, which shall be complied with by all parties determined to be a responsible party for such pollution.
c. No owner, in the conduct of any oil or gas operation, shall perform any act or practice which shall constitute a violation of any comprehensive plan adopted by the Air Quality Control Commission for the prevention, control and abatement of pollution of the air of the state.
d. No injection shall be authorized pursuant to Rule 325. or Rule 401. unless the person applying for authorization to conduct the injection activities demonstrates that those activities will not result in the presence in an underground source of drinking water of any physical, chemical, biological or radiological substance or matter which may cause a violation of any primary drinking water regulation in effect as of July 12, 1982 and found at 40 C.F.R.
Part 142, as amended, or may otherwise adversely affect the health of persons. An underground source of drinking
water is an aquifer or its portion:
(1) A. Which supplies any public water system; or
300-20 as of October 1, 2007
B. Which contains a sufficient quantity of ground water to supply a public water system; and
i. Currently supplies drinking water for human consumption; or
ii. Contains fewer than ten thousand (10,000) milligrams per liter total dissolved solids; and
(2) Which is not an exempted aquifer.
e. No person shall accept water produced from oil and gas operations, or other oil field waste for disposal in a commercial disposal facility, without first obtaining a Certificate of Designation from the County in which such facility is located, in accord with the regulations pertaining to solid waste disposal sites and facilities as promulgated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Here are some other tidbits from the COGCC's antiquated rulebook - only, it seems, randomly enforced.
Upon submittal of a Sundry Notice, Form 4, request by the operator, completion reports, including Drilling Completion Reports, Form 5 and Completed Interval Reports, Form 5A, and mechanical logs of exploratory or wildcat wells shall be marked “confidential” by the Director and kept confidential for six (6) months after the date of completion, unless the operator gives written permission to release such logs at an earlier date.
207. TESTS AND SURVEYS
a. Tests and surveys. When deemed necessary or advisable, the Commission is authorized to require that tests or surveys be made to determine the presence of waste or occurrence of pollution. The Commission, in calling for reports under Rule 206. and tests or surveys to be made as provided in this rule, shall designate the time allowed the operator for compliance, which provisions as to time shall prevail over any other time provisions in these rules.
b. Bradenhead monitoring.
(1) The Director shall have authority to designate specific fields or portions of fields as bradenhead test areas within which, on any well, the bradenhead access to the annulus between the production and surface casing, as well as any intermediate casing, shall be equipped with fittings to allow safe and convenient determinations of pressure and fluid flow. Any such proposed designation shall occur by notice describing the proposed bradenhead test area. Such notice shall be given to all operators of record within such area and by publication. The proposed designation, if no protests are timely filed, shall be placed upon the Commission consent agenda for the regular monthly meeting of the Commission following the month in which such notice is given, and shall be approved or heard by the Commission in accordance with Rule 520. Such designation shall be effective immediately, upon approval by the Commission.
(2) All operators within any bradenhead test area shall have thirty (30) days after the effective date of the designation to commence the taking of bradenhead pressure readings in all wells located therein which are equipped for such readings. The operator shall equip any well which is not so equipped within ninety (90) days of the effective date, and within thirty (30) days thereafter the operator shall take the required reading. 200-2 as of October 31, 2005
Such readings shall include the date, time and pressure of each reading, and the type of fluid reported. Such readings shall be taken in bradenhead test areas annually, maintained at the operator's office for a period of five (5) years, and shall be reported to the Director upon written request.
208. CORRECTIVE ACTION
The Commission shall require correction, in a manner to be prescribed or approved by it, of any condition which is causing or is likely to cause waste or pollution; and require the proper plugging and abandonment of any well or wells no longer used or useful in accordance with such reasonable plan as may be prescribed by it.
209. PROTECTION OF COAL SEAMS AND WATER-BEARING FORMATIONS
In the conduct of oil and gas operations each owner shall exercise due care in the protection of coal seams and water-bearing formations as required by the applicable statutes of the State of Colorado.
Special precautions shall be taken in drilling and abandoning wells to guard against any loss of artesian water from the stratum in which it occurs and the contamination of fresh water by objectionable water, oil, or gas. Before any oil or gas well is completed as a producer, all oil, gas and water strata above and below the producing horizon shall be sealed or separated in order to prevent the intermingling of their contents.
The History of
After the 2004 event, a two-year moratorium was placed on this highly fractured and geologically sensitive area. EnCana Oil and Gas, USA - found to have been responsible for the 2004 blowout - lobbied hard to lift that moratorium.
The COGCC lifted it under new stipulations for continued drilling.
Part of those stipulations required on-going oversight by the COGCC. Their words follow:
From: "NOTICE TO OPERATORS DRILLING MESAVERDE GROUP OR DEEPER WELLS IN THE MAMM CREEK FIELD AREA IN GARFIELD COUNTY WELL CEMENTING PROCEDURE AND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS:
This area was established from the previous West Divide Creek Moratorium Area to focus on the specific areas that, based on over 3 years of intensive study and review, the COGCC staff believe continues to require significant drilling and completion oversight by the State."
There has been very little oversight. The Juniper Group pad (now completed) has not had a single inspection. When we first noted anomalies in the environment, after EnCana first reentered and began drilling the area, we were told by the COGCC environmental team that they were unaware the Schwartz site was being drilled again.
We believe this seep strongly suggests that the new stipulations are insufficient to protect the public and the environment and therefore, must be revisited.
We are under lease from EnCana and stand to receive significant royalties from the drilling which is allowed to continue. However, we now ask that the COGCC call a cease to nearby drilling activities until such time as the scope of this new seep and its cause can be determined. With prompt and appropriate investigation - this should not unduly hinder operations.
Characteristics of this seep were first noted in 2007 when EnCana Oil and Gas, USA drilled nine new wells from the pad site of the 2004 blowout. Those observations were also discounted by the COGCC as well as EnCana. EnCana continues drilling a short distance from the new seep site as the seep continues, threatening the water well we drink from as well as downstream communities. EnCana has not contacted us regarding the discovery of the new seep. At this point any communication from EnCana should be in writing.
The COGCC continues to mischaracterize this event and stress that this seep is the same event that occurred in 2004. This is a fallacy. Although the 2004 seep continues, and is being - to a diminishing degree - both monitored and remediated. Not only is this seep 2000 feet or so downstream, it is not being monitored or remediated in any way - in fact, it has not even been acknowledged.
EnCana stands to make an estimated 6 Billion dollars from uninterrupted activities near this seep site. As I said, we stand to make money also but this is not about the money. It's about known and serious threats to public health as well as continued environmental degradation.
We would hope that, as an agency enjoying primary jurisdiction over such matters, the COGCC would also find the public's health and pre-industrial condition of West Divide Creek more important. We would hope that EnCana would also take this matter into appropriately serious consideration and examine their activities which - as occurred in 2004 - may have contributed to or caused this event.
Apparently, 77 days is the appropriate amount of delay until all or most environmental evidence is removed from the scene.
The ultimate irony in all of this is that the 2004 blowout was the catalyst that ushered in new legislative mandates directing the COGCC to better protect public health and wildlife resources. But looking out for the public's health and safety is nothing new to the COGCC. That rule has been in place for years and years. That's what has gotten them jurisdiction to deal with all of this stuff, instead of the more appropriate Department of Health and Environment. Now, as a newly discovered and potentially toxic seep creeps into Divide Creek, the contamination is being utterly ignored during those very rule-change deliberations.
I recently found buried in the fine print of the rules "clarifications" issued by COGCC staff, an exemption allowing industry to clean up any contamination caused before September 14,2004 to a lower standard. Of course, the 2004 seep occurred in April 2004. Obviously something else happened in September industry doesn't want to be responsible for either. The COGCC needs to remove this exemption.
To compare video of the two events, please visit the sitemap and go to the video section
To view all 8 pages associated with this latest seep - and view perspective maps, graphics, images and other details, please visit Divide Creek Seep 2008
View a timeline of the 2004 blow-out to date.
|EnCana has done nothing but hide behind the thin veneer of regulation and oversight the COGCC displays to the public it is responsible for protecting.|
In the News....
|Entry - 09-05-08
The state forestry division assesses damage to trees.
Today a forester came out to take a look around at the tree die-off. While the person conducting the assessment was a truly nice individual, he was unable to make a definitive assessment, due to a lack of training in or experience with oil and gas impacts to vegetation.
So much for environmental impact assessment when it comes to this renegade industry.
But really, how could the state of Colorado find the time to train anyone when they are so busy rubber-stamping new gas permits.
"Damn the consequences!" they say - stamp... stamp... stamp... stamp... stamp...
I should be more lenient.
No. I've seen this kind of die-off before. And only one other time - in connection with the 2004 seep.
To the no-brain, rubber-stamp-addicted
sell-outs who not only have failed to fund such training, but are too greed
infested to even establish proper training in the first place, I say: may
the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits.
County Air Quality Monitoring Results
We've received the air quality results from Garfield County's air monitoring efforts on our place. You may recall that a few months back the fumes were becoming horrendous and my mother's eyes were gluing shut overnight on a regular basis as a result of the diesel fumes coming off EnCana's Price pad site.
I am still trying to figure out how to link the report to this blog, so you can see it for yourself. But here is a summary.
1) the monitors are calibrated to only analyze total Volatile Organic Compounds [VOC's]. In other words, the monitor cannot speciate - that is, determine which kind of VOC (benzene, ethyl benzene, etc) is present at a specific concentration. It can only gather all of them together for a total VOC count.
2) Whenever we noted an odor, we were to observe and note a) weather conditions, b) any notable activities on the closest drilling pad (which is not visible to us, therefore we could only report noises if they are present), and c) and activities we ourselves may be conducting which could contribute to the count (such as starting a car, running an engine of any kind, etc.).
Additionally, even when we didn't smell any odors from the pad, we were to note our own VOC causing activities just as above, like starting a car, etc.
We followed this protocol religiously.
3) Unfortunately, when there were VOC hits, correlative activity could neither be identified nor substantiated because there was no other monitor positioned, say, near the suspected source of emission - like near the pad site. When, at one point, the VOCs read off the charts, the county assumed it was us who had done something to cause it. That one was really a punch in the gut. So, I'm not sure what the real purpose of the information gathering is, when it doesn't contribute to any conclusive correlation and the same old false assumptions are in place on the part of the data collection community. I guess I'm still glad the equipment is up and gathering data. But, I don't know what to make of it all, now that I know any data is pretty much useless.
Oh. I also learned that this study effort will take three years to produce enough data to attempt any conclusions at all. Seems like if we have to go on being gassed for that long then the stuff they are collecting now ought to count for something.
"Stop, children, what's that sound,
Muppets: Otter, Opossum, Fox, Badger, Rabbit, Muskrat,
-- Buffalo Springfield, For What It's Worth
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