They're drilling in my backyard again... The first time was in 1995,
the second time in 2000.... and now, again, in May of 2005
article from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:
Krys Moquin's iguana is curled uncomfortably in an airline pet carrier
perched atop a mound of pillows and cushions. Her two Great-horned
Owls glower angrily from carriers sitting on foam in the cold back
bedroom of her trailer house. At her small animal refuge,called
Animals 2-by-2,Moquin is struggling to deal with the loud noise,
vibration and bright lights of a natural-gas well being drilled
200 feet from her home. The raccoons cower in their plywood boxes
and her 10 foxes,rescued from fur farms have been fighting instead
of playing.Out in the pasture where her horses and goats graze in
the frosty sunlight, Moquin points to the Vessels Oil @ Gas Co.
workers atop two of about 20 "frac" tanks circled on the
freshly dug drill pad. Everybody up there is wearing earplugs."
I don't think they understand that I can't do that with the animals,"
She looks at a large chain-link enclosure she and volunteers are
building as an outdoor run for the foxes. It's not quite finished,and
now she wonders if she should work on it at all."what's the
point?" she asked,frustrated at the way her quiet home of the
past eight years has been so loudly invaded. Vessels is a Denver-based
oil company drilling its fifth well in the Divide Creek basin. The
wells are drawing natural gas from the Mesa Verde formation, 5,000
to 6,000 feet underground, said Philip Wood, the company's land
Drilling on this well,on the property of Frank and Sheila Daley,
began in October. The well is also about 200 feet from the Daley's
home, shielded from their view by a pinon-covered hillside.
This month, workers have been completing the well. The process involves
pumping a slurry of gelatinous liquid and sand down the well and
into the adjacent rock. The fluid causes the rock to fracture, and
the sand holds the cracks open so the well can tap more gas.
The frac process takes a few hours.The fluids then flow back up
the well,followed by gas which is flared for about three days.Both
the frac process and the flaring
are loud and cause the ground to vibrate.
Worried about the effects on her animals, Moquin hired David Sturges,a
Glenwood Springs attorney. Sturges warned Vessels on Dec.14 that
he planned to go to court.
"When I went there the next morning, they were waiting for
me. They wanted to talk first,about what they could do to comply."
Sturges said. "They also said
they wanted to by her land,that it was never going to be a good
situation with the drill rig so close."
Moquin said the company first offered her $15,000, then $30,000,
to buy her out. They also offered to donate $5,000 to her Animals
2by2 Foundation if she would not sue.Moquin said she paid $43,000
for her place in 1988,but it would cost far more than that now to
find another place where she and her animals could live.
Sturges and the Vessels attorneys went out to the drill site that
day,as the Vessels crew did the first of three fracs.
Jaime Adkins, the Loma-based staff engineer for the Colorado Oil
and Gas Conservation Commission, measured the noise levels at 82
to 87 decibels. The state's industrial noise limit is 80 decibels.
Later in the day,Sturges filed a complaint in Garfield District
Court. Judge Thomas Ossola denied the request, saying the situation
called for an injunction. To file an injunction, Sturges said, Moquin
would have to post a bond equal to the value of the work stopped,around
A fifth-grade class at Glenwood Springs Elementary School,which
has been raising money to support Animals 2by2, sent a letter to
Vessels and state officials.
"Please consider the problems you are causing for the animals.
They belong to the earth too," the children wrote.
In the past week,the crew moved the frac tanks into a semicircle
around the drill rig to muffle the noise in the direction of Moquin"s
place. The effort was successful for the second frac, which occurred
Moquin wasn't satisfied, however. She contends that her neighborhood
is rural-residential, not industrial, and that the company should
therefore hold its noise down to 60 decibels.
She said gas-laden water from the drilling flowed down from the
drill pad,and she is disturbed by the bright light and vibration
from round-the-clock flaring.
Flaring over Thanksgiving drove away her holiday house guests and
a family that was renting the house next door, she said.
Adkins said once the fracs and flaring are finished,the drill rig
should operate quietly. But Vessels plans more drilling in Divide
Creek, he said.
A more recent article from the Rocky Mountain
ROAD TO WELLS-VILLE
ENERGY COMPANIES FACE OFF WITH RESIDENTS, ENVIRONMENTALISTS IN RESOURCE-RICH
Date: Saturday, May 18, 2002
Source: By Heather Draper
News Staff Writer
Memo: WALL STREET WEST COVER
Related article - RIFLE ISN'T EXACTLY PUMPED ABOUT NATIONAL ENERGY
Related article - GAS DRILLING 101: FRACING AND FLARING
Headline p.1A - IT'S OIL COMPANIES VS. WEST SLOPE RESIDENTS.
doesn't much care for the oil and gas industry's claim that the
Rocky Mountains are the Persian Gulf of natural gas.
She's not a
big fan of oil and gas companies, period. Calpine Natural Gas Co.
of San Jose, Calif., runs a gas well about 200 feet from her home
in rural Silt. She has endured the large diesel trucks, the drill
towers, the fires and the noise that go along with developing a
gas well not once, but twice, in the 13 years she's lived there.
flurry of drilling began in late 2000, when higher prices for natural
gas and better drilling technologies made extracting gas from the
mountains less costly.
see the Rifle area as one of the nation's most important sources
of natural gas, a relatively clean-burning fuel increasingly used
to heat homes and produce electricity. The prolific gas reserves
in the area are needed to meet the nation's growing appetite and
lessen its dependence on foreign sources, the oil and gas industry
companies view the Western slope through gas-shrouded lenses, Moquin
sees it as a place of solitude, where peace is shattered by the
noise and activity of gas company trucks and crews.
The worst part
for Moquin is not her personal discomfort, she said. It's the suffering
the drilling causes the Great Horned owls, reptiles, foxes and other
animals she cares for at the Animals 2 by 2 refuge she runs at her
5-acre home. The drilling is over, but Daisy, the iguana she rescued
from an abusive home, still hides inside the pillowcase she crawled
into when drilling began in December.
``I feel like
I'm living in a nightmare,'' said Moquin, lightly kicking at some
dirt in frustration. ``If someone had told me about the natural
gas, I never would have bought this place. I came here for solitude
for the animals. I'm stuck here because no one will buy my place
Moquin is one
of many Garfield County residents who find themselves at ground
zero of a national push to extract natural gas from the Rockies.
That focus intensified last month when the Bush administration's
proposal to drill in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was
defeated in the U.S. Senate, pushing the Rockies to the forefront
of the president's energy plan.
renewed interest in the region is visible in Garfield County: A
drive west of Rifle on Interstate 70 reveals a multitude of gas
wells, sludge pits, drills and storage tanks lining both sides of
the road. Gas well sites are carved into the hills at the base of
the Roan Cliffs that tower over Rifle. They're stuck in the middle
of cattle ranches and placed next door to housing developments.
Now the Roan
Plateau atop the Roan Cliffs - a haven for hunters, anglers and
recreation - is on the Bureau of Land Management's top 10 list of
areas across the country put on a fast track to expedite oil and
gas drilling. That worries conservationists and environmentalists,
who've sent a proposal to the BLM to designate parts of the Roan
Plateau for wilderness protection.
that we're saying there should be no gas development here,'' said
Kurt Knukle, field inventory director of the Colorado Environmental
Coalition. ``We're just saying they should save a little land for
people to enjoy.''
It's all about
location, the gas industry says. The Roan Plateau is on the east
end of the Piceance Basin, a 125-mile-long, 62-mile-wide province
of natural gas, oil shale and coal bed methane running through five
counties on Colorado's western slope.
mile of the Roan Plateau can contain up to 64 billion cubic feet
of gas,'' said Duane Zavadil, environmental and regulatory manager
for Williams Production Co. ``That's enough to heat 26,000 homes
for 20 years - in just one square mile.''
Williams became the largest gas producer in the Piceance Basin when
it acquired Denver's Barrett Resources and its western slope assets
last year. The company has asked the BLM for the right to lease
federal lands for drilling near existing roads on top of the Roan
be using roads already there and not disturbing the environmentally
sensitive areas,'' Zavadil said.
of the nation's attention is focused on the use of federal lands
for drilling, Zavadil said most of Williams' Colorado production
is on private lands.
``We have 27
wells on federal lands and 150 private wells (in Garfield County),''
The most dense
drilling activity in Garfield County - one well per 10 acres - stems
from private landowner Bill Clough, who welcomes Williams' wells
on his property west of Rifle.
us. We made him one of the richest men in Garfield County,'' said
Dave Cesark, a Williams environmental specialist.
environmentalists often point to the drilling on Clough's land because
it borders I-70, so the numerous well sites are ``highly visible
and it's ugly, no doubt about it. But it was pretty ugly to begin
thinks his land abutting the Roan Cliffs wasn't much to look at
before the gas companies moved into the area.
Rifle native has leased land for 68 gas wells on his 8,000-acre
hurt the scenery because there was nothing there,'' Clough said.
``There was just sagebrush and greasewood, and all it's good for
is grazing and gas wells.''
drilling frenzy comes down to supply and demand, said Brian Macke,
deputy director of the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission.
If the demand for natural gas wasn't there, he said, the energy
companies wouldn't be drilling in the Piceance Basin.
commission issued 353 permits to drill in Garfield County last year,
compared with 213 permits in 2000 and 130 in 1999, he said.
say there might be as much as 100 trillion cubic feet of gas'' in
the Piceance, which would supply the nation's demand for nearly
five years, Macke said.
provides nearly one-fourth of all the energy used in the United
States. The nation consumed 21.4 trillion cubic feet of natural
gas last year and consumption is expected to rise 47 percent to
31.5 trillion cubic feet per year by 2015, according to the National
natural gas pipeline network, laid end-to-end, would stretch to
the moon and back . . . twice, the Department of Energy says.
The Rocky Mountain
region contains about 35 percent - 293 trillion cubic feet - of
the remaining recoverable natural gas resources in the lower 48
states, according to the DOE. Many of those reserves are underdeveloped,
unlike the more mature gas fields in Oklahoma and Texas.
be a travesty in the long term not to go after these resources,''
Zavadil said. ``Where else are you going to get the energy our country
say what the gas industry is missing in the drilling debate is that
the federal lands President Bush wants to open won't contribute
much to the nation's supply in the long run.
of the Wilderness Society said if all the on-shore federal lands
with undiscovered resources were opened to drilling, it would supply
the nation's demand for oil for 222 days and its gas use for 1.7
years, according to U.S. Geological Survey research.
``It's up to
the American people to understand we are an over consuming society,''
Morton said. ``If it means we'll drill next to people's homes and
at some of the nice places we like to visit, it brings that cost
3,500 feet above the Colorado River valley between Rifle and Parachute,
the Roan Cliffs - or the ``book cliffs'' as they're known to locals
- have drawn outdoor enthusiasts to the Rifle area for decades.
The 73,000-acre Roan Plateau is home to dense aspen groves, wildflower
meadows, spruce-fir tree forests, creeks, box canyons, a 200-foot
waterfall and ``some of the most genetically pure strains of cutthroat
trout in Colorado,'' said Clare Bastable of the Colorado Mountain
best-kept secret in Colorado,'' Bastable said. ``The Roan is amazing
for its hunting and fishing opportunities, and is one of the most
biologically diverse areas in the state.''
is home to Peregrine falcons, eagles, owls and some plant species
found nowhere else, she said.
The area has
been on the radar screens of environmentalists for some time. The
Nature Conservancy considers it one of the country's ``last great
places.'' Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, and Rep. Mark Udall, D-Boulder,
have sponsored legislation to designate four sections of the plateau
as wilderness areas to be protected by the government. Several organizations
have endorsed the legislation, including the Wilderness Society,
Sierra Club, Western Colorado Congress and the Colorado Environmental
say the earliest occupants of the plateau were the Ute Tribe of
Native Americans who raised horses there before European settlement.
Ranchers began grazing sheep and cattle on Roan in the mid-1800s.
In 1935, the
defense department took over 56,000 acres of the plateau, which
was then called the Naval Oil Shale Reserve and was under the jurisdiction
of the U.S. Navy. The Navy wanted the oil shale reserves, believed
to be in abundance on the plateau, to be part of the nation's emergency
stockpiles during wartime.
of Energy assumed jurisdiction of the naval reserve in 1977 under
the DOE Organization Act, but split the surface management duties
of the plateau with the BLM. Finally in 1997, the BLM assumed the
entire responsibility for managing the land.
The Bush administration's
directive to put certain federal lands on a fast-track for energy
exploration has forced the thinly staffed office of the BLM in Glenwood
Springs to focus most of its attention on the Roan Plateau.
went from being on a back burner to one that's on a time-sensitive
plan, which speeds up the process significantly,'' said Greg Goodenow,
planning and environmental coordinator for the BLM.
said ``fast-track'' is a relative term when it comes to the federal
government, because it's a complex, multi-step process to develop
a land management plan.
The BLM started
its Roan planning process in late 2000, before the administration's
call to speed up the permitting for drilling. The planning process
entails public meetings, land health assessments, oil and gas fieldwork,
internal reviews and more public meetings, Goodenow said.
What to do
with the Roan area won't be an easy decision, he said, because ``it's
hard to have an oil or gas field in a recreation area. But the balance
of uses is an important concept for us.''
balance will be tipped in favor of one group or another is not for
the Glenwood Springs office to decide, Goodenow said.
After the Glenwood
office publishes its final Environmental Impact Statement - which
Goodenow expects will be in October 2003 - it will send the findings
to the state BLM office in Denver, where the final decision will
be made on what to do with the land.
He said the
fact that President Bush is pushing to open up federal lands to
oil and gas companies won't affect the BLM's environmental research.
we are part of the administrative branch of government, but we don't
feel like we're being dictated to by the President,'' Goodenow said.
supposed to give different publics different weights,'' added Steve
Bennett, Glenwood BLM assistant manager. ``Politics don't affect
the analysis stage, they affect the decision stage. But you can't
assume the decision will have the least (environmental) impact.''
Krys Moquin has to fill a 250-gallon water tank in the back of her
pick-up at Silt's water tower four times a week to water the animals
at her refuge. She says her water well went dry two weeks after
Calpine started drilling near her home in December.
``I know it's
been dry, but I think that's a pretty big coincidence,'' Moquin
She's had to
repair fences that gas company trucks have run over. Her water has
tested for high amounts of methane, which Calpine told her was naturally
occurring in the area.
that was unusual because I didn't have methane in my water before,''
Moquin said. Calpine couldn't be reached for comment.
complaints with the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission,
but ``it doesn't do any good,'' Moquin said.
have a voice in the process, she said, because the well is on her
``I feel almost
unpatriotic, after 9-11 and all, complaining about this,'' Moquin
said. ``But what people don't understand is that they (gas companies)
can put these wells anywhere. They can put them in your backyard.''