People worried about drilling on their land | CraigDailyPress.com

People worried about drilling on their land

RIFLE, Colo. (AP) Colorado expects to close hundreds of oil and gas wells this year, and with national energy prices on the rise, the state will be under pressure to compensate.

That worries Coloradans like Joan Savage. She has 75 gas wells on her land, some for which she has the rights. She is concerned she won’t be able to stop the installation of many more.

“It’s pretty close to overwhelming,” Savage said. “It’s clean fuel and I’m not opposed. We certainly need it, but we do need our land taken care of. We need to treat the land with dignity.”

This year, the state expects close to 2,400 gas wells to be operating in Colorado, mostly in Weld, Las Animas, La Plata and Garfield counties. That’s 57 percent more than the 1,529 wells last year and more than double the five-year average from 1995 to 1999 of 1,035 wells.

Coupled with rising prices for gas, that high number of closures is pressuring companies to open new wells, even if it means going head to head against residents who oppose them.

Former Garfield County Commissioner Arnold Mackley is most concerned about drill spacing. He says he hired an attorney after companies wanted to space drill pads 20 acres apart instead of the present 40 acres.

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“Environment, health and safety must be considered,” he said.

The current debate raging through western Garfield County is over Barrett Resources Inc.’s proposal to do seismic testing in hope of better identifying suitable drill sites.

The company first wanted to do the testing, which involves dynamite and thumper trucks to produce shocks, on a 68-square mile area. Barrett withdrew the proposal and submitted a plan to test about 30 square miles, all north of the Colorado River.

The company also agreed not to do any testing without an agreement from the affected landowner.

Bob Howard, a Barrett spokesman in Denver, said the company expects the number of new drilling sites in western Garfield County this year to more than double to in excess of 100.

One thing that has residents worried is that they may own the land, but not the mineral rights beneath the surface.

“It’s been a problem,” said Rich Griebling, executive director of the Colorado Oil & Gas Commission. “People aren’t even aware that they don’t own the mineral rights.”

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