Guest post by Thomas Thompson, Rifle landowner. Thomas is holding a public meeting, “Life in the Gasfields” on Thursday, December 13, at 1:00 p.m. In Part 1, Thomas shares with us an overview of what life is like as a surface rights owner in the middle of the gas patch.
I have been suffering from Encana’s incursion in my area for more than 10 years and have been very public about it almost as long. My wife and I built our dream home here on Porcupine Creek near Rifle about 12 years ago and lived our dream for the first year. Then our dream was turned into a nightmare that started with the same three words that start so many nightmares — then Encana arrived.
Encana arrived in our small valley like a conquering army and has poisoned our land, our air, our water, and our lives every day since. The short version is that after hundreds of convoys up and down our road and hundreds of phone calls and emails to Encana asking for dust suppression, they have done absolutely nothing about the dust from the road. Same thing as they excavated miles and miles of access roads and more than 30 huge well pads. No help with the dust.
Same thing with fumes not only from the hundreds of passing trucks and heavy equipment but also from drilling operations, worst of all fracking. We have had hundreds of days in the past 10 years when the air was so full of noxious fumes that we were unable to go out in our yard. We must keep our house closed up tight every day of the year to keep out much of the dust and fumes. I can’t remember the last time I did not have a sore throat.
During the past 10 years I have asked for help from Encana and every agency I could find — Garfield County Commissioners, Army Corps of Engineers, US Department of Agriculture, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Sheriff’s Department, state and federal health departments, state and US Congressmen and Senators — and have yet to get one sliver of help.
Our local COGCC rep came up one day to view my areas of complaint and we discussed current events as we drove up Porcupine Creek Road. We discussed health issues due to dust and fumes, danger of speeding heavy equipment on our narrow road, injuries, illness, wildlife and livestock deaths, property damage, polluted water sources, poisoned water wells, and even the death of an Encana rig employee. This COGCC rep casually characterized these events as “acceptable losses.”
Another local COGCC rep came up to investigate my complaint about choking clouds of dust. He called Encana the morning of his visit so they parked their trucks, bulldozers and earth movers until his visit that afternoon. I received an email from the COGCC guy the next day advising he had visited the site and thought Encana was doing a fine job of controlling dust and he didn’t even see much traffic on the roads.
Encana has ignored or even defied every provision in our Surface Damage and Use Agreement that provides protection for me as the surface owner. However, the one time I was prepared to protect my rights and property Encana called the Sheriff’s department and had a deputy dispatched in fear that I would interfere with their rights. I have had to file civil action against Encana for more than $700,000 in damages to my property resulting from Encana’s careless indifference and even malice. I expect I will have $150,000 in legal expenses before we even get to court as Encana continues to delay and disrupt the proceedings.
My wife is afraid to drive on Porcupine Creek Road after we have been run off the road and narrowly avoided head-on collisions with pickup trucks, dump trucks and water tankers. For several days in September, Encana operated a 60-ton rock hauler that ran by our driveway many times every day. This is mining equipment and is illegal to operate on public roads. This is an enormous truck that is 3/4 of the width of the entire road and was operating on a narrow winding road with several blind curves. This monster weighs 30 times the weight of a passenger vehicle. I complained to Encana and Sandy Kemp, our local public relations rep, called me back advising the truck was operating legally.
A couple months ago our neighbor Patty Cline very nearly had her head blown off during a WPX rig move on Porcupine Creek Road: Safety questioned in rig-moving operation
I invite any or all of you to visit my place near Rifle on Thursday, December 13 at 1:00. A group of concerned citizens, advocacy groups, and media from Colorado Springs are gathering for my standard tour of our valley so everyone can experience what it’s really like to live in gasland. I will warn you that I have taken perhaps 100 people on this tour over the past 10 years and almost all of them are ill before we complete the tour. Come on over if you’re willing to risk a bloody nose, crashing headache, and nausea.
I plan to do an abbreviated tour to reduce symptoms. Then we will gather at my home for a lively discussion. It’s too late to save many of us on the western slope but maybe we can save a few on the front range.
Update from Peggy:
Tod and I drove out to the Porcupine Creek on Sunday (12/2). He won’t be able to attend the meeting but he wanted to see for himself what’s going on up there. You will be shocked — an industrial zone in the midst of a scenic hidden valley. The air quality was pretty bad on Sunday. Tod and I both got headaches during our little tour and we never got out of the pickup. Tod recovered afterward more quickly than I did. I ended up with a sore throat and earache, and a bloody nose on Monday morning. But I’m feeling better now. On Monday, I discussed the air quality issue with Thomas. We feel it is only fair to warn people ahead of time. If you have asthma, I would advise you to avoid the tour. If you own a gas mask, respirator, or other breathing apparatus, you should bring it with you. I’m bringing my gas mask.
I’m not telling you this to scare you away – and I don’t think it should scare you away. But I have always been honest with you. Toxic air pollution is big part of life in the gaspatch. If you really want to understand what it’s like for humans and animals living in the gaspatch you have to be there and experience it with all of your senses. Bad air quality – toxic air pollution – is one of the impacts we must acknowledge and face up to before we can begin to find a solution. If we’re lucky, it will be a windy day …
I have it on good authority there will be representatives present at this meeting from advocacy groups, some of whom would very much like to speak with and interview other people who have been and/or are being impacted by drilling. So please, if you know someone encourage them to come. Or if you and your family are, or have been impacted, come and share your story.
I also extend this invitation to residents impacted by drilling to continue this series and share your “voices from the gas patch” in a guest post. Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org