Adventures in gasland

gasfield tour 1The weather was warm (high 40s) and sunny for the gasfield tour on Thursday, December 13. Tommy Thompson had invited residents from Colorado Springs to come out to Porcupine Creek, near his home and experience up-close and personal what it’s like to live in gasland. Because it was a tour there were film crews and plenty of cameras. The film crews conducted interviews with Tommy Thompson and others who were willing to be interviewed on film about the impacts of drilling. The event brought advocacy groups and citizens to together in the gasfield for a frank discussion about those impacts. Everyone took full advantage of the opportunity.

Colorado Springs Citizens for Community Rights
The dozen or so members of this group included a film crew. Photos of the tour are posted on the CSCCR facebook page.

Colorado Environmental Coalition
West Slope Energy Organizer Petrika Peters brought a cameraman. CEC will be merging with Conservation Colorado on January 1, 2013. One of the issues they will focus on is public health impacts of oil and gas drilling in Colorado. If you would like to share your experience, please email me, Peggy Tibbetts (peggyt@siltnet.net) and I will put you in touch with the right person.

Center for Western Priorities
Project Assistant Erin Moriarty brought a film crew. They will be putting together a video on public health impacts of drilling which they plan/hope to present to the COGCC. Erin promised to keep in contact with me so I can follow up on this project.

Filmmakers Austin Lottimer, Hamilton Pevec, and Aaron Milton were there filming. They are currently working on “Before the Last Drop,” (formerly “The Water Handler”) a documentary about the gas-drilling industry in Western Colorado and its potential effects on the region’s water resources.

Other notables present included Lisa Bracken, Garfield County Commissioner John Martin, Frank Smith (Western Colorado Congress), and Dennis Webb (Grand Junction Sentinel). There were many more. My apologies to those I have left out.

Before the tour began, film crews conducted interviews near the parking lot at the intersection of CR 320 and Porcupine Creek Road. At first we parked in the parking lot which is posted as private property belonging to Encana. But when Tommy Thompson arrived he said we had better park our vehicles along the road or we would be considered trespassing and likely towed. “Encana will call the Sheriff,” he warned. Everyone moved their vehicles to the roadside. However when John Martin arrived he pulled right into the private parking lot and parked. Apparently he wasn’t worried about trespassing. The gasfield tour followed the interview sessions. John Martin did not stay for the tour. The tour wound up at the home of Tommy and George Thompson. Click here for my photo gallery.

On the tour, I rode along with Lisa Bracken. She left before me because she had a headache. I had to leave early (about 3:00 p.m.) to pick up my granddaughter from school, and I was starting to get a headache even though I wore my gas mask. I wanted to take more photos so I decided to walk down to the parking lot area. But I promptly took a wrong turn and ended up walking in circles between well pads for a half hour. My head ached and I struggled with dizziness. I’m convinced my gas mask kept me from passing out. I removed the gas mask a few times because I thought maybe it was making me dizzy. But the dizziness was worse when I took it off and my eyes watered so I had to put it back on. I felt horribly disoriented. I knew where I was but I didn’t know how I got there. There was an intersection of 3 access roads and I kept taking the wrong one. I’m no stranger to the back country. I have a pretty keen sense of direction and it’s not like me to get lost. I finally found my bearings and the way back to Porcupine Creek Road and headed down to the parking lot. In retrospect, my mind was definitely playing tricks on me. I believe I was exposed to neurotoxins and that affected my ability to think clearly.

As I approached the parking lot area at 4:15 p.m., the place was crawling with white pickup trucks (maybe 6 or 7 — Encana employees) and 3 Sheriff’s department vehicles. My Jeep was the only vehicle left from the tour group. The men were standing around outside their vehicles and the deputies were talking to them. I had just spent the past hour wandering around on private property so the first thing that came to mind was, “Oh shit. I’m gonna get arrested.” It was quite a jolt to stumble out of the gaspatch and see all that commotion.

They all stopped talking and checked me out as I walked toward the Jeep. I was already late to pick up my granddaughter and hopelessly outnumbered. I knew the deputies could detain me for any reason so I decided against taking photos of them. I quietly climbed in my Jeep and drove off.

As I drove out on CR 320 another deputy in a Sheriff’s pickup appeared at the end of a driveway and pulled out in front of me. He drove for a little ways ahead of me, and then he pulled a U-turn. Of course I thought, “Oh no, he’s going to pull me over.” But he stopped on the other side of the road as I passed by him. That makes a grand total of 4 Sheriff’s department vehicles in the area as I left. I told Tommy Thompson about the incident the next day but he wasn’t aware of the Encana group or the Sheriff’s deputies. They did not contact him.

I guess maybe they were there to make sure none of us older folks on the tour raised a ruckus on private property. Or maybe they thought there were outside agitators – fracktivists! – among the Colorado Springs group. Hard to say. But I got the distinct impression they were looking for trouble. I was relieved they chose not to pick on me.

Apparently the industry is undergoing some anxiety these days –
Colorado Oil And Gas Industry Under Pressure As Protests Mount

Gasfield Tour — photo gallery

Tour of valley near Rifle attracts people wary of drilling effects — by Dennis Webb

Voices from the gas patch – Thomas Thompson
Part 1
Part 2

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