A Plea to Antero for the Colorado

A month ago, a woman contacted me. She told me that homeowners in Flying Eagle and Lyon subdivision had received notices of an “Application from Antero Drilling for 3, 320-acre drilling sites by 18th and Grand in Silt”. She sent me copies of the application. I couldn’t find anywhere in the paperwork that specified that location. I knew that if Antero would be drilling inside city limits there would have to be public notification in the process. In the meantime, I saw an announcement for the annual town meeting with Antero on March 3. I posted the meeting on my blog and figured we’d get some answers there.

We did. Drilling at 18th and Grand, or anywhere inside city limits is a rumor. The Antero boys – Mr. Kevin didn’t-catch-his-last-name, John Black, Lars Inman, Brian Wade – dispelled that rumor straight away. They seemed surprised at the large turnout, more than 75 people showed up at the Firehall on March 3. Evidently they attributed that to the rumor. Whether or not that was the case, they seemed dismissive of the homeowners’ concerns and questions.

As Black stated, the new COGCC rules, as of January 2010, require them to notice property owners within a larger one-mile radius from well pad construction. The previous rules had specified a half-mile radius. The drill site referred to in the application is located one mile south of Silt at Valley Farms, where Antero has been drilling for a few years. The notice was about construction of 2 new well pads on that site this year. So that explains why homeowners in Flying Eagle and Lyon subdivisions were noticed this year, when they have never been noticed before.

Unfortunately I think the Antero boys missed the point. Because these homeowners inside city limits had never received notifications about gas well construction before, they were understandably alarmed. With the whole flap that’s been going on in Battlement Mesa, Antero might have anticipated the misunderstanding and headed it off. They could have notified the homeowners separately and explained in plain English – not legalese – why they would receive notification, where the gas well pad construction was located, and how long Antero had already been working in that area.

But they didn’t. So they had to fend off questions about drilling inside the city limits. I came away from the meeting with the understanding that we don’t need to worry about drilling in town or close to town for at least 6 years because it is not indicated on the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP), which is a 6-year plan. I didn’t think they explained that very well. Nor did they want to address people’s concerns about drilling near residential areas.

Several years ago Town Attorney Mitch Randall and Town Administrator Rick Aluise wrote a series of ordinances to address gas well drilling inside city limits, Chapter 17.75 Land Use Regulation of Oil and Gas Development. The Board approved those regulations. The Board back then also decided that it would be a good idea to annex much of the county lands in and around the town in order to create a buffer zone around residential areas should gas well drilling close to town become an issue in the future. The regulations are still in place but annexation has pretty much come to a screeching halt under the current town staff and board.

To review the regulations go to Silt Municipal Code. On the left side of the page scroll down and click on Title 17 Zoning, then scroll down and click on Chapter 17.75 Land Use Regulation of Oil and Gas Development

The best news was that the market is down, therefore production is down, which means Antero will be doing minimal drilling activity in 2010. In fact the 2 new well pads – I-pad and J-pad – at Valley Farms are the only projects planned for this year. We can all breathe easier. This means our air quality will continue to improve.

The reason we have noticed less truck traffic is because Antero has constructed a network of water pipelines to all their wells south of the Colorado River. Water is pumped back and forth between each well and a pumping station located between Silt and Rifle near Mamm Creek. It’s good they have found a way to reduce truck traffic. I hope they aren’t messing with Mamm Creek.

The most animated discussion came from Kevin Scanlon, self-described local sportsman and businessman, who has worked in the gas well industry. He stood up and skillfully worked his way to the front of the room talking about how much we all love the Colorado River. He asked them why, with all the other lands and leases Antero holds, they would want to drill so close to the river and risk our most precious natural resource. We didn’t get a good answer to his question. Instead the Antero boys took turns explaining the new COGCC rule that requires wells be located 300 feet above the flood plain. Scanlon asked them about their wells between Silt and Rifle. They said those wells are located closer to the river than the new rules allow because they were constructed before the 300-ft rule went into effect. So I guess what we can take from that is we’re lucky those wells are down river from us. Sucks to be Rifle.

Antero’s CDP will be finalized this summer. There will be a 30-day public comment process. Town Administrator Betsy Suerth said the town will post notifications about the progress of the CDP on the town’s website. She also asked for a copy of the CDP map which was on display at the meeting so she can post it at the town hall. I hope she follows through on all that. 

Let’s face it. Antero is never going to go away. They are here to stay. Many people rely on them for a living which is good for the local economy. However we must always be vigilant. They pay attention when we fill up the Firehall like we did on March 3. At the same time I give the Antero boys credit for meeting with us and fielding questions.

Look. John Black, Mr. Kevin, Lars Inman, and Brian Wade are just doing their jobs. They are cowboy engineers. They happen to work for Antero. They are obviously very intelligent. Black’s Aussie accent added an international flair to the evening. And Mr. Kevin’s don’t-worry-be-happy optimism was disarming. But when Scanlon pressed them about drilling near the Colorado River, I saw the looks on their faces. I sat up front. They know. Because I know. And they are much smarter than me. Drilling along the river puts our most precious natural resource at risk.

What it all boils down is this, if Antero Resources Corporation really wants to be partners with the people of Silt, if they really do love us as much as they say they do, they should stop all drilling along the Colorado River.

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  1. Blog-o-rama: From ski mountaineering to pond skimming « Summit County Citizens Voice - March 27, 2010

    […] In Silt, Peggy Tibbetts blogs on the doings of local government, from barking dog ordinances to rumors about in-town natural gas drilling. Turns out those rumors are unfounded — for now, but questions remain about wells planned for […]

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