An Honest Dialogue that Needs to Continue

The organizers of Thursday’s RSPN Concerned Citizens meeting (1/20) combined all the right ingredients for a successful meeting. About 75-80 people showed up at the Silt Fire Station to learn more about the gas well drilling on Silt Mesa and Peach Valley. The meeting lasted about two hours so I’ll just hit the highlights.

RSPN organizer Fiona Lloyd admonished the crowd from the start that if anyone thought the meeting would be against gas well drilling they were wrong. “We are not an anti-drilling group,” Lloyd said. She explained they are against Antero’s proposed 10-acre well spacing on Silt Mesa and Peach Valley because it’s “too risky and too much”. She asked for a show of hands from people who were also against increased well spacing. About 75% or more raised their hands.

Lloyd explained that 10-acre well spacing means more below ground wells will be connected to each above ground drill rig, to put it as simply as possible. Those who are opposed believe the increase in underground wells will impact air and water quality, as well as property values in a heavily populated rural area, which is less than a mile from the town of Silt.

According to Lloyd, the negotiations between Antero and RSPN over a so-called agreement on well spacing have reached an impasse. Antero wants the Board of County Commissioners’ intervention “off the table” and they will withdraw their request for 10-acre well spacing for now, with no guarantee they will not request it some time in the future. The RSPN would not agree to that. Antero has requested a special meeting with the BOCC scheduled for Monday, January 24.

Former COGCC member and former Garfield County Commissioner Trési Houpt talked about her experience as a member of COGCC. She explained that the oil and gas industry spent a lot of time convincing members that 10-acre spacing is the only practical way to pool gas in tight sand regions. “While I understand the geology,” Houpt said. “I also believe surface impact is connected to down-hole spacing, especially in populated areas. These are important discussions to have. Our challenge is to balance extraction with air and water impacts.”

Throughout the meeting, RSPN representatives Fiona Lloyd and Sandy Pickard, along with Leslie Robinson from Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, fielded questions and welcomed input from the audience. There were so many good questions that led to in-depth discussions, I wish I could describe them all. Mineral rights owners, surface rights owners, and just plain citizens engaged in meaningful dialogue because everyone stayed focused on their concerns about the impacts of increased well drilling.

Local Antero operations manager Jon Black was present and explained the company’s fracking process. Antero buys fracking chemicals from Calfrac. In the fracking process they use hydrochloric acid, an emulsion stabilizer, a surfactant, water, sand, a biocide, and 50,000 barrels of water per well, which takes 3-5 years to recover from the well pit as wastewater.

But someone spoke up and said it’s not so much what goes into the ground that concerns people as what happens when the combination mixes with organic compounds underground. What by-products are created during the fracking process that leach into the aquifer? Black didn’t have the answer. People also expressed concerns about everything from chemical spills to excess water usage to pipeline safety.

Judy Jordan, GarCo’s Oil & Gas Liaison spoke briefly about her role as mediator between citizens and the industry. Sonny Fernandez was the only member of the SiltBOTs present.

The RSPN is looking to better organize and expand their group with the help of a grant they received a grant through Grand Valley Citizens Alliance. They hope more people will become involved. Considering this group grew from a few kitchen tables on Silt Mesa to the level of attention and clout they have attained in a few short months is impressive. By opening up an honest dialogue between citizens and Antero, the RSPN has moved a mountain. But they have accomplished so much more than that. They have slowed down the drilling activity, engaged the BOCC in their plight, and attracted more local media attention to the impacts of gas well drilling than we’ve seen in many years.

The issues are certainly challenging. But the important thing is we’re talking about them. It’s a conversation we should all be involved in and we must keep moving forward.

Antero’s annual meeting with the town of Silt will be held in a couple weeks. I will post the date and time here as soon as I have it.

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2 Comments on “An Honest Dialogue that Needs to Continue”

  1. Carl & Karen Mc Williams Says:

    If ANTERO has scheduled a “special meeting with the Garfield County Board of Commissioners” on Monday January 24, 2011; this “special meeting” does not appear on the Garfield County website Commissioner Agenda docket.

    What gives?

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    I don’t know much about it other than what was briefly mentioned Thursday nite.

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