Monday’s BOCC meeting contained a full dose of irony. Or perhaps it’s hypocrisy. It’s difficult to put my finger on the true spirit and intent of the Commissioners these days. The front page headlines of Tuesday’s paper spell it out.
At the outset the Commissioners dismissed Lisa Bracken’s concerns about the presence of thermogenic gas at site of the 2008 West Divide Creek seep. Later on in the meeting Commissioners expressed concerns about marijuana grow facilities near schools, parks and places of worship. You see they don’t have a problem with oil & gas drilling in our watersheds – and near schools, parks and places of worship. They relish their ability to regulate medical marijuana cultivation on the local level, even though stricter regulations would certainly cost jobs. At the same time they abhor the notion of stricter regulations on oil & gas drilling on the local level because it might cost jobs. Perhaps they think we’re too stupid to see the disparity. They don’t care about the impacts of oil & gas drilling. They don’t care if schools close down one day a week. It doesn’t matter that the kids are breathing bad air and drinking bad water. They just don’t want the kids home alone smoking pot.
Lisa’s presentation lasted almost a half hour (her 14th appearance before the BOCC since the 2008 seep). I was surprised she was allowed to speak that long. She had been warned prior to the meeting by our newly-appointed County Manager Andrew Gorgey she would be allowed 10 minutes maximum. Once again Lisa did an excellent job presenting the case for a shallow groundwater monitor at the site of the 2008 seep. Again the Commissioners insisted they have done everything that needs to be done, in spite of the fact that drilling is ongoing in the geologically sensitive watershed that is West Divide Creek.
Yes, there are groundwater monitors in place in West Divide Creek, which I believe were put in place by EnCana. There are none in the area of the 2008 seep. Considering the current and increasing drilling activity in West Divide Creek, one shallow groundwater monitor in the 2008 seep area, which is downstream from the 2004 seep, is a perfectly reasonable request. Instead this has turned into a debate over whether the 2008 was even real because Commissioner Samson remembers some kids talk about lighting a match to West Divide Creek back in the 60s (yes, he actually said that out loud). Evidently folklore carries more weight than actual science or say, evidence. And oil & gas liaison Kirby Wynn seems to think there are two sides to science.
Therefore, as I interpret the situation, the Commissioners’ position on West Divide Creek is they won’t take any further action unless there is some sort of event that warrants further scientific investigation – which by then could be too late. Or if Lisa can prove the existence of thermogenic gas at the site of the 2008 seep – putting the burden of proof on the landowner/citizen. Perhaps it might make sense to put the burden on Lisa if this was a legal matter, or she was seeking to gain financially somehow from this “debate”. But it’s none of that. She is – and I am – gravely concerned about the impacts on our watersheds, West Divide Creek and ultimately the Colorado River.
Just like the COGCC’s investigation into hydrogen sulfide emissions last summer, they allowed the oil & gas industry to choose monitoring sites. The investigation into groundwater contamination in West Divide Creek has been all about allowing EnCana to call the shots. John Martin even suggested Lisa go back to the COGCC. Why? Because Garfield County doesn’t care about water quality?
It begs the question. What are they afraid of?
Lisa’s request for the shallow groundwater monitor is tentatively scheduled to be an action item on the July 2 BOCC Agenda.