WPX announces plan to pollute Rifle’s watershed

They call it The Beast: WPX Energy’s Cyclone rig [Photo by Jim Blecha/WPX Energy]

They call it The Beast: WPX Energy’s Cyclone rig [Photo by Jim Blecha/WPX Energy]

Did I say “pollute”?

I meant “drill in.” So what’s the difference?

What a warm and fuzzy week for Swift and the Beast. First there was this puff piece:  Gas industry, critics weigh environmental practices in Garfield County. Actually that should read “critic” since Anita Sherman was the only “critic” quoted in the article. Perhaps Swift has adopted a one-critic-minimum policy in an attempt to distinguish articles from advertisements.

Look at what WPX brags about.

… WPX will drill 21 wells from that one pad. Directional drilling deep underground also is an industry innovation that lessens the disturbance on the surface.

WPX also employs a strategy called SIMOPS, short for simultaneous operations. It allows drilling of new wells to be undertaken at the same time on the same pad while other wells are completed through fracking …

“Our guys dreamed it up,” Kirtland said of the process. It’s more efficient for WPX, and reduces truck trips to a drill rig site. In this case, the drill pad hosting 21 wells is located about one-half mile from a handful of homes. They will be spared from the activity and sound of the fracking operation …

Dreamed up? Whoa. Sounds like a nightmare. I’m sure this saves the company big bucks. However during the drilling phase is when large volumes of chemical toxins are released into the surrounding air in the form of emissions. Drilling 21 wells simultaneously means 21 times the toxic emissions all at once. Yet oddly, no mention at all of emissions controls or air quality monitoring, in spite of the fact that new air quality regs recently went into effect.

So how about it WPX? Any emissions controls and/or air quality monitors on that SIMOPS well pad?

handful homeAnd would somebody please explain to me what a “handful of homes” looks like? Whatever that is, apparently the handful of humans in the handful of homes don’t require clean air or water to sustain life. They subsist on the bestowed blessings of noise abatement and fewer trucks.

And the winner of 2013’s Largest Underground Toxic Plume Award, Williams Energy boasted about – wait for it – water recycling. I kid you not. Aren’t they required by law to do that after the mess they made? Was this article meant to be a joke?

… Williams Energy, the former parent company of WPX, constructed a water recycling plant for its Piceance Basin operations some years ago. WPX invested $9 million in a major upgrade of that facility north of Parachute in 2009. The investment made sense because of the size of its operations in the area and its commitment to the area, said Joe Lobato, facilities engineer. “We’ll be here in 20 years,” he said …

Yep, they will definitely be here in 20 years, still cleaning up the Parachute Creek spill, hands down the worst environmental disaster in Garfield County history.

Anita-the-critic pretty much summed it up:  “WPX and the marketing hype being promoted is about as environmentally responsible as putting a cork in an earthen dam leak and calling it an improved engineering fix.”

The very next day in the very same Swift newspaper, the very same Beast announced a 4-year plan to pollute – there I go again — I mean drill in – Rifle’s Beaver Creek watershed:  250-plus gas wells possible near Rifle watershed

And the Rifle City Council could not be more thrilled. They bent over – no I mean they voted unanimously to let it happen. The thing is, only 9% of Rifle’s drinking water comes from that old watershed anyway. They prefer the higher dilutions of benzene, methane and sodium chloride from the Colorado River. So screw those homeowners in the watershed district who rely on water wells and irrigation water. Probably just a handful of humans in a handful of homes.

(BTW, there weren’t any quotes from “critics” in this article so I think that makes it an advertisement.)

… Michael Gardner, WPX environmental manager, outlined the drilling plans and noted various companies had been active in and near the Beaver Creek watershed since 1999. WPX is currently the only active company in the district. A total of 44 producing wells have been drilled from 11 pads in the district since 1999, with 27 of those wells located on a pad outside the district boundaries, Gardner said.

“What we’re proposing is to drill up to 253 wells from 15 pads between now and 2018,” he told the council last week …

Wait a minute – 44 times 5, carry the two – that’s almost 6 times the number of wells currently in the vicinity. In 4 years! Welp, there goes the neighborhood.

Except for this one teensy little caveat –

“A lot of this depends on the market price for gas, obviously,” Gardner added. “So this is a maximum-case scenario.”

Oh now I get it. And so will you when you read this bombshell from June 25:

House Passes Bill Speeding Up Liquefied Natural-Gas Exports
46 Democrats Joined Nearly All Republicans in Voting Yes; Prospects in Senate Unclear

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday that puts a deadline on when the Obama administration must decide whether to approve projects to export liquefied natural gas.

The bill, which passed 266-150, with 46 Democrats joining nearly all Republicans in voting yes, requires the Energy Department to make a final decision on projects to export liquefied natural gas 30 days after they complete environmental reviews at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission …

WPX is getting their ducks in a row in preparation for the flood gates to open and the price to go sky-high, thanks to Colorado’s own Congressional representatives, Rep. Cory Gardner (Republican candidate for Senator) and Senator Mark Udall.

… The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Cory Gardner (R., Colo.), said he is talking “with a number of senators” about moving the measure in the upper chamber, though he isn’t talking with the one person who is pushing a near identical bill: Sen. Mark Udall (D. Colo.), who is facing a challenge from Mr. Gardner to take over his Senate seat in a race that polling shows is close. The only difference in the two pieces of legislation is Mr. Udall’s version requires the administration to make a decision within 45 days instead of 30 days …

Gee thanks guys. Now who am I supposed to vote for?

Drilling in an around a watershed – what’s that about?

Two years ago, Lisa Bracken and I co-wrote a post titled, Finding oil and gas and Osama bin Laden, about NEOS GeoSolutions, a company that uses geo-mapping to help energy companies find those sweet spots for drilling.

What we learned from watching the Company Overview slideshow is that “groundwater is often first targeted as an indicator of hydrocarbon reservoirs and conducting faults, since natural faults and fractures act as conduits to both gas and fluid migration. Imagine our surprise at the revelation that both groundwater and faults are actually targeted by operators as an indicator of gas and oil resources, especially in the Piceance Basin. We thought these things were encountered quite by accident, and any migration unlikely. At least, that’s been the official line. Turns out when you want to make more money faster for investors, you might actually look for and then target such things.

“Suddenly, it is clear why certain operators like to target anticlines shot through with vertical faults, over pressurized fields, outcrops and watersheds (all of which characterize West Divide Creek) — because these hydro-geologies are especially vulnerable to exploitation.”

That’s right. Where there’s water, there’s gas – sort of like injection wells and earthquakes.

What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, according to Paul Rubin, a professional hydrogeologist and hydrologist, and owner of HydroQuest, an environmental consulting firm. In January 2013, he submitted an affidavit to the State of New York on behalf of the Center for Sustainable Rural Communities of Richmondville, NY, recommending a minimum setback distance of 4,300 feet between the outer boundaries of well pads and all watersheds, aquifers, 100-year flood plains, private and public wells, reservoirs, lakes, springs, rivers, creeks – you name it.

In his 14-page report, Rubin said, among other things: “[I]t is worth pointing out that the construction of properly secured gas wells is beyond the scope of present technology. Failure of well sealant material is 100 percent assured. As such, no gas drilling regulations should be promulgated.”

The report is loaded with examples from Pennsylvania to Alberta where drilling fluids migrated into wells, watersheds, and waterways.

Just think. A 4300-foot setback would have saved the Poudre River from contamination last month during spring run-off.

Update 7/13:  In this Op-Ed piece , Questioning WPX’s ‘environmental ethic’, Bill Conder ticks off the list of recent environmental “accidents” brought to you by WPX/Williams.

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2 Comments on “WPX announces plan to pollute Rifle’s watershed”

  1. Jeanne Huyser Says:

    Loved the article. All I meant was “I didn’t get” why anyone would want or thought they could justify drilling in a watershed with the potential to violate a community’s water supply….to say nothing of contaminating that same supply for the forseeable future. My bad…..I always think I’m talking to my friends and forget that people I don’t know (and who don’t know me) may not understand the things I choose to say. I DO “get it”, I DO keep up on what is happening in government from the local to the state level and I DO share my concerns….I just don’t always remember
    when I’m not speaking out in a forum of people that know me. My apologies, Peggy.

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    No apologies necessary Jeanne. Your comment was an inspiration to me. Thank you!

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