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Last updated 8:24PM ET
December 12, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Protests Filed Over New Gas Wells
(2007-09-18)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: Proposals for new methane gas wells, just outside the Durango city limits near the Fruitland Outcrop are causing concern.
KSUT's Victor Locke reports.

VICTOR: Chevron USA has filed with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, to drill up to 18 new methane wells near La Posta Road, just south of Durango.
La Plata County and the San Juan Citizens Alliance have both filed to intervene in the case, expressing concerns about the wells and the impact they might have on gas seeps in the area.
Josh Joswick handles gas issues for the San Juan Citizens Alliance.
JOSWICK: SOME OF THOSE WELLS ARE LOCATED IN AREAS, IN AN AREA THAT WE CONSIDER NOT TO BE DEVELOPABLE, WHICH MEANS IT'S IN A MILE AND A HALF OR TWO MILES OF THE OUTCROP.
The outcrop is where the Fruitland Coal Seams holding methane gas in the San Juan Basin literally come to the surface.
One such outcrop is located just South of Durango, near the humane society, the gun club and the highway 550 and 3 intersection, and near what's called Moving Mountain, which blew up in the early 1930's due to gas seeps.
Those gas seeps continue to this day, particularly along the Animas River, where signs warn of poisonous hydrogen sufide gas concentrations.
JOSWICK: WHAT WE'RE CONCERNED ABOUT, AMONG OTHER THINGS, IS NOT JUST NECESSARILY METHANE SEEPS BUT A RE-CREATION OF THE CONDITIONS THAT LED TO THE COAL SEAM FIRES DOWN IN VALENCIA CANYON.
Dan Johnson is Chevron Manager of Government Relations in the Rockies.
JOHNSON: WE HAVE NO INTENT TO DRILL, TO PUT A WELL IN THE BUFFER ZONE, OF COURSE.
Johnson says there's misunderstanding about where their wells will go.
But Geologist Mike Matheson, who is the oil and gas technical adviser to the county, says the wells Chevron wants to drill pose several challenges whether they are within the outcrop buffer zone or not.
MATHESON: THEY ARE THE CLOSEST INFILL APPLICATION TO THE OUTCROP THAT HAS COME IN YET, OUT OF THE HUNDREDS THAT HAVE BEEN APPROVED SO FAR. THEY'RE VERY CLOSE TO THE ANIMAS RIVER METHANE SEEPS, HYDROGEN SULFIDE SEEPS AND THE FRUITLAND FORMATION IS NOT VERY WELL MONITORED IN THAT AREA. THROUGH A LACK OF GOOD INFORMATION, WE'RE CONCERNED AS MUCH AS ANYTHING ELSE.
The wells would also be the closest infill wells ever proposed to the City of Durango.
There are conflicting opinions about whether methane gas wells drilled near the outcrop cause the seeps or if they are naturally occuring.
The La Plata County Energy Council, the state, and gas companies working here are gearing up a multi-million dollar study into the problems and ways to mitigate them.
Christi Zeller, Director of the Energy Council says the study could take a year or more to complete.
She notes gas seeps have already been subjected to extensive review.
ZELLER: WE HAVE SPENT AT LEAST TEN MILLION DOLLARS IN OVER A DECADE, INDUSTRY HAS. MONITORING, MAPPING AND MODELING THIS OUTCROP FOR THAT LONG.
Matheson says the state should wait until that study is complete before allowing drilling that close.
Joswick, of the San Juan Citizens Alliance, agrees.
JOSWICK: AT THIS POINT IN TIME, IN MY MIND, IT WOULD BE PREMATURE FOR THEM TO ALLOW DRILLING IN AN AREA WHERE THEY'RE GOING TO STUDY WHAT THE IMPACTS OF DRILLING ARE, AND HOW BEST TO MITIGATE THOSE IMPACTS.
County and Chevron officials plan to get together this week to discuss the 18 new wells.
The state was to have considered the application October 1st but that consideration may be delayed until November, if then.
From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.

TAG: Text and audio of this story can be found online at ksut.org.
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