Drilling for carbon dioxide by Kinder Morgan benefits the county with jobs and property tax revenues, but it also has impacts such as noise and increased traffic for rural residents.
The potential for noisy jake brakes by semitrailers hauling materials for a new CO2 well on Goodman Point came to the forefront during a Jan. 29 public hearing in front of the Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners.
Jake brakes utilize the engine for safe deceleration of heavy semitrailer loads. They are used in addition to air brakes accessed from the brake pedal.
The jake brake’s blast of elevated engine noise disturbs residents along truck routes used for well construction, said industry watchdog Ellen Foster.
But they are also a key safety component for truck drivers and the public, and they should be used when necessary, the county commissioners said.
Well construction is expected to begin in weeks and will include 400 belly-dump loads of gravel for the well pad and 56 semitrailer loads to move the drilling rig in on County Roads 20, U and S.
The topic of jake brake use was amicably debated at the meeting.
Foster noted that the Kinder Morgan well permit has contradictory language regarding the use of jake brakes.
In response to county noise thresholds in the permit, the company states: “The use of jake brakes by semi-trucks will be prohibited on county roads.”
But the permit’s traffic plan states it is Kinder Morgan policy that all large trucks only “avoid the use of engine brakes between the hours of 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.”
“It’s important that contracts have consistent requirements,” Foster said.
She added that Roads 20 and S have a history of being the access route for industrial development.
“I understand it provides income and jobs, but there needs to be consideration for the people who live there too,” she said. “People there have been living with that noise for a long time.”
Kinder Morgan recognizes that jake brake use is sometimes needed and exceeds the prohibition standard, said agent Christ Lopez, so officials work to mitigate their use, especially at night.
Company policy requires large trucks obey a 25 mph speed limit, lower than the posted 30 mph, which helps to reduce the need for jake brakes. Drivers must make complete stops and exhibit courtesy to all neighbors in the area. Offenders are only given 2 strikes prior to removal from the project.
“We talk to our drivers about the use of jake brakes, to keep them to a minimum and not use them on every little hill,” said a Kinder Morgan staffer who monitors truck traffic. “The policy has been no jake brakes between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.”
County commissioners objected to an outright ban on jake brakes, as stated in the permit.
“Taking away jake brakes removes a safety design of the vehicle, and I don’t think we should do that,” said commissioner Jim Candelaria.
County Attorney John Baxter said county enforcement of permit rules on jake brakes is discretionary, especially in the case of driver safety.
Commissioner Keenan Ertel suggested “re-evaluating the permit process” to address the safety of allowing jake brakes.
Commissioner Larry Don Suckla said he would “rather listen to the noise and have somebody live, then not use them and have somebody die or get injured. They are a safety function.”
When a jake brake it used, sometimes it can be hard to determine whether it is a Kinder Morgan contract truck, or a local farmer or other company that does not have restrictions, officials said.
Jerroll Koske spoke in favor the GP-29 well project and supported the company’s policy to use jake brakes sparingly.
“I’m more concerned about what oil and gas trucks do to our roads, and I know the county does their best to address that,” he said. “I think the benefits of (CO2 extraction) to the county outweigh the temporary impacts of building well pads.”
Besides the jake brake concern, Foster also urged Kinder Morgan to provide the public with more detailed maps on truck routes for new projects and to include nearby well locations on the maps.
“They say this well is a step-out well, so there could be more in the future,” she said. “Let’s slow it down and quiet it down out there. The PR effort will pay off by making people happy and will help stop the complaining.”
Lopez was appreciative of the public input and scrutiny of the permit.
“You bring up relevant issues,” he said, adding the company is “very mindful” of controlling its industrial traffic and infrastructure construction.
His request that the permit be approved with the condition that jake brakes only be restricted between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. was granted by the commissioners. The well has received final approval from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
The GP-29 well is slated to be drilled on 6.6 acres of private land off County Road S, west of Road 18. Pad construction is slated for this month.
The drill rig would arrive in March, and a 30-day drilling period would start in April. If tests show good production, the flow lines would be installed in May.
Lopez said the well originally was planned as a “step-out appraisal well” to test whether the area has a good CO2 reservoir. But because demand for CO2 has recently increased, Kinder Morgan officials decided to make it a production well.
Kinder Morgan is planning for five new wells in 2019 – three in Montezuma County and two in Dolores County, Lopez said. Re-entry work also is planned for two older wells in Risley Canyon of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.