Kinder Morgan heard neighborhood concerns about two new carbon dioxide wells west of Lewis that were approved for drilling by Montezuma County commissioners Nov. 5.
The GP28 and GP30 well projects off Road T and Road 17 comply with the county land use code. They still require permits from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Neighbors said impacts include increased truck traffic, potential for hazardous gas releases, light pollution, noise and uncertainty on construction timing.
“We understand the value to the county,” said neighbor Art Rohr. “Since we moved there 20 years, a number of wells have gone in, and we have not said much, but now it is having a significant impact on us.”
County officials sympathized with neighbors but pointed out that well construction is temporary, and safety protocols are in place.
“Keep perspective on what were dealing with. Impacts of drilling a well is a temporary situation,” said commissioner Keenan Ertel. “Once closed in and piped, most will not know it is there. We recognize that it is an inconvenience.”
Kinder Morgan’s carbon dioxide operations are a main economic driver for the community and contribute more than 50% of the county tax revenues.
Residents want to relocate A wide-ranging discussion between county officials, Kinder Morgan staff, neighbors and oil and gas critics yielded some mitigation and improved communication on drilling procedures and safety plans.
Well drilling takes 40 days, and the initial well pad construction involves a lot of heavy truck traffic on county roads.
Drilling can trigger a venting process to release unwanted gases. Depending on the formation being drilled through, there is potential for release of hydrogen sulfide, a health risk for humans and livestock. If the potential exists, a hydrogen sulfide contingency plan is submitted to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the county commission.
Emergency plans are in place to protect the public if dangerous gases go beyond the immediate vicinity of the well.
Larry Keller, representing nine families in the Pheasant Run subdivision, urged Kinder Morgan to provide property owners air quality monitors, and provide 30 days notice of well construction to give them time to prepare.
“Some of our residents with asthma want to relocate during drilling, and other folks have expensive horses they want to relocate,” he said. “None of us have been involved in a well like this, and we need as much information as we can get.”
One neighbor said residents should be reimbursed by the company if they choose to relocate during drilling.
Kinder Morgan indicated they would provide the 30-day notice of well construction at GP28. The start date is pending market conditions. Drilling the GP30 wells is expected to begin this year, pending state permits and favorable weather.
Also, more education materials are planned to be included in resident notification packets. Permits and documents of wells are public record and are available from the county planning office.
Dangerous gasesA hydrogen sulfide contingency plan is enacted if the gas goes beyond the well pad, which also triggers the emergency action plan, officials said.
At that point, local emergency agencies are contacted, and safety precautions are put in place such as notifying residents, putting up hydrogen sulfide warning signs and potentially blocking certain roads until the air clears to safe levels.
Ellen Foster urged the commissioners to require the H2S contingency plan be included in the letter to landowners about upcoming well projects.
Residents should be notified when well venting is taking place and when there is a dangerous gas release, Foster added. A Nixle warning issued by the Sheriff’s Office via text also was suggested.
“Neighbors are afraid, and I don’t blame them,” she said. “Venting gases can float over people’s houses depending on which way the wind blows. There could be an unexpected release of H2S, and neighbors should know to be on extra alert. They should have more instruction on what to do as part of the standard process.”
Kinder Morgan officials said they recognize neighbor concerns and are committed to public and worker safety. They added the industry is heavily regulated.
All current and future wells are drilled with a closed-loop system, which stores waste from underground in steel tanks and not in containment ponds.
More public noticeUnder the county high-impact permit system, only adjoining landowners are notified of the project. Nearby, but nonadjoining neighbors also want information sent to them as well, residents said.
“We would not have known it was happening if not seen it in the paper,” said Lynn Udick, who lives a mile from the well. “We’re downwind and have concerns about air pollution. We should be included and informed in the process.”
Sending out notices beyond adjoining landowners is not required, county officials said.
However, county Commissioner Jim Candelaria said a simple solution would be for Kinder Morgan to put up more information signs along roads that approach well construction projects so residents become aware of it.
Kinder Morgan officials agreed to the suggestion for additional signage.
Tall drilling derricks light up the night, annoying some residents, but it is done for safety, company officials said. Permanent well site buildings have down cast lighting. Noise is a concern during drilling which goes on 24-7 during well construction phase. Stopping is not an option because of the risk of the drill getting stuck. The state requires that noise not exceed 74 decibels at 350 feet from the well, Kinder Morgan said.
A list of contact numbers for information emergencies was provided by Kinder Morgan.