by Carla J. Dolce
The letters have been received by hundreds of Huerfano County land owners. Just about everyone has read the letter several times and shown it to his or her family and friends. Confusion, concern, fear and anger are the most common reactions – at least for those who don′t own the mineral rights for their property.
Over the past several weeks, Dawson Geophysical Company, with offices in Midland, Texas sent hundreds of letters to land owners around the county including many in Navajo Ranch Estates and Pinon Hills off of County Rd. 510. The letter bears the title, “Permit to Conduct Geophysical Operations” and asks the property owner to consent to “geophysical exploration … including 2-D seismic surveys.” In exchange for consenting to have surveys done on their property, the letter says Dawson will pay a specified amount, which varies with the surface mileage on which the seismic study will be done. One person in Navajo Ranch Estates was promised $2.00 for allowing Dawson to run its seismic cable over her driveway.
An informal conversation with Dawson′s local “permit agent” indicated Dawson expects to begin the 2-D seismic survey later this month. The survey involves laying a sophisticated cable along 275 linear miles of roads in Huerfano County followed by a truck that generates an ultrasonic vibration. The cable has receivers, transmitters and computers embedded in it. These will generate a massive data base of information revealing locations of fault lines, fractures, rock formations, water tables and, of course, oil and gas. Dawson will send a crew of about 50 to conduct the survey.
Rumors abound concerning the meaning of this survey, which must be costing millions of dollars. The most reliable rumor is that Shell Oil has contracted to have the survey done to enable it to locate gas wells for deep natural gas extraction. Shell is also rumored to be the entity for whom Hannon & Associates Inc. purchased gas/oil leases for thousands of acres in Huerfano County at last May′s BLM auction. The auction was one of the Bureau of Land Management′s regular quarterly auctions of oil and gas leases on parcels of land for which the government owns the mineral rights. Each lease authorizes the purchaser to produce oil and gas from the government-owned mineral rights.
Unlike coal bed methane drilling, deep gas extraction does not require dewatering to release the gas. Threats to water supplies from deep gas extraction are not as great as from CBM drilling which has been blamed for contaminating domestic wells and causing wells to go dry not only in River Ridge Ranch but just about everywhere CBM drilling occurs.
The Huerfano Journal is waiting to hear from Dawson Geophysical on its request for an interview to verify the rumors and obtain specific and detailed information.