by Susan Simons
WALSENBURG- On Thurs. Dec. 4, State Representative Wes McKinley took a tour and spoke in person to Huerfano County residents whose properties have been negatively impacted by coalbed methane production since Petroglyph began their operation north of Highway 160. Particular problems include irrigation water that is too saline for use on crops, water wells contaminated with methane, and water wells which have gone dry. He then met with the County Commissioners and County Administrator, asking them, “What would you like me to do?” The Commissioners focused on two areas: water quality and an ombudsman who might become a single point of contact among multiple state agencies and the public.
Two state agencies, in particular, are studying the effects of CBM production on water quality and developing regulations for the large quantities of produced water that CBM operators pump out of coal seams: the Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Division of Water Resources (Office of the State Engineer) in the Department of Natural Resources.
Several suggestions were made for supporting these efforts. First, form a task force to look at the state constitution and statutes and determine who is responsible for the quality of this produced water and who owns it. Second, ask the State Attorney General for an opinion on ownership of produced water. Third, pull together a focus group on the topic.
According to Al Tucker, who chaired the meeting, McKinley “is interested in getting the right agencies involved with CBM production to ensure its development doesn′t continue to negatively affect our groundwater.”
The County Commissioners announced that they will hold a public meeting Tues. Dec. 16 at 1:30 at the Huerfano County Community Center on the new land use regulations they have developed in consultation with Jeff Robbins, La Plata County attorney.