The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission does not require companies to perform groundwater testing as part of its rules. However, the COGCC has been known to make energy companies perform baseline testing of groundwater reserves under certain circumstances.
Joe Moylan reported in the Craig Daily that Thom Kerr, interim director of the COGCC, was in the northwest region of the state last week and fielded questions on the subject from Routt County officials. Although groundwater testing is currently done on a voluntary basis by the energy industry, Kerr said the COGCC will mandate baseline testing of water wells, groundwater aquifers and springs as a condition of drilling permit approval.
Baseline testing is simply choosing water wells near a proposed drill site and checking for the presence of certain chemicals and natural gas.
The circumstances under which baseline testing must occur varies, Kerr said. Sometimes the COGCC requires groundwater testing based on the recommendations of local government officials, as was the case in the Raton Field of southeastern Colorado, the Piceance Basin near Rifle and the San Juan Basin outside of Durango.
“In the San Juan Basin we wanted to do testing because they are working shallow coal seams, which are very close to the ground water aquifers,” Kerr said.
Moffat County oil and natural gas activity of late has been focused on the Niobrara Formation, which is located 8,000 to 12,000 feet below the surface and far from water wells and groundwater supplies. But Kerr said energy companies in the area are required to perform baseline testing as a condition for drilling permit approval.
In some instances, companies may be required to return to test water wells again three and six years after drilling is complete. MORE …