I am writing in response to Mr. Perkin’s letter concerning oil and gas exploration and production in Rio Grande County by Dan A Hughes.
Here are WATER FACTS that Mr. Perkins did not mention:
RIO GRANDE COUNTY HYDROGEOLOGIC STUDY www.riograndecounty.org
Taxpayers of Colorado paid $100,000 for this study.
Certified Professional Water Engineers and Geologists from the local SLV area completed this study.
The number one Study Recommendation was to “require petroleum exploration or production wells to be cased and grouted (cemented) from the base of the Conejos Formation back up to ground surface, and that the grouted interval be tested for integrity … before drilling and testing of the target formations for petroleum production.”
State level Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) controlling oil and gas activity in Colorado and Federal level BLM controlling the mineral lease ignored this Scientifically Based Local Recommendation when they approved Hughes’ application to drill.
Water from the aquifer feeds wells in the San Luis Valley used for irrigating food crops.
CONSERVATION RESERVE ENHANCEMENT PROGRAM www.fsa.usda.gov
This program aims to replenish the aquifer by conserving irrigation water in the SLV by taking up to 40,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of production.
Taxpayer money will be used to pay farmers upwards of $50,000 per year for 15 years to Not Plant irrigated food crops ($750,000 per farmer for the 15 year period)
The total cost of the program is $125 Million TAXPAYER DOLLARS
USE OF ENCOUNTERED WATERS FOR ENHANCED DRILLING - COLORADO HOUSE BILL 11-1286 and PRODUCED NONTRIBUTARY GROUND WATER RULES www.leg.state.co.us
With this bill the State Water Engineer has the authority to manage water rights issues between senior water rights (tributary) and oil and gas uses (non-tributary) without requiring oil and gas operators to go to water court like ordinary citizens and other water users.
Oil and Gas companies can be allowed to use unlimited quantities of water encountered during drilling for hydrofracking without having to pay for it.
SLV farmers, businesses, individuals and others needing water have to follow established senior water rights (tributary water) laws and have to pay for water to obtain it.
Shell Oil has already used this house bill to request large amounts of water to Hydrofrack in Huerfano County.
So, what do the above facts mean?
They mean that Dan A. Hughes Company and other oil and gas companies interested in drilling here could be allowed to bypass fact based recommendations from scientific research done by certified professionals familiar with local geological and hydrological conditions that would protect water that supplies wells used for food production within the SLV.
Oil and gas companies can bypass senior water rights law to obtain unlimited quantities of free water that would otherwise stay in the aquifer and replenish it.
And taxpayers will be paying farmers $125 million not to use this same water.
The COGCC and BLM need to establish special restrictions on the area over the Conejos Formation that require oil and gas operators to install surface casing to below the level of the Formation and the State Water Engineer must prohibit the changing of the tributary to non-tributary water designation for oil and gas drilling in this same area. Local boards of county commissioners, officials at the State of Colorado Department of Natural Resources-Division of Water Resources and the Rio Grande Water Conservation District all need to request that this be done.
Far from being obstructionist, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, Conejos County Clean Water, Inc., and Allen Davies Engineering Service, Inc.and Geological Solutions who conducted the Rio Grande County Hydrogeologic Study are local groups and experts that are interested in finding the facts about the geology and hydrology of the SLV because they have a stake in what happens in the valley. They live here, year round. Their lives and livelihoods depend on helping to ensure that adequate supplies of clean water reach the SLV.