Routt County OKs oil well west of Hayden

Wyoming company gets permit for oil, gas exploration


— The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a permit for a wildcat oil well on state trust lands three miles west of Hayden.

The energy exploration firm, J-W Operating Co., of Rock Springs, Wyo., expects to drill as deep as 12,000 feet in a box canyon on the north side of U.S. Highway 40.

The county permit covers oil and gas exploration. However, company spokesman Christopher Schutz said the glut of natural gas and resulting low market prices, coupled with the local geology, means his company expects and hopes to find oil.

Schutz is a production foreman with Cohort Energy, a subsidiary of J-W, which has 40 wells in neighboring Moffat County. He said a wildcat well is any oil well with unknown potential.

The commissioners engaged in detailed discussion about the well and potential impacts to water quality in nearby streams, wells and springs, and requirements that they be tested for organic and inorganic pollutants.

“I want the petitioners and the neighbors to have predictability,” Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said.

The nearest landowners are longtime ranchers Kevin and Jill Murphy, who run 100 cow/calf pairs and harvest dryland hay. They are concerned about noise and impacts on wildlife, but their biggest worry is the potential for contaminating the water from seven springs, wells and ponds that their operation depends on. Their home in Cary Gulch is 2,700 feet from the drilling site, and they have a well that is 2,400 feet away.

“Our ranch has been in my husband’s family going on 100 years,” Jill Murphy said. “The water is the heartbeat of our livelihood. I do feel like the commissioners did listen to us and understand the importance of the water.”

The commissioners approved the permit for the well with 30 conditions in place including one that requires J-W to retain an independent testing firm to first establish baseline water quality. They will be required to test at intervals during drilling and production phases. Testing is to be done on surface and groundwater sources within a mile of an oil well and within two miles if the new well turns out to produce natural gas.

The condition gives County Planning Director Chad Phillips authority to require that testing be done at his discretion.

Murphy asked the commissioners whether she and her husband would have the ability to request a test in the case that they notice changes in their water.

“You would go to our Planning De­­­­­­par­­tment and say, ‘Hey, we think there’s something wrong,’” Com­­mission Chair­­woman Nancy Sta­­hoviak said.

Schutz said it is reasonable that the Murphys have questions about the proposed well.

“They’ve got a beautiful place up there, and I understand their concerns,” he said.

J-W was granted an exploration permit for the same site last year but did not act on it. Jill Murphy said interaction with different representatives from J-W was difficult in 2009, but Schutz and consultant David Banko have been more cooperative.

Schutz promised them that personnel would be on hand any time gas flares were burning at the well pad.

Drilling may not begin this fall because the availability of drilling rigs is a problem, Sch­­utz said. Once they get started, he expects it to take about 30 days to penetrate beyond the Mancos shale to deeper levels where the Niobrara shale is deposited.

“That’s where they’ve been finding oil in eastern Colorado,” he said.


kathy foos 6 years, 5 months ago

And if they say"I think there is something wrong", and get water tested,what is the solution if they are correct that the water got polluted?What would the remediation action be at that point?How successful would action to remedy be ?How far could the damage spred?Would it go farther to others property?How would people be compensated?Is the facility to be fenced off and a danger sign put up?


kathy foos 6 years, 5 months ago

One more question ,will they be made to put money aside to dismantle the well in the future ,or just abandon it when the money is gone ?Costing public funds to dismantle?


kathy foos 6 years, 5 months ago

Are there official enviromental impact studies in possession?How could it be approved before a public comment opportunity ?There should be an opportunity to study the enviormental impact statement(by a professional )not just "eyeballed" by council members? Did this county learn anything from the Gulf Disaster about Proper Safety for the oil industry?Are there still going to be tank explosions in our county?Will anyone make sure the berm is up to code?Usually they dont.Has anyone checked the Pennsylvania records for gas fracking, ,as I'll bet that is where this is going to end up ,if its gas,how and where ,will it be processed ,stored and transported?,What about the Yampa River and the impact if there is explosion and the clean up plan?Fire and emergency workers special training for battling a fire as occurred in 2007 Flatops Wilderness area(where the berm was undersized next to a stream?) I really think that this permit has been just shoved through and some one should hold the commissioners responsible for this "half assed permit". Maybe if I would have had a chance for comment before the approval..................... ?!


kathy foos 6 years, 5 months ago

What are the financial benefits projected to be , what are the financial advantages ? This gambling with our enviroment near wetlands, Where would the money go?A fund to battle the impacts?


kathy foos 6 years, 5 months ago

Did the references for the company get checked as to Safety Record,financial ability to contain an accident and the impact? Will they be bonding to insure cleanup and fine potential?Any references as to the character of the company requesting the permit?This is all public record ,right?Do you have it compiled in a form where I can order a copy to exam?When will that be available. We already have to pay lots for gas ,more than the front range,Im used to it by now.Now we need to see it produced near Hwy 40 and the Yampa River.Will our gas prices go down ,wrong.We need to work on getting away from petroleum,but if they oil is here,it needs to be safe for the enviroment and humans and wildlife.Since there is no heavy activity in oil,with in our county,if want to drill it,if let them,make it be right for the public,since the commissioners are our reps.,if any thing goes wrong I guess you will answer up and cover any damages?How many abandonded wells are in this area that currently need to be dismantled,and why havent they been dismantled over the years?


dave reynolds 6 years, 5 months ago can't have it both ways: Do you own a car,do you ride the bus, do you own a home (or do you live in an Earth home dig into a hillside)all of this is related to the petroleum industry..better yet how do you think your bike was made one way or another it is tied to the petroleum industry...yes they should be held accountable and regulated to the highest extent of the law but the more regulations you put on them the more it costs to produce hence the more for your bike,food,housing,gas,diesel,how bout heating oil ,pavement for roads,here's another electricity all brought to you by the petroleum industry directly or indirectly..and yes OH MY GOD it enables you to post your bout wood burning stoves they restricted those years ago cause it created a yellow haze over the valley and made it hard to breath..please all the cars,trucks and recreational vehicles that abound this well should be welcome to reduce your cost of living all the way around and create EMPLOYMENT


Scott Wedel 6 years, 5 months ago

Is this a challenge to think of all the ways to make it as hard as possible and drive that economic activity out of the county?

If there is regular testing and additional testing whenever the residents a half mile away think there might be some contamination then why it is going to cause extensive damage before anyone notices?


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