You are on page 1of 2


The mission of Citizens for Huerfano County (CHC) is to protect the public health, safety, environment and wildlife from the effects of oil and gas explorations, drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). CHC filed a lawsuit against the COGCC and engaged a highly qualified legal and expert team to ensure that the public is informed and has a strong voice in the County’s future. Now, we need your help! ➪ WE NEED MONEY: You can make a secure online donation at or mail a check written to “Citizens for Huerfano County” to: P.O. Box 1193, La Veta, CO 81055 ➪ BECOME A MEMBER: If you haven’t already, join our 350 + member strong grassroots Citizens for Huerfano County by sending your name, mailing address, phone and email address to:, or the above P.O. Box, or filling out the member form on our website: ➪ VOLUNTEER: We need your energy, passion and expertise to help us watchdog the Klikus site development, develop our citizenmonitoring program, and assist with media, outreach, fundraising, and things we haven’t even thought of yet. Contact us today! ➪ SPREAD THE WORD: Tell your friends, family and neighbors about the threat oil and gas drilling and fracking pose to our quality of life, air and water, tourism-based economy and wildlife and let them know how they can help. Hold a neighborhood screening of Gasland, or Split Estate, two award nominated documentaries. ➪ SPEAK OUT: Contact your local, state and federal elected representatives. Send letters to your local and regional newspaper editors to build awareness of the imminent threat to our communities.

Typical exploratory gas well and production water evaporation pond



November 2011

The short answer is “NO”. Shell says deep drilling is much safer than coal bed methane (CBM). CHC reviews the scientific and empirical evidence below……

Shell insists it will avoid the problems of CBM by drilling (and fracking) in isolated geological formations thousands of feet below ground and drinking water sources. Is deeper safer? Or could Shell’s 14,500-foot deep drilling result in the same kinds of problems (or worse) as Petroglyph’s 2,000-foot deep CBM wells? A clue to the movement of methane gas (and other fracking substances) into the water wells in River Ridge Ranch lies in the areas unique and complex geology. Dramatic 100-foot tall radial dikes extend broadly from the base of Spanish Peaks down into the valley to the east. Both the dikes and the Spanish Peaks were formed when hot magma pushed up through the layers of sedimentary rock that contain oil and gas shales and water. The result, according to hydrologist Thad McLaughlin, an expert on Huerfano County ground water, is "shale that normally has little or no permeability may be highly permeable where it lies adjacent to the intrusive rocks [i.e. dikes]”. Thus, the dikes create communication between geological zones, otherwise assumed to be isolated (Fig. 4 illustrates how dikes cut through different strata). How deep the dikes go is unknown, but because they are derived from magma, they are certain to extend several miles down. In 2009, Spoon Valley Energy had to relocate a well when it struck an impenetrable dike 6,200 feet below the surface while drilling for gas near La Veta. “Leaky dikes” (McLaughlin, 1966, Barkman, 2004), previously undetected faults (USGS, 2001) and sand channels (Denney, 2007) are three types of conduits that could allow contaminants and fracking fluids to migrate in unexpected ways. Without a better scientific understanding of the risks of drilling and fracking in Huerfano’s complex geological environment, Shell’s claim that “deeper is safer” is unfounded.

In 1998 Petroglyph Energy, Inc. began developing the CBM Little Creek Field near the River Ridge
Ranch subdivision between Walsenburg and La Veta, eventually completing more than 50 wells. Well depths ranged from 1,300 to 3,900 feet deep. Fewer than 10 non-CBM wells have also been drilled by Manzano LLC since that time. CBM disaster Contrary to the industry’s promise of jobs and prosperity, CBM ushered in an era that, in 2008, Rep. John Salazar called “appalling and dire.” The disastrous details are all too familiar to the residents of River Ridge Ranch and other area landowners. According to the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state agency responsible for regulating the oil and gas industry: • Underlying aquifers feeding more than a dozen domestic water wells were contaminated with dangerous levels of methane. Two cases resulted in explosions. Contaminated water was dumped in the Cucharas River causing devastating livestock and crop losses. Billions of gallons of produced water containing undisclosed but potentially deadly fracking chemicals were dumped into unlined evaporation/percolation ponds. Petroglyph produced huge amounts of water but very little gas, drawing local water tables down more than 2,000 acre feet per year (Colorado Geological Survey, 2007).

• •

Broad industry exemptions to the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and Superfund Act allowed the release of untold amounts of contaminated CBM production waste into regional air and water sheds.

Worrall, 2004. Figure 4. Cross-section of Oakdale field depicting a felsite intrusive body along a shallow thrust (Pg. 6)

In 2007, the COGCC issued a rare Cease and Desist Order to Petroglyph until it could operate "in a manner that protects [the] public health and safety". Earlier this year, Petroglyph announced it was pulling out of Huerfano County, leaving the problems outlined above and a mountain of unresolved questions about the longterm health and environmental effects of CBM extraction, in its wake. Enter Royal Dutch Shell Just as Petroglyph is preparing to leave, Shell Western Exploration and Production, Inc., (SWEPI), a division of Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s second largest energy company, began leasing mineral rights and conducting seismic testing in Huerfano County. In Spring 2011, Shell proposed a 14,500foot deep exploratory well near the town of La Veta. If an economically feasible discovery is made, this could usher in a new wave of oil and gas development in Huerfano.
Visit to view live links

The potential to dislodge and release naturally occurring, but highly toxic substances like hydrogen sulfide (known seeps occur on Middle and Indian Creeks and Sulphur Springs west of La Veta), and radioactive vanadium and uranium (11 known radioactive occurrences in the county, is also troubling, especially since EPA and COGCC don’t require monitoring of radioactive substances in drilling flowback or production fluids. Many impacts from oil and gas activities occur on the surface, irrespective of the depth of the well. Deep drilling and fracking require enormous water and chemical inputs that must be trucked over rural back roads increasing the danger of surface spills and accidents. A 2008 ProPublica investigation found more than 1,000 documented cases of contamination in the US, including cases in Huerfano County. Pollution from flowback and open production water pits leak and are subject to flooding. Even worse, harmful chemicals get into the air we breathe. Finally, fracking uses an average of 5.3 million gallons of water per well. What impact will a new gas and oil play have on Huerfano’s already stretched water resources? This important question will be the subject of a future flyer.