No one is there to help the people

If COGCC determines your contaminated water isn't the fault of the oil and gas company, what do you do? W ithout good water you can't sell your property and you can't stay on your property.

The options are:

1. pay for bottled water or a cistern and water delivery

2. abandon your home and start over elsewhere

3. negotiat e with the oil and gas company for water delivery and possibly sign a gag order .

4. sue the oil and gas company

Renee McClure had flammable tap water. She said, "I thought that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was there for the people. They are not there for the people, they are there to work and help the oil and gas companies. And I asked them—who's there for the people? And he told me, 'NOBODY, call an attorney!'"

W ater tests showed other contaminants related to oil and gas production were also in her water well . Renee moved away, presumably because of her water and health problems in Weld County.

Terry Fitzgerald of Bayfield, CO wrote, "Jim and I own 375 acres southeast of Durango, Colorado. By 1991, there was a well on our land and a well on an adjacent neighbor's land that pulled gas from under our place. We never signed either a mineral lease or a surface agreement.

"We ask and debate continually questions such as: Why was my property chosen to be a sacrifice area? Why is it that the public agencies of my county, state and national government see me at best as a nuisance and at worst, an enemy? How does a very small group have the right to change entirely our environment (sounds, water, sight, air)? Why do I feel so alone in these negotiations with a multinational industry ?"

In Dimock, Pennsylvania, Richard Seymour runs a certified natural farm that ships produce across the state. His well is running red and turbid, and bubbles with so much methane gas that he fears he'll lose that agricultural certification. "We feel pretty alone on this, pretty frustrated," Seymour said. "I assumed the DEP, EPA, the state -- the government -- would protect our land. We didn't know that as a landowner the burden was on us."

In the U.S., if drinking water is contaminated people must prove that a company polluted their wells. It's not like that in the European Union, said Thomas Shelley, a chemical safety and hazardous materials specialist. "They have adopted the precautionary principle and the burden of proof falls on those who advocate the action."

Homeowners spending hundreds of dollars a month for clean water

In Pennsylvania, Colorado and West Virginia, some landowners have had to spend hundreds of dollars a month to buy bottled water or maintain large tanks for drinking water. They learned only after the fact that the leases did not require gas companies to pay for replacement drinking water if their wells were contaminated, and despite state regulations, not all costs were covered.

Many people have abandoned their homes

In March 2011, a western Colorado family f iled a lawsuit saying that negligence by oil and gas drilling companies contaminated their drinking water and air and forced them from their home.

Beth and Bill Strudley and their sons, ages 11 and 13, moved in 2005 outside Silt but said they started living in Glenwood Springs this year to escape the effects of work by Antero Resources Corp. and subcontractors Frontier Drilling and Calfrac Well Services. The Strudleys still own the home outside Silt. Their lawsuit in Denver District Court accuses all three firms of negligence.

" Gas drillers have got to be made to have safe drilling operations for the environment, for humans, for animal life," said Marc Bern, one of their attorneys. " Individuals drilling in this area care about one thing: profits. Profits over safety ."

Surface owner's bill of rights

In West Virginia, the Surface Owner's Rights Association introduced the Surface Owner's Bill of Rights during the 2008 legislative session. Although the bill was not passed, they made lawmakers aware of the problems and abuses surface owners experience. They also succeeded in getting a study of existing laws and regulations and how they should be updated.

T he Surface Owner's Bill of Rights included f air & equitable damage compensation:

- Require the driller to post an individual well bond if no pre-drilling surface use and compensation agreement is reached between the driller and the surface owner, and make that bond guarantee the surface owner's compensation.

- Compensate the surface owner for not only the lost value of the land actually used, but also the lost value of adjacent lands caused by the driller's activities.

- Value the land at market value, not just the value of its current use.

A family's water well was contaminated after hydraulic fracturing near their home - Silt, Colorado

By Laura Amos

The "Good Faith Negotiations" required by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission addressed none of our concerns. Encana sent to our home a nice old gentleman who sat at our kitchen table and told us more or less, "I feel for you, but you own the surface, we own the minerals, and we're coming in to drill. Here's the Surface Use Agreement, you can sign it, but you don't have to. If you sign it you get a check for $3000. If you don't sign you get no financial reimbursement for any damages that may occur." We hesitated to sign for a couple of weeks until we learned that what he was telling us was accurate - the law provided us no protection, no mediation, and no real power to negotiate.

In May 2001 while fracturing four wells on our neighbors' property (less than 1000' from our house on what's known as the G33 pad), the gas well operator "blew up" our water well. Fracturing created or opened a hydrogeological connection between our water well and the gas well, sending the cap of our water well flying and blowing our water into the air like a geyser at Yellowstone.

Immediately our water turned gray, had a horrible smell, and bubbled like 7-Up.

Tests of our water showed 14 milligrams (mg) per liter of methane. That's almost as much methane that water will hold at our elevation. But the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) claimed that the methane was "transient" in nature. We were assured that methane is safe, that in fact our bodies produce it naturally, and that there are no known health effects. We were warned, however, to make sure there were no closets or pockets in our home where the gas could build up and explode. They tested the water in our well a couple more times that summer, ending in August 2001.

In the spring of 2003 I became very ill. I spent months in doctors' offices and hospitals. I was eventually diagnosed with Primary Hyper Aldosteronism, a very rare condition of a tumor in my adrenal gland.

I believe that I should have the support and concern of the COGCC, but that is far from the case. Instead, it is obvious that the COGCC is continuing to be more concerned with corporate interests. In fact, the director of the COGCC told a CBS News Bureau Chief in Washington D.C. that I am crazy, and that my exposure to 2-BE may have come from Windex!

Surface owners need some protection and some power in dealing with huge corporations who care only about profit. I am not the only person who believes her health has been compromised because of gas development in Garfield County. There are many others out there who feel that they have been violated. Giving surface owners some legal rights to protect themselves and their property is critical in order to prevent more situations like mine.

To read the whole story visit:

In 2006, Amos stopped talking to the media after she accepted a reported multi-million dollar settlement from Encana. The company was fined $266,000 for "failure to protect water-bearing formations and ... to contain a release of (gas production) waste." Yet investigators also concluded, without further explanation, that hydraulic fracturing was not to blame.


Affirming Gasland Affirming_Gasland_Sept_2010.pdf

Colorado Family Sues Oil And Gas Drilling Firms

Earthworks Voices

Learning Too Late of the Perils in Gas Well Leases

Officials in Three States Pin Water Woes on Gas Drilling

Health Impacts of Gas Drilling Examined

West Virginia Surface Owner's Bill of Rights

A family's water well was contaminated after hydraulic fracturing near their home - Silt, Colorado

Buried Secrets: Is Natural Gas Drilling Endangering U.S. Water Supplies?


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