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Sierra Club Contests Fracking Development on Boulder County Open Space

September 28, 2018

A Crestone Peak Resources tank battery and wells are seen near Weld County Road 1 and Weld County Road 20 1/2 southeast of Longmont earlier this month.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has decided it will allow the Sierra Club to submit written comment contesting Crestone Peak Resource’s application to build a 140-well development on Boulder County open space.

While the environmental advocacy group will not be able to call witnesses or cross-examine anybody during the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s hearing at the end of October, the Sierra Club will be allowed to enter reports regarding the acute and chronic health impacts of the project.

“I think it’s a very positive development because we get to put evidence in front of the commission showing just how serious the environmental and health impacts of this project are,” said Eric Huber, the senior managing attorney with the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program. “I’m glad that the record is finally going to get made and we look forward to our day in court.”

As of Thursday, the Sierra Club has three expert witnesses ready to submit reports.

According to Huber a petroleum engineer will address concerns regarding the sheer size of the 140-well project, highlighting the fact that it will require more water, fracking chemicals, and solid fracking materials than used previously in all the existing 779 wells in the county and that the wells also will produce more flowback waste than all previous wells in the county combined. A hydrologist will attempt to show that the wells need more casing to protect the aquifers under the project, and an epidemiologist will address the acute and chronic health impacts of the project.

Ultimately, the Sierra Club hopes the evidence it is allowed to submit will convince the commission to deny the application altogether.

“If approved, this project will convert a rural area into a heavy industrial area,” Huber said. “I think this application should be denied.”

Despite calls for the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to reject Crestone’s application, Jason Oates, a spokesman for Crestone Peak Resources, said the company welcomes the criticism.

“This is supposed to be a collaborative process, so if they have concerns that they want to be factored into the decision, we’re in support of that,” Oats said. “That’s what this process is all about.”

Having worked on this project for nearly two years, Crestone is hoping to get a final decision on its application as soon as possible. However, because Boulder County recently filed a lawsuit challenging Crestone’s mineral leases for the area, the hearing could be postponed.

“We obviously argued against this,” Oates said, “But we are willing to respect whatever the commission hearing’s staff puts forth.”

John Spina: 303-473-1389, jspina@times-call.com or twitter.com/jsspina24

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