Friday, February 8, 2013

Denver District Court Ruling

The lawsuit which so effectively caught the attention of Shell and the COGCC has disappointingly been ruled against us. The recent article and our comment from the HWJ are below.

The lawsuit raised several important legal issues: 
  • Why did the citizens have to find out about the proposed well on their own?  Why was there no effective means of notifying citizens of proposed wells in their area? 
  • Why doesn't the COGCC do a thorough review of safety and environmental issues before they issue a permit instead of simply accepting what the oil and gas companies tell them? and
  • If the citizens are not satisfied by the COGCC review why are they denied a public hearing even though it is standard for many other matters in the state of Colorado, and the Court of Appeals said there was a right to hearing?

The answer from the Court was that the Judge chose to defer to the COGCC's decision and that we did not have the right to question notice since the citizens managed to find out about the well despite the lack of notice.  Meanwhile the Colorado Supreme Court issued a ruling that the Colorado Court of Appeals was wrong and citizens do not have a right to public hearings for fracking.  We were not satisfied by the answers provided by the Court; however, according to our lawyers, it usually takes a number of cases before the court system is willing to deal with problems in an agency or industry.   We are in the process of deciding whether to appeal, or to use our energy in other arenas.

The judicial review also raised real and reasonable public health and safety concerns with the Klikus well, such as, for two simple/obvious examples, that:
  • The well's frackwater flowback pit sits mere feet above our neighbors' wells' and Middle Creek's water table. Any pit liner leakage or spill will almost certainly effect surface water and ground water.
  • Large quantities of sediments (even big rocks) wash down and move over the site during observed flash flooding events and wash down into Middle Creek.

It remains to be seen what the COGCC and Shell will do, if anything, about the specific issues we raised about the Klikus location. 

We'll be watching...
Article from the Huerfano Journal Jan 31, 2013

CHC Comment in Huerfano Journal Jan 31, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

CHC Interviewed by KRCC-Western Skies

KRCC Radio Interview with CHC

Late in January we worked with Western Skies KRCC Radio to interview our leadership and members in the Gardner area for as part of their radio series on fracking.

We are fortunate to have been singled out as a proactive county in the clamor to frack and extract.  It is our hope that we can communicate the special nature of our setting and the challenges presented by the complex geology of the area.

Listen to the KRCC broadcast here 

Text from KRCC.....

In Huerfano County, the possibility of a fracking boom has been on the minds of residents for a while now. While some have welcomed the oil and gas industry with open arms, others are worried about what this might mean for their communities. KRCC’s Jake Brownell has this story of a group of concerned citizens in Huerfano County, and the challenges they’ve faced in their attempts to be heard.

To learn more about the Citizens for Huerfano County, head to their WEBSITE, where you’ll find a timeline of their lawsuit, information about proposed wells in the county, and much more.

HERE is a site outlining the steps taken by Shell and Huerfano County residents in third-party-moderated community forums. Shell sees these forums as an important way to address concerns and to ensure transparency as they do their work in the region.

Members of Citizens for Huerfano county urge people to regularly check the COGCC’s WEBSITE to learn about new drilling permit applications in their communities. The “permits” section of the site is searchable by county, and every permit is listed there along with documents and plans pertaining to it.

CHC Accomplishments

By Judy Fisher, CHC Board of Director
(2012 Director Report, Part 3 of 3)

Summary of CHC’s biggest accomplishments over the past year and a half, and a short report on finances:

First and foremost, even though CHC’s lawsuit against the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission and Shell has not stopped Shell from continuing to invade our county, the lawsuit is doing three important things: Number 1 --It has so far prevented Shell from drilling the very dangerous Klikus well near La Veta, which is the actual subject of the lawsuit; Number 2, by keeping COGCC and Shell engaged with us in the legal system, we maintain our credibility and their respect. If we win, the lawsuit will require Shell and the COGCC to treat citizens with respect, something that did not happen at the state or local level before we filed our suit.

We really had no choice but to engage Shell and COGCC in the legal arena, because the existing so-called public process provided us with literally no effective notice on the Klikus or any effective means to bring our concerns to their attention. Only by filing the lawsuit were we finally able to make the legitimate points we should have been able to make during the public process. That, in turn, has finally made them think about our points. Our suit prevented Shell from proceeding with a flawed plan for the Klikus, and it forced them and the COGCC to listen to valid concerns from citizens.

The third major impact of our lawsuit is in leading the way for other citizens in Colorado to truly be heard, and to take similar legal action, when they find out, just like we did, that the COGCC is not protecting our health, safety and environment the way its own rules and Colorado law requires.

The lawsuit has been in the hands of Denver District Judge Ed Bronfin since September 5th.  He could rule tomorrow, or a month or a year from now. He could call the lawyers on both sides to meet with him or have a hearing. He could direct the lawyers to try to negotiate a settlement, although a settlement seems unlikely. In fact, COGCC and Shell refused to discuss a settlement with us in July. So, the judge will probably have to rule, and that means we will either win or lose. If we win, COGCC and Shell will probably appeal so they don’t have to admit their wrongs. If we lose, then we will have to decide whether we will appeal.

The second most important thing CHC has done is to help people – more than 30 that we are aware of – to get their water wells baseline tested and adjudicated. We held workshops last winter to show people how to get their wells adjudicated, and we worked hard last spring to develop a comprehensive set of legally valid and affordable tests and to promote the testing and to coordinate a workshop to explain the results.

Because of these efforts, we have accurate baseline data on more than 30 water wells in Huerfano County. Because our sampling projects follow all the proper COGA guidelines and because the samples were tested by the best EPA-certified lab in Colorado, no one can argue with the validity of these data. Now, if people who got their water wells tested and adjudicated experience damage, they will have far more power to press their claims in court than they would have had. Even people who haven’t had their own wells tested will have a stronger case.  They will be able to cite our test results in court. Finally, just like the lawsuit, these water well adjudications and baseline tests are keeping the pressure on Shell and the COGCC. As long as they know that we are protecting our water they are less likely to cut corners and take chances that might cause damage.

Our third big accomplishment was to file very substantial and detailed commentary on the four Gardner wells as part of the permit process. Our experience with the Klikus lawsuit taught us how to navigate the COGCC website and read all the forms, and how the state oil and gas permit process works. That meant we were able to submit three detailed filings on behalf of CHC, and to hold workshops to help you file comments as well. Believe me, no other citizens in Colorado have done so much to get their concerns researched, documented and filed as part of the permit process!

The COGCC approved the permits anyway, but down the road, if there are problems, we will be able to point to our filings as proof that we knew the risks of drilling and fracking in our unique geology, and that Shell and COGCC ignored them. And again, these efforts keep COGCC and Shell aware that we are serious, knowledgeable and committed to protecting our health, safety and environment. CHC can also claim credit for Shell adding several important safety features to the Gardner wells that they did not include on the Klikus filing.

In the last year and a half, we have also held film screenings, public talks, and fundraisers. We have grown our membership to more than 575 people, and we have done our best to educate our Huerfano County elected and appointed officials. At this, we have been less than successful, in spite of writing to them, meeting with them and even trying to force them to take us seriously and treat us and our concerns with respect. Going forward, this is one of our biggest challenges, but Chip will talk more about that.

I want to talk a little about our finances. First, I know I am speaking for the Board, we appreciate every dollar, and every hour of work, and every effort that everyone is contributing! We also appreciate the fiscal sponsorship of the Huerfano Community Corporation, which enabled us to receive tax-free donations until we could get our own 501c3. That finally happened in late October – after 11 months and two rounds of inquiry from the IRS – but we did it! 

I have just a few minutes now for our financial report, which I think I can summarize very quickly:

Since our founding, on July 4, 2011, and up until today, we have raised a total of $53,975.00 from individual donations and fundraisers, and a total of $17,500.00 from other grants.

In that same time frame, we have spent $50,937.00 on legal and consulting fees and, $2,225.00 on fundraising costs and $3630.00 on publishing costs.  In addition we have helped to fund a state level anti-fracking group with a donation of $3000.00.
In other words, we are currently in the black, with a balance of $9444.24. If you are not a math wizard, that means, at our current average spending rate, which is primarily on our legal expenses, this will last about 3 months.

CHC has many generous donors, but we especially want to recognize the Guacamole Fund and the Resist Foundation. In August, the Bonnie Raitt concert at Red Rocks, in conjunction with the Guacamole Fund, raised $15,000.00 for CHC.  The Resist Foundation provided emergency funding to support the SWEPI APD filing and subsequent general financial support that has allowed us to update our website and engage in state level action.  Now that we have our 501c3, we are much more likely to get grants to pursue our future activities.

Local News Coverage on Annual Membership Meeting

From The Huerfano World Journal  
View online here

Also see:

Oil and Gas Status Update by Keli Kringel & Barb Kowalik, Directors Report, Pt 1

The Map Forward by Jeff Briggs, Directors Report, Pt 2

The Map Forward

By Jeff Briggs, CHC Board of Director
(2012 Directors Report, Part 2 of 3)

This has been a noteworthy year in several respects. BP admitted guilt in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/Macondo oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, and will pay a $4.5 billion dollar fine, while several of their corporate members are facing criminal charges. This year is also on pace to be the warmest ever in the USA, capping 16 years of gradually rising temperatures. And 2012 is in third place, at the moment, among the six worst wildfire years in the USA. Meanwhile, many speak of our current multi-year drought in the American southwest as being ‘Anasazi’ in its impact, meaning it could drive farmers and ranchers from their land.

An appropriate response requires us to immerse ourselves in the ground truths and connect to what actually is happening.  I want to present a map going forward based on the fact that global warming is being exacerbated by human activity, particularly by the burning of fossil fuels, and that oil and gas development not only contributes significantly to global warming, but it also puts at risk the water we drink and the air we breathe.

While natural gas is cleaner burning than oil or coal, we have to balance that benefit against the fact that virtually all new oil and gas development in the USA uses hydraulic fracturing, which requires massive amounts of water, and the fact that water used for hydraulic fracturing cannot be re-used because it is too contaminated, and the fact that air pollution, water pollution and earthquakes are beginning to happen as a consequence of increased oil and gas development. As you may know, any oil and gas development in the USA that uses hydraulic fracturing is exempted from environmental protections like the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, thanks to the Halliburton Loophole.

At the very minimum, and as a matter of public safety, the Halliburton Loophole should be closed, and the emissions from oil and gas development, including fracking, should be reduced to their absolute minimums. More ambitious would be the planned transition to renewable energy and the sun setting of the fossil fuel industry, with carbon taxes accelerating to enforce that sunset, precisely as Germany is already doing.

Closer to home, let’s look at the water situation in the Huerfano River drainage.  The #3 ditch and several other water rights on the Huerfano are now owned by Shell, which plans to use the water for its oil and gas operations. The #3 went out of priority for a brief time this past summer as a consequence of the current drought.  All water rights on the Huerfano except the #1 & #2 were shut down, affecting just about all of the drainage, including water for Gardner.  If the drought continues, this will happen again.

Of course water is necessary for oil and gas operations.  But Shell’s water rights by law also include the provision that it must always put back into the Huerfano River an amount of water equal to the average yearly historical agricultural use.  The state water engineer monitors that use through its local representative, Ray Garcia, who also happens to also be one of our newly-elected county commissioners.  In Ray’s response to CHC’s pre-election questionnaire, and in our local media, he indicates that the State engineer has the final say on this, apparently abdicating the county commissioners’ responsibility to oversee historical use thru the 1041 regulation process (which will kick in some time in April, 2013).  Issues for CHC include whether and how to educate the commissioners, monitor the water flow data, and/or testify at the 1041 hearings.  We also might need to document any water damage occurring at the Freeman well.

In another development, on December 2, 2012 (after this presentation), oil and gas regulations for the county will be presented by the current commissioners for comment at a public hearing.  As proposed they are weak and lack authority.  An opportunity will exist to advocate for substantive change, if not now, then after the new commissioners take office in January 2013.

In addition, the continuation of the lawsuit centering on the Klikus well has broad implications not only for Huerfano County but also on state and national levels.  First, it has stopped the drilling of the dangerous Klikus well. The COGCC is apparently rubber stamping a huge volume of permits on the assumption that oil and gas companies are giving COGCC correct information. As we have learned in our litigation, the oil and gas companies get things wrong, and COGCC isn't doing enough oversight to catch the errors.  If we win the lawsuit, the COGCC will have to follow its own minimal rules for due diligence in permitting wells, and it may begin to put more emphasis on its legal mandate to protect the health of the state’s citizenry—a protection we feel the COGCC has neglected.

Finally, our lawsuit asks for constitutional due process, because citizens currently cannot get any notice of new oil and gas activity, unless they know how to find drilling permit applications on the COGCC website. This method of public notice is ineffective, and it doesn’t allow citizens to provide any meaningful comment. Nor are citizens allowed to ask for a public hearing on drill permits, because of a Colorado Supreme Court ruling last year on another lawsuit (Grand Valley Citizens Alliance v COGCC). Public hearings can be called for by citizens in many other situations in Colorado and they are an important official mechanism for presenting evidence, cross examining witnesses and creating a public record.

Because of the lack of due process, our only recourse is through the Courts, since there is no other meaningful way for us to be heard and taken seriously. It should be quite interesting to see what the judge does with our case, and any decisions about continuing it will be paramount in 2013.

Perhaps of even greater importance is to create a collective statewide voice to confront the dangers and the damage associated with fracking and with the state’s current lax approach to oil and gas development. We can focus solely on our own situation or we could help create a statewide coalition to join the battle.

A statewide coalition might pressure elected Colorado State officials for new legislation and help support other communities that are taking local action. For example, the town of Longmont recently voted 60-40% to ban fracking within city limits and is now being sued for doing so by COGA (the Colorado Oil and Gas Association). Many other communities are thinking of following Longmont’s example. If other towns and/or counties do ban fracking, it will bring more attention to the need for better local and state level legislation.  CHC has the experience and the knowledge to possibly lead this fight.  The question is does it have the will, the clarity, and the energy to do so.

Nationally, New York State is debating whether to be the first state in the nation to ban fracking.  Governor Cuomo says he wants to make a decision based on the science and ground truth.  He is being advised directly by Robert Kennedy Jr. among others to do so.  Mr. Cuomo is also thought to be interested in running for President in 2016.

Also nationally, a sustainable energy coalition is forming around Bill McKibben of, Be The Change, Josh Fox (director of Gasland), and other groups.  The question for us is, does CHC want to entertain such a connection?

Political courage to base our policy and action on truth and on our well-being as opposed to joining the gold rush is a prerequisite for any human adult in this struggle.  The question is:  Do we as citizens of this country and the world have the courage and energy to do this?

Also see:

Oil and Gas Status Update by Keli Kringel & Barb Kowalik, Directors Report, Pt 1

CHC Accomplishments by Judy Fisher, Directors Report, Pt 3

Huerfano Oil & Gas Status Update

By Keli Kringel & Barb Kowalik, Board of Directors
(2012 Directors Report, Part 1 of 3) 

Active Well Drilling Status

Klikus 2-19 Well ~2 miles west of La Veta
  • SWEPI filed application with COGCC May 2, 2011  
    • 14,000 ft. deep exploratory well: deep gas. 
    • Includes giant frack flowback pit in shallow water table. 
  • LGD was not notified and public input period waived without public knowledge. 
  • COGCC permit was approved June 9, 2011 with minimal COAs.
  • County public hearing held June 28, 2011.  Despite huge public outcry, permitted the next day.
  • No county Oil and Gas regulations in place at the time. CUP conditions were minimal.
  • One of the voting commissioners (Roger Cain) had a lease with SWEPI at the time (and still has). 
  • COGCC Permitting process the subject of the CHC lawsuit vs. COGCC/Shell (still underway). County commissioners joined lawsuit on side of Shell/COGCC. 
  • This permit has not been drilled yet. Expires June 2013 and 2014.
Klikus well approximately 2 miles west of La Veta near Middle Creek

Next four wells: NW of Gardner to Major’s Ranch 

  • SWEPI filed 4 (8) more applications with COGCC on May 18, 2012  

    • Each location has 2 wellbores:  

      • vertical pilot hole ~10,000 feet deep 

      • horizontal “toe up” hole out~1 mile and ~5,000 feet deep

    • Target formation Niobrara, going for oil
  • Public input was exhaustive, despite being un-notified by and denied simple10-day extension by LGD.
  • COGCC permits were approved July 17, 2012 with COAs “better”
    • Require no pits for fracking
    • Require VOC reducers to reduce air emissions
  • Meanwhile, the county had quickly adopted existing La Plata adapted CBM regulations as Oil and Gas regulations in Nov 2011
  • Under new regs no public hearing was required (‘minor facilities’).
  • The Huerfano County BOCC permitted all 4 on July 18 with no public input. CUP conditions were very slightly “better”.
  • One of the voting commissioners had a lease with SWEPI at the time (and still has).

Well span from Hwy 69 north of Gardner to majors ranch. Roughly follows the La Veta syncline.

Jenny Well

Natural Resource Group, "Jenny Well"

Natural Resource Group’s “Jenny Well” was also filed on April 25 and approved by COGCC on Oct 17, 2012. It also had public input given by CHC and had Conditions Of Approval's added by the COGCC. 

COGCC Permits

All permits’ documents are on the COGCC website (click on PERMITS)

County Oil and Gas Regulations

NOTE!  Huerfano County oil and gas regulations are under revision again now.  To review the new proposed regs go to the Huerfano County Land Use page at:

Drilling Status of Permitted Wells

The first Well is the Freeman 3-24 in Major’s Ranch. Drilling is underway right now (started Nov 5 at 9pm).
Freeman well 3-24 in Major's Ranch

Freeman 3-24 in Major's Ranch

Freeman 3-24 Location

Lat:37.684831, Long: -105.067631. Cty Rd. 530 a few miles west of Yellowstone Rd.

Community Work at the Site

For people living in the vicinity:

1. Requesting they complete a baseline health survey 
2. Equipping them with an odor and symptom log 
3. Give them the procedure to file complaints with the COGCC and EPA

If you live near the well or know someone who does, please email

Freeman Change of Direction


After the COGCC permit was granted, SWEPI changed the direction of the horizontal leg from North to Southeast. It is now headed into dikes. Reason given: to maximize perpendicular encounter of natural fractures.


CHC Complaint Letter to COGCC

CHC filed a letter of complaint about the issue to the COGCC. It is not illegal to change the plan after the permit is approved.  But it does suggest due diligence on the substantial change was voided or never mattered/happened.



Baseline Water Tests

CHC is recommending baseline water tests be obtained around the dikes.


Shell Filings

Shell’s Freeman Plan per the Forum

All Shell forum materials are publicly posted at


Shell’s Mandatory Disclaimer of Forum Presentations


There are a number of factors that could affect the future operations of Royal Dutch Shell and could cause those results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward looking statements included in this presentation…”



Freeman Project Schedule from Shell

To Frack or Not to Frack? (notes from Shell Forum)

  • Question: What are the chances of fracking this wellbore?
  • There are two possibilities:
    • This well produces economically without fracking, in that case Shell may proceed to drill on the other permits.
      • Answer: None. *
    • The well does not produce as hoped. In that case they might drill a new wellbore off the same surface hole in a new direction and fracture that new wellbore.

UPDATE AS OF 12/11/2012 

  • A site tour was given to members of the forum on 12/11/2012. 

  • Shell is now actually half way through Completion phase. The Oct 25 plan indicated they would be at that point in late February. 

    • Question: What are the chances for fracking this wellbore?  

      • Answer:  “We are keeping our options open.” * 

  • CURRENT possibilities:

    • This well produces economically without fracking, in that case you will see a permanent pump jack at the site.
    • The well does not produce as hoped. In that case they might frack this well.  But they would need a new permit.  Or if not a permit, at least some kind of paperwork filed with the COGCC…

*If these two answers appear inconsistent, they are. Please see the Cautionary Note above.


Editorial Projection 

(not from Shell materials)

The below map shows multiple fracked directionals from each pad, increases underground “footprint” by adding toe-ups while surface impact is minimized.  Giant underground fish-hook shape. Shell has named the project “Huerfano Sasquatch”.




Shell has stated it has 140,000 acres leased in Huerfano County. Leasing began in force in 2009. This is the largest Oil and Gas play in the state without representation (we have no COGCC Local Government Designee).


Pink = SWEPI Huerfano County Leases as of June 2012.

Recorded leases are on



Recent SWEPI Leases

And who is III Exploration II LP?

  • Dec 2000: iii Exploration acquired 100% of Petroglyph stock.
  • Sept 2001: iii Exploration transferred all oil and gas property and equipment to IIIX LP. 
  • Petroglyph, as a Class A Partner, exercises complete control over operations and governance of IIIX LP.  
  •  IIIX LP's leasehold of 65,000+ acres in the Raton Basin, provides access for exploitation of shale gas.

Leases bought in 2012 in the name of iii Exploration and Petroglyph.

Also see:

Map Going Forward by Jeff Briggs, Directors Report, Pt 2

CHC Accomplishments by Judy Fisher, Directors Report, Pt 3