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Commissioners move forward on Gunnison Energy seismic operations

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Delta County Commissioners Don Suppes, Mark Roeber and Mike Lane held a special regular meeting Monday, March 11, to hear applications from Gunnison Energy, LLC to conduct seismic operations in two areas in northeast Delta County.

Elyse Casselberry, county community and economic development director, went through the details of the two projects with the commissioners and others present.

The Trail Gulch 3D project will cover approximately 3.55 square miles across public and private lands in Delta County and approximately 26.75 square miles in Gunnison County. Approximately 0.21 square miles is located on private land in Delta County.

The Iron Point 3D project will cover approximately 38 square miles across public and private lands in Delta County and approximately 13 square miles in Gunnison County. Approximately 10.14 square miles is located on private land in Delta County.

The county's Specific Development Regulations allow any activity that is temporary in nature to proceed administratively. Both Iron Point 3D and Trail Gulch 3D are temporary in nature.

Commission chair Suppes invited comments from the public.

Natasha Leger said the maps submitted by Gunnison Energy are inadequate and don't show what lands will be avoided. She would like to see regulated gaps for protection of ground water. Leger is concerned that metal in undetonated explosives will affect ground water. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission does not authorize the use of metal in water wells. No consideration of the impact on ground water is addressed in the applications.

Ross Allen, a rancher, said he is affected by the Iron Point application. "I have dealt with Gunnison Energy; it is a good company. They are more than considerate of the impact on the property they are working on. I speak in favor of this project."

Allen said seismic operation is a reasonable method

to understand what is underground, that this is the future for oil and gas.

Charlie Raley said he is from Grand Junction but owns property, with a water well, building and improvements in the Iron Point area that need to be protected.

Lisa Nierman, a farmer in the North Fork Valley, said that Gunnison Energy, its CEO, shareholders and operators are not from here, not from Colorado, and don't contribute to our economy. She said people not from around here come in and exploit our resources, their industry removes millions of gallons of our water, and they leave us with a mess to clean up. She urged the county commissioners to deny the application.

Nierman said to the commissioners, "Don't sacrifice our water and our rural way of life by selling out to a corporation for small, temporary revenues."

Dan Sullivan, a rancher who runs cattle, said he has done seismic surveys throughout the world, including this area. He said the knowledge gained from seismic surveys impacts and is beneficial to the whole area. "This is a perfect survey project for our area and I hope you support it 100 percent," he said to the commissioners.

Roger Day of Rifle spoke in favor of the seismic operations, noting his experiences with mining in the Upper Muddy area mining. The drilling in Garfield County brought financial prosperity for the area, he said.

Matters of health and safety and ground water are best addressed by the state, Day said.

Commissioner Suppes closed the public hearing and invited comments from Gunnison Energy representatives.

Salar Nabarian, representing Gunnison Energy, said all his team lives in Colorado, not Texas, and some live in Delta County.

"There are some fine people who live in Delta County and we all believe that over time the work we are doing here will be of importance to Delta County," Nabarian said.

"The byproduct is methane CO2. It occurs naturally in the earth. There will be no significant impact from surveys of the shot holes regarding water. There is nothing to design or engineer. We will work with the land owners in protecting their resources."

Robert Velman, natural resources consultant to the project, said buffers are in place for landowners, and protection for all wildlife species will be addressed.

Casselberry reminded the commissioners that the planning department had completed a review of the two projects last fall, along with the U.S. Forest Service. Both witnessed the work as it was being done.

"Gunnison Energy will be setting off one shot hole at a time to record the impact. The seismic activity will have a very small impact on the public," she said.

Casselberry added that the State of Colorado addresses the subject of water quality from undetonated explosives.

Natasha Leger said the administrative process is confusing. Casselberry agreed, saying that confusion will be addressed in the land use regulations under study. Leger also said the maps are inadquate.

Beyond the protection of private property rights, Commissioner Suppes noted the county receives revenue taxes and royalties from oil and gas activity and, although these are very small, the overall benefit is considerable.

Two separate motions to proceed administratively with Trail Gulch 3D and Iron Point 3D passed 3-0.

Casselberry reminded all parties that the U.S. Forest Service must give its approval before the county and Gunnison Energy can move forward.

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