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Williams Energy Winning Over Environmentalist in Garfield County CO

by Kenneth E. DuBose on July 29, 2011

Williams Energy had a tough road ahead when it moved to begin drilling on a larger scale in Garfield County, CO, state wildlife lands. The story has evolved how we hoped. Both sides are happy and the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife is happy that the levels of damage and impact to wildlife have been much less than expected.

This is more common than you realize, but you don’t hear about it much. No one publishes a story when everyone is happy, so we thought we would highlight this piece from the Post Independent in Colorado. This is what almost all mineral owners will experience. When you are working with a reputable company, the damage is minimal to none.

Williams Production RMT seems to have won cooperation and a certain amount of trust from state wildlife managers, after its predecessor ran into resistance with plans for gas drilling in the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area.

Williams, which is responsible for the largest share of drilling in Garfield County, bought the Garfield Creek energy development holdings of Orion Energy in late 2009, as part of a deal reportedly worth $258 million, and is now drilling in the area.

The sale came after Orion drilled wells in 2008 that showed the presence of viable quantities of natural gas beneath the 13,200-acre wildlife area, which is managed by Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. The state does not own the underlying mineral rights.

In 2008, when Garfield County approved an Orion man camp in Garfield Creek, some state wildlife management officials were opposed to drilling in the Garfield Creek area, fearing negative impacts on local deer and elk herds.

“We want them out of [Garfield Creek] as soon as possible,” said Ron Velarde, the northwest regional manager of what was then known as the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

But according to Parks and Wildlife public information officer Mike Porras in Grand Junction, referring to both 2008 and today, “We’re neither anti-drilling, nor pro-drilling” in dedicated wildlife areas.

He said the agency’s opposition to drilling in 2008 came at a time when there was uncertainty about the effects it would have on wildlife.

Since then, he said, “it hasn’t been as damaging as we thought it might be,” in terms of the compatibility of gas rigs and wildlife, although the agency still has concerns.

Read the full news release at postindependent.com

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