Gasfield Justice

Whitewater Drilling Proposal

Fram Operating has submitted a plan to the BLM encompassing 90,000 acres of public, private and split estate lands for oil development in the Whitewater-area of western Colorado [see map at right].

The proposed Master Development Plan [MDP] stretches 15 miles southeast of Grand Junction and 8 miles northwest of Delta, in Mesa and Delta Counties. The proposal is to drill up to 108 new wells from 12 new or existing well pads.

The BLM accepted public comments on the proposal through 12/1/11.

Contact WCC Director of Organizing, Frank Smith, at (970) 256-7650 for more information.

COGCC Rulemaking

In the 2009 legislative session, Colorado lawmakers passed House Bill 1292, the Rule Review Bill, with its recommendations to update policies that govern fossil fuel extraction. This marked an end to the multi-year process which began in 2007 when state lawmakers directed the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to update its rules to include public health and wildlife protections.

The new rules for the COGCC encourage companies to perform long-term planning, use new technologies and implement “best management practices in order to protect public health and wildlife resources. In addition, the Division of Wildlife and the Department of Public Health & Environment now have the ability and legal standing to voice concerns associated with development proposals and its effects on drinking water, air quality, and wildlife habitat.

This COGCC rulemaking is a result of WCC's #1 success in the 2007 state legislature, the passage of House Bill (HB) 1341 to reform the COGCC. HB 1341:

  • Revises the mission of the COGCC to include more focus on “responsible and balanced development”  and adds specific language regarding “protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.”
  • Gives the CDPHE a permanent role in reviewing and commenting on COGCC decisions that could affect public health.
  • Expands the COGCC to nine members (from the current seven) with expertise in the following areas: environmental or wildlife protection (1); local government (1); soil conservation or reclamation (1); oil & gas industry (3); Director of Dept of Natural Resources and Director of the Dept of Public Health & the Environment.

Two other important bills passed in the 2007 state legislature. HB 1252 - the Colorado Landowners Protection Bill - requires that: 1) oil and gas companies minimize their impact to the surface; 2) unreasonable use of the surface gives a landowner a cause of action (to bring a lawsuit); and 3) in any litigation, the burden of proof is on companies - not landowners - to demonstrate their reasonable use of the surface.

HB 1298 makes protecting wildlife resources part of the COGCC's mission and ensures that the Division of Wildlife plays a more prominent role in protecting wildlife in the face of oil & gas development.

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Project Rulison

Project Rulison (the 1969 underground nuclear test site near Parachute, CO) is an example of a proposed gas development where the surface owners do not have legal “standing” in order to articulate their concerns. Two families live near the blast site, and are very concerned with drilling near the original detonation zone. However, current law does not allow these families to ask for a hydrologic study—let alone a cessation of activities near a nuclear blast site.

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More Information

  • The Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Exposure Elimination Act of 2011 was introduced in Congress on July 13. This Act is essential to facilitate and strengthen current chemical legislation such as the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act. [Read more...]
  • Colorado's natural gas production has risen 450% since 1990 with over 27,000 active wells statewide.
  • Gas development includes much more than drilling for a well. Thousands of acres of land in Colorado will be disturbed by pipelines, roads, compressor stations, transmission lines, wastewater containment ponds and well pads – turning agricultural land into industrial sites.
  • The state regulatory agency for gas development, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), has a dual mandate of promoting gas development and protecting public health, safety and the environment. Frequently, these mandates are at odds with one another.
  • Underground minerals (like oil and gas) in the West can be owned by a different individual or corporation than the one who owns the surface property above. Under current law, companies that lease oil and gas have a legal right to extract their minerals, and landowners have only limited power to ensure responsible development on their land.
  • Requirements that developers consult with landowners about the placement of roads, pipelines, power lines, and noisy compressor stations, and the disposal of millions of gallons of poor quality wastewater are weak and poorly enforced.

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Other Resources

  • The launch of WORC’s new Protect Property website coincides with the world television premiere of...
  • Split Estate, a new documentary mapping a tragedy in the making, as citizens in the path of a new drilling boom in the Rocky Mountain West, including several members of Western Colorado Congress, struggle against the erosion of their civil liberties, their communities and their health.
  • Undermined, a story by 6o Minutes Australia with a Colorado perspective on gas development. [5/14/2010]
  • The surface use agreement negotiated for Ted Turner's Vermjo Park Ranch in New Mexico allows for the development of coalbed methane in the most environmentally responsible manner possible.
  • TEDX maintains a publicly available database of the potential health effects of chemicals used during natural gas operations. The list currently contains nearly 1,000 products, but is by no means complete.
  • Filling the Gaps: WORC finds multi-billion dollar taxpayer liability for oil and gas clean-up.
  • Law and Order in the Gasfields: A WORC report focuses on safeguarding our air, water, land, and quality of life by strengthening oil and gas inspection and enforcement programs.
  • Coalbed Methane Boom: A special High Country News report available for $4.25.
  • Doing It Right: A landowner guide for coalbed methane development from Northern Plains Resource Council in Montana.
  • Oil & Gas Accountability Project in Durango, Colorado.

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Whitewater-area Drilling Proposal



The movie Gasland, which was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award, features Western Colorado landscapes and residents, including WCC members! 

Collateral Damage

Garfield County activist Tara Meixsell has published Collateral Damage: A Chronicle of Lives Devastated by Gas & Oil Development. She also recently returned from Australia where she networked with others impacted by gas drilling. [9/5/2010]


60 Minutes Australia came to Colorado for a US perspective on living with gas development. [5/14/2010]


Download a pdf version of Your Land, Your Rights for Garfield, Delta and Rio Blanco Counties. Call 970-256-7650 to request a copy of the version for Montrose, Mesa, Ouray and San Miguel Counties.

Click here for a sample Surface Use Agreement with a supplemental Exhibit between a surface landowner and an owner of underlying mineral rights.

Western Colorado Congress is an alliance for community action empowering people
to protect and enhance their quality of life in western Colorado.

PO Box 1931, Grand Junction, CO 81502; phone (970) 256-7650; fax (970) 245-0686