Energy companies are drilling holes straight through efforts to preserve open space on Colorado’s Front Range. Boulder County has saved about 76,000 acres from development by buying property and creating conservation easements. However, the county doesn’t always control the mineral rights underneath that land — which leaves the surface property open to drilling.
Previous landowners have sometimes held on to
their mineral rights, or sold them, explains Jan Burns, Boulder
County Parks and Open Space land-acquisition manager. In some
cases, the county has been able to buy the mineral rights, but
they’re subject to prior leases. So when energy companies
move in, the county can only try to minimize impacts by controlling
the location of wells, storage tanks and roads.
County is in the process of approving up to 12 drilling permits on
open space — a significant increase from previous years.
EnCana Oil & Gas Co. is negotiating to place a gas well on one
of the county’s conservation easements; company spokesman
Doug Hock says it’s the first time in Colorado that EnCana
has drilled within a conservation easement.
worked hard to protect its open spaces, says Pete Kolbenschlag of
the Colorado Environmental Coalition, which is why people and
businesses like the area (HCN, 12/6/04: A problem any city would
love to have). Locals will get fired up when development begins, he
predicts: "The increase in truck traffic, loss of air quality,
bright lights — all those things are going to impact
people’s quality of living."
Elise Jones, executive
director of the coalition, says, "If you can drill on open spaces
in Boulder County, the nothing is safe."