Property owner, fire chief weigh in on February's fracking fluid spill

Property owner, fire chief weigh in on February's fracking fluid spill

Source: Greeley Tribune (CO), June 21, 2013
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From her back porch on Wednesday evening, lifelong Windsor-area resident JoAnn Ochsner stared across a corn field and remembered the flurry of crews that raced to cap a damaged oil well that in February sent flowback fluid soaring into the air.

That incident gathered widespread attention as greenish-brown fracking liquid and steam shot from the well head and onto the pad. In total, 84,000 gallons escaped the damaged port, which went unfettered for 30 hours as crews raced to get things back to normal. Emergency workers flooded the scene, company representatives did damage control and industry experts monitored the situation the entire time.

In all senses, life was anything but normal for Ochsner as she watched from her bay window overlooking the field.

But soon thereafter, things went back to the way they had been for the 70 years her family has owned the property, which sprawls north of town.

“We really weren’t put out for anything” she said. “It didn’t impede on anything we wanted to do. They’ve been good to deal with and they did everything they were supposed to.”

By all accounts, they’ve done more.

During the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s meeting in Grand Junction on Monday, PDC offered to go above and beyond an otherwise minor fine by entering into an administrative order by consent and agreed to pay $35,000 for the incident — far more than the $9,000 fine the commission was originally planning to slap on the company.

PDC will also arrange for three Weld County training classes that will focus on strategies emergency workers can use when responding to an oil or gas well situation. Those classes, hosted by Texas-based Wild Well Control, will be held July 6, July 19 and July 20.

Even the emergency workers who remained on scene agreed the company’s response has been exemplary.

From minutes after the incident was first reported until the spill was stopped the following day, crews from Windsor-Severance Fire Rescue remained on standby at the well site at PDC’s request. Because it was a hazardous materials response, the department was able to charge for the response.

In total, PDC paid the department $9,152 for the standby response and monitoring. The company also chalked up $5,000 for equipment upgrades at Station 2, which is currently under construction in Severance.

“They were on it instantly and they kept us informed,” Windsor-Severance Fire Chief Herb Brady said.

He explained that companies in the region are becoming especially cognisant that they have a target on their back and are working to become extra diligent when emergency situations arise.

To him, it’s the future of the industry, and cooperation like that is critical when incidents do end up happening.

“It’s just smart business.”

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