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County approves new gas pad application near Rifle

TEP Rocky Mountain plans to drill 21 directional wells from an existing pad

November 22, 2022

A new natural gas well pad limited impact review has been approved by Garfield County, the first such approval by the county since new regulations on the industry went into effect in Colorado. The 6.4-acre pad, which includes as many as 21 directional wells to extract natural gas, is an expansion of an existing oil and gas pad and includes just 1.13 acres of new ground disturbance, according to a proposal from operator TEP Rocky Mountain, LLC.

“After the wells are drilled, completed, and placed into production, the pad will be interim reclaimed down to 1.74 acres of disturbance,” the proposal noted.

Known as the South Leverich pad, the wells are located southwest of Rifle off County Road 317, on property owned by the Gordman Leverich Limited Liability Limited Partnership. Garfield County Community Development staff had recommended approval of the permit, with conditions.

The site is within 2,000 feet of four residential building units (only one is occupied), of which all owners signed informed consent letters accepting the well pad’s location. Development will take place in five phases, including pad reconstruction (120 days), drilling (120 days), completion (150 days, interim reclamation (30 days), and production over the life of the well.

Jeff Kirtland, regulatory manager for TEP, told the Board of County Commissioners that TEP is the first oil and gas operator to submit a permit to the county under the county’s newly adopted land-use regulations.

“Having the opportunity to be the first in any new process allows everyone involved to test the process and identify what works well and what can be improved,” he said. “I want to thank the Garfield County staff for its assistance in this process.”

“From the time that the application started, how long did it take you to get here today?” Commissioner John Martin asked, regarding the permitting process and navigating new regulations in Colorado. “I’m just trying to get a timeline.”

“We originally submitted a pre-application to the county in July of 2021, and we’ve gone through a couple iterations,” Kirtland said. “Effectively, there was a period of time from October of 2021, when we held a neighborhood meeting, to August 2022, when we submitted our full application. That’s about the amount of time it has taken us to revise the location analysis, complete the traffic study, secure the surface approvals, and consent letters, and finalize the plans that are required under the new county and state permitting processes. It’s a lengthy process.”

“The application is 517 pages, as you can see in front of us, not to mention all the other things you need to do for the state and federal government,” said Martin. “It’s taken close to two years, and they could delay it another year simply because of timing. That’s three years even though you have an existing pad to operate from.”

Kirtland noted that TEP was happy with county staff recommendations, adding that it is addressing staff questions about drainage. Community development assesses impacts on environment, water, wildlife, traffic, and air quality, as well as any potential impacts to surrounding property and how the applicant chose the parcel on which to drill.

“We want to be sure we’re satisfying those requirements,” he added.

TEP’s application is now scheduled for a hearing with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) on Nov. 30. The commissioners approved the limited impact review unanimously, 3-0.

“This is welcome. It’s not the only business in Garfield County, but it’s an important one,” added Commissioner Mike Samson. “When I was elected 14 years ago, it paid the bills. It’s why we have nice roads, good schools and hospitals, and on and on. It sure is nice to see this.”