This cause came on for an emergency hearing before the Commission on January 13, 2011, in Suite 801, 1120 Lincoln Street, Denver, Colorado for an order to allow the expenditure of additional monies from the Oil and Gas Conservation and Environmental Response Fund.  The Commission held this emergency hearing pursuant to its authority under §34-60-108(3), C.R.S. (2010).




The Commission Finds as follows:


                        1.  The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s (“COGCC”) annual Appropriation 075 used for environmental complaint investigation ($312,033) and Appropriation 076 used for special environmental projects ($325,000) line item budgets for fiscal year ending June 30, 2011 have nearly been entirely obligated or exhausted.  Finding Nos. 2 through 7, below, describe work required to ensure public safety in portions of the historic Florence oil field where seeps of thermogenic, wet natural gas into and under occupied dwellings are present.  COGCC Staff recommend that the work be completed during the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2011.


                        2.  One orphaned oil well (thought to be the Florence Oil and Refining Company #1, API # 05-043-40078) in the SW¼ of Section 15, Township 19 South, Range 69 West, 6th P.M., was plugged in 2009 using Plugging and Well Reclamation (“PAWR”) funds, Appropriation 060.  The orphan well is located in a residential section of the City of Florence.  Compilations of well records done in 1908 and 1909 by the U.S. Geological Survey (“USGS”) staff indicate that there may be at least five other oil wells that were drilled prior to 1909 within a few hundred yards of the plugged orphan oil well.  Interviews with local residents indicate that two of these may have been used as domestic gas wells in the last twenty years.  The USGS maps indicate another orphaned oil well may be located in the SE¼ of Section 16, Township 19 South, Range 69 West, 6th P.M., where a mobile home park exists today.  The mobile home park contains 30 to 40 mobile homes.


                        3.  Soil gas surveys in portions of said Sections 15 and 16 were done prior to and then again subsequent to the plugging of the orphan well.  These soil gas surveys were funded using Appropriation 076 funds for special environmental projects.  The follow-up surveys indicate that soil gas concentrations around and under residences have not decreased subsequent to the plugging of the orphan well.  Five homes are located over or in close proximity to the gas seeps. 


                        4.  COGCC Southern Colorado Field Inspection Supervisor Mike Leonard identified small circular areas of stressed vegetation in the late fall of 2010 in close proximity to oil well locations interpreted from the 1909 USGS records.  He also determined gas was actively seeping from one of the stressed vegetation areas.  He also determined that explosive levels of methane were present in the shallow soils immediately adjacent to one of the mobile homes in the area. 


                        5.  COGCC Staff propose to investigate and determine the sources of gas seeping in this residential area.  The investigation will include detailed investigations of the gas seeps.  Trenching and excavating will be the primary method used to locate orphaned well bores.   Flux surveys of gas seepage volumes will be done simultaneously with trenching and excavating to better locate the sources of gas and the directions in which the gas is migrating.  Other tools that may be used are magnetometers, ground penetrating radar as well as handheld infrared or other gas leak detector devices.  Sampling and characterization of gases from seeps and oil wells in the area will also be used to better understand sources of the seeps.


                        6.  COGCC Staff also propose to aid the local residents to better ensure immediate safety in their homes by purchasing and installing gas monitoring devices as needed.  Other passive mitigation measures may also be used such as venting of combustible soil gases away from homes and residences. 


                        7.   This project designed to ensure human health safety and welfare has estimated costs and expenditures of $67,000.   As described in Finding No. 1, funds for this project are not available from Appropriation 075 which is used for environmental response or from Appropriation 076 which is used for special environmental projects in this fiscal year.  COGCC staff believes that this project needs to be done as soon as practicable due to the potential risk to human safety posed by gas believed to be leaking from orphaned oil wells in the area. 




NOW, THEREFORE IT IS ORDERED, that in accordance with §34-60-124(7), C.R.S., the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission hereby authorizes the expenditure of Sixty Seven Thousand dollars ($67,000) from the One Million, Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($1,500,000.00) Emergency Response line item for the investigation of significant adverse impacts to public health, safety, welfare, and the environment that may be associated with the conduct of oil and gas operations.


IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, that the provisions contained in the above order shall become effective forthwith.


IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, that the Commission expressly reserves its right, after notice and hearing, to alter, amend, or repeal any and/or all of the above orders.


IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, that under the State Administrative Procedure Act the Commission considers this order to be final agency action for purposes of judicial review within thirty (30) days after the date this order is mailed by the Commission.


IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, that an application for reconsideration by the Commission of this order is not required prior to the filing for judicial review.


                        ENTERED this                     day of January, 2011, as of January 13, 2011


                                                                          OIL AND GAS CONSERVATION COMMISSION

                                                                          OF THE STATE OF COLORADO




                                                                              Robert A. Willis, Acting Secretary


Dated at Suite 801

1120 Lincoln St.

Denver, Colorado 80203

January 18, 2011