Size matters -- but so does location.
It's the relationship between the two that is at the center of an ongoing dispute between U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and a Denver energy company that is drilling on land directly across from his rural weekend getaway in Weld County.
A complaint filed last week with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission against Sundance Energy Inc. by Polis, a Democrat who represents Boulder and the rest of Colorado's 2nd Congressional District, triggered an inspection by the state on July 24 and 25. That resulted in a statement from Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman that an inspector "discovered what appeared to be a violation of our setback rule. The well was believed to be less than 1.5 times the total rig height away from a power line and road, as COGCC setback rules require."
However, in comments late Tuesday, Polis -- who last week filed, then withdrew, a lawsuit seeking to block any fracking next to his property -- said his own independent surveyor found violations "consistent with the commission's findings that the derrick was in excess of 40-50 feet too tall for its location."
Early this morning, Sundance Energy officials acknowledged the derrick on Weld County Road 5 was too tall -- but said that has been remedied, and that the company's operation on the property neighboring Polis's is completely legal.
"We received approval from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission before we positioned the well at its current site, but our drilling contractor used a higher derrick tower than was included in the original plan and the height increase led to the technical violation of the setback rules," Sundance Energy CEO and Managing Director Eric McCready said in a written statement.
To read the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission site reports on the contested drilling next to Jared Polis's Weld County property, visit cogcc.state.co.us.
"Despite this technical violation, which has been remedied and is unrelated to Rep. Polis's claims, our operation remains legal and in compliance with all commission rules."
Subsequent to McCready's statement, Hartman said that the location of the derrick would not have been an issue had the company used a properly sized rig.
An inspection report dated July 25, which is graded "Unsatisfactory," reads: "Setback of the wellhead to the north was 169 ft to the powerline and 186 ft to the road. The setback to the west was 183 ft to the road. The drilling rig height to the crown of the derrick is 171 ft... It was discovered at this time that there were some problems in that the setback did not meet the standard of 11/2 times the height of the derek (sic) and it appeared that the submitted plat did not represent the correct location of the well."
Follow-up inspection reports of the same site dated Monday and Tuesday of this week reflect that the derrick height is now "corrected," and the inspections were graded "satisfactory."
Satisfactory is not a word being employed by Polis.
“How would your family like to be fighting a multinational mining company drilling at the foot of your driveway” he asked Wednesday.
Hartman said it is not clear when the notice of alleged violation, and any potential consequences to Sundance Energy following the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission investigation, will be resolved.
In his statement issued early Wednesday, McCready said, "We are fully committed to ensuring our operations are in full compliance with the regulations set and enforced by the commission."
Last week, Polis filed a complaint in Denver District Court seeking to shut down Sundance Energy's drilling near his Weld County property, but he withdrew the action Friday to gather more information, reserving his right to re-file it at a later time.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.