Garden Gulch drill spill fines total $316,350

By David O. Williams
Real AspenJune 30, 2011

Two oil and gas companies responsible for major spills of hydraulic fracturing fluids and other drilling fluids into Garden Gulch on the Roan Plateau of Colorado’s Western Slope in 2008 have reached settlement agreements with the state for fines totaling $316,350.

Marathon Oil, which admitted to a release of more than 1.2 million gallons of fracking fluids into the Parachute Creek tributary, which ultimately empties into the Colorado River, has agreed to a fine of $143,350, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

Berry Petroleum, which spilled more than 100,000 gallons of drilling fluids into Garden Gulch, has agreed to a fine of $173,000. Berry failed to report initial spills in late 2007, but finally did self-report in early 2008.

The scene of the crime.

The Garden Gulch spills, which formed a spectacular but tainted frozen icefall, are part of a state backlog of old enforcement cases. There will still be 12 cases more than a year old if the COGCC board approves the settlements at next week’s monthly hearing in Kiowa. Regulators have been making steady progress this year in dealing with old enforcement matters.

For more details on the settlement agreements, go to the COGCC website and click on Hearings on the menu bar; then click on the 2010/2011 Fiscal Year; then click on the April 28, 2011 date in the Applications Due column for the June 27 Hearing Date; then scroll down to the bottom of that page for the Berry and Marathon enforcement matters and click on Staff Recommendation for either case.

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