Colorado's attorney general has asked a state district court to temporarily halt Enterprise Products Partners LP's construction of a natural gas pipeline system in the Piceance Basin because of sediment runoff.
Enterprise and its subsidiaries are building 50 miles of new gathering lines near Parachute, CO, to connect Marathon Oil Co.'s multi-well drilling sites to the partnership's 48-mile, 36-inch diameter Piceance Creek Gathering System (see NGI, Dec. 10, 2007). Marathon's production is expected to peak at around 180 MMcf/d. From the gathering system the gas would be delivered to Enterprise's Meeker processing complex, the first phase of which was placed into service in October (see NGI, Oct. 22, 2007).
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers last week filed a temporary restraining order and injunction against Enterprise and a subsidiary, Marathon and Berry Petroleum Co., for failing to control construction runoff in waterways near Parachute. The motion was filed on behalf of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment v. Enterprise Products Operating LLC, Enterprise Transportation Company, Berry Petroleum Company and Marathon Oil Co.). Berry was named because it is providing an access road for the heavy equipment necessary to construct the ditch.
The state's motion would suspend any further construction work related to the pipeline, which is being built on the Roan Plateau. The motion also would require the named companies to control sediment runoff from an ancillary access road. The lawsuit was triggered by environmental groups that took photos of the construction site.
"Large areas of loose soil and banks of unconsolidated soil at the construction site lack the necessary control structures to minimize sediment runoff caused by rainfall and snowmelt," the complaint notes. "As a result of the companies' failure to mitigate these conditions, loose soil is washing from the road and trench areas into Corral Gulch, and, shortly thereafter, off a cliff into Garden Gulch. This sediment-laden water then washes into Parachute Creek, a fishery which serves as a habitat for trout and other cold-water aquatic species. Spring runoff is now occurring, thereby greatly increasing the amount of soil released from the site, and further endangering aquatic wildlife."
Marathon and Berry have stormwater discharge permits covering the construction site, but the lawsuit noted that "none of the companies has implemented the necessary best management practices to control and minimize sediment runoff," which are required under the state's environmental rules.
The district court set a hearing for Wednesday (April 23). However, Suthers has requested immediate action because the snowpack on the Roan Plateau is melting and the associated runoff soon will reach its peak, the lawsuit contends.
In related news, a Colorado sportsmen's group launched a campaign Wednesday to lobby the state's elected officials and land managers to "seek a balance" between energy development and outdoor recreation. The group wants "significant" environmental safeguards put in place on oil and gas development.
"Oil and gas development is damaging a lot of fish and wildlife habitat, and when that happens it compromises our abilities as sportsmen to hunt and fish on public lands," said spokesman Tony Dean, who hosts a Colorado television show on outdoor recreation. "About 27 million acres of big-game habitat have been leased for energy development."
The lobbying effort is a "last resort" because the state's sportsmen have not been heard in discussions about energy development in the state, said Trout Unlimited's Chris Wood.
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