EnCana Oil & Gas racks up fines
GARFIELD COUNTY – One of Garfield County’s leading natural gas producers also is leading the state this year in violations and fines.EnCana Oil & Gas was hit with another fine last week in connection with its operations in Garfield County. It has violated state regulations and laws in connection with 17 wells this year and has been fined a total of $454,200 – the most one company has received in the last 15 years.”The 17 for this one company is quite a few,” said Morris Bell, operations manager for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).But the company promises next year will be different. EnCana spokesman Walt Lowry said this week EnCana’s goal is to be issued no notices of alleged violation by the COGCC in 2005.”It’s a dangerous business. Things do happen, but it’s our commitment and our goal to ensure that they don’t,” he said.The COGCC last week found EnCana in violation of drilling a well without a permit, and recompleting seven wells without permits. The COGCC fined EnCana $25,000 for the violation involving the new well; the COGCC staff had recommended a $35,000 fine.The COGCC did not fine EnCana in connection with the recompletion violations because of a clause that exempts companies from fines when they voluntarily report violations.Tricia Beaver, a COGCC hearings officer, said recompletion work can involve going back into a well and perforating it, possibly at a different geological formation, in an attempt to reach new pockets of gas.The bulk of EnCana’s fines this year stem from a record $371,200 penalty handed down in August in connection with natural gas that surfaced earlier in the year in West Divide Creek south of Silt.The COGCC has fined EnCana more this calendar year than all oil and gas operators combined in any COGCC fiscal year in at least a decade and a half. According to state records dating back to 1990-91, the most in total fines the COGCC had previously imposed was $238,250 in fiscal year 1995-1996.The COGCC’s fiscal year begins in July, and total fines so far this fiscal year are $453,200, in large part due to EnCana’s West Divide Creek fine and others against the company.COGCC staff say EnCana appears to be making progress toward better complying with rules and regulations, and it will take time to see if the company’s efforts succeed.
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