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Life inside the Sacrifice Zone

Dear Editors,

With BP requesting a doubling of well spacing, I have a few comments I would like to share with the public, especially those of you who do not spend much time in the southern parts of La Plata and Archuleta counties.

Although I am sure the majority of the individual persons involved with the gas and oil industry have good intentions, the industry is wreaking irreparable damage to our land and community. In my personal experience, you cannot trust anything they say, except that they will extract the minerals come hell or high water. Whether this is due to disorganization or deception no one can say for sure. I will elaborate:

In contract negotiations for the well on our ranch:

- I was told that directional drilling was not possible. Two days before they started the drilling process on this property, I learned the well at the adjacent property was being directionally drilled. Now they want to make this the norm. I understand each well site has different geological features constituting just one of the variables they are dealing with. The point being the oil and gas folks will not discuss these details with you unless pressed. Then they will tell you as little as possible until you stumble upon that next piece of vital information they were withholding.

- Almost every detail of this contract as to which trees to save, travel directions, speed limits, irrigation ditch and fence repair, etc, have been to no avail because the persons operating the heavy equipment, chain saws, excavators, etc, have not been notified of these details by their supervisors. This meant my wife had to spend countless hours supervising the work. The gas and oil companies spent tens of thousands of dollars repairing their mistakes. In fact their favorite saying seems to be “we’ll fix it.” Often, the workers and supervisors changed during individual parts of the project and the details would have to be explained again. They kept no records of where the irrigation ditches and culverts were before construction so, when they were finished with their projects they did not know how to reconstruct them properly.

- In an effort to place the well and access roads in the best possible location, we thought it would be helpful to know where future wells in our neighborhood would be drilled. This was especially important in locating the road so to disturb the neighbors as little as possible. This information was withheld until two days before the beginning of construction, and even then was not supplied with any details that would have been useful.4

- The industry likes to say that when they are done you will not even know they are around. They are only fooling themselves, maybe. On any still evening, you can hear the pump jacks and compressors working throughout the basin. The oil and gas industry has transformed the southern parts of our state into a National Sacrifice Area. Residents, who were not even born when the mineral rights were separated from the surface rights, have to bear the brunt of our nation’s, state’s and county’s destructive and backward policies. This, while the private corporations of the gas and oil industry reap the profits by extracting what should be a national resource.

- Additionally the damage done to the county roads by the industrial traffic of the industry is astounding. Almost every culvert at every intersection is caved in, causing damaging runoff during winters like this one past. The drill rigs, water trucks and gravel trucks drag large amounts of mud from their unimproved (mud) roads onto the county roads often stopping in the lane to take off their chains and scrape mud. Not to mention the dangerous and rude driving by big-rigs who act as if they own the roads.

This constitutes a partial list, but it should suffice.

I hear BP talking about how they are “providing significant benefits for the county,” but that is only because the environmental destruction and reduction in the quality of life do not make it into that equation.  

Spokespeople for BP have said that they donate to nonprofits. I ask, “Is your money that good, should it buy your forgiveness, do you think that it could?”

– Sincerely, Ron Schermacher

Other paths to enjoy the Animas

Dear editors and Ms. Metz,

The top priority of the Animas River Task force is to “disperse boaters along the river through the creation of new (kayak) play holes,” according to theTelegraph article.

I appreciate the work the task force has done; but also appreciate the seemingly lone opposition voice of Michael Black.

The plan is to “improve” nine rapids along the short stretch of river through town in order to add kayak play spots and easier low water passage for (commercial?) rafts. I think that is too large a percentage of our river to manipulate for those particular ways of experiencing the river. Let’s leave room for those who want to enjoy, as much as possible, the natural river environment – who want to float, fish or walk along the river and not encounter surf hole rodeo crowds.

– Louise Teal, via e-mail

Interesting but disconcerting

Dear Editors,

Jules Masterjohn’s rah-rah piece on Maureen May was both interesting and  disconcerting at the same time. One of the things I find interesting is the fact that Ms. May wasn’t “open to the world around her” during the Clinton administration. I probably would of bought one of her pieces castigating Clinton for his degrading actions toward women, including Monica and Kathleen. Ms. Masterjohn has a selective memory regarding the vending machine. There were no pro-war stickers, just the usual liberal sound bites. In fact, I protested the piece as it was displayed in the public area of the DAC instead of the gallery where it belonged. Her pedantic reply to my objections caused me to drop DAC financial support until just recently.

Perhaps Ms. May could take to heart the saying, “if you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a soldier.”

– Dennis Pierce, Durango