News from the San Luis Valley

Fracking in the SLV

Rio Grande County (RGC) commissioned a hydrological study of First Liberty Energy (FLE) to address widespread concern about negative effects of oil and gas exploration and development on Valley aquifers and water supply systems. This resulted in FLE’s acceptance of more stringent conditions than those required by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which had issued a permit for the well in October 2012.

RGC has made efforts to safeguard regional aquifers, while FLE had indicated that fracking (hydraulic fracturing) was not part of its overall initiative. Still, an exploration well near Del Norte was fracked on April 13 and 14 of this year. According to a report in the Valley Courier, representatives of FLE, speaking at a January 16 public hearing on the well application, maintained that the well was expected to produce without fracking and said there is no fracking planned. They also noted, however, that if they decided to frack, they would have 48 hours to inform COGCC.

RGC then tabled the application in order to further study several documents and the extensive hydrogeological report. The RGC commissioners did approve the FLE application at a February 13 meeting.

According to The Crestone Eagle, the unexpected FLE well was drilled and cased to some 9,000 feet, and no water was encountered in the process. The “pay zones” that were later fracked are at undisclosed depths but are well below the Conejos Formation and any sources of fresh water. The shales that hold oil and gas also hold small pockets of water released in the fracking process; this water is often brackish or downright saline and is either treated and reused or disposed of in special wells licensed for the purpose.

Bea Ferrigno, who writes on water and related issues in the SLV, noted that, “There is no information at this time if First Liberty Energy plans to drill or frack any future wells in the San Luis Valley.  The issue of fracking in the San Luis Valley is still unresolved.”


Stun Gun Eviction?

An Alamosa city councilor was accused of waving a stun gun at his son during an alleged lawn-watering dispute recently.

Leland A. Romero reported that he was trying to evict his son Lucas from his rental property, but was having problems. He told the officer that he was attempting to water the lawn in order to keep the grass from dying, but his son kept turning the sprinklers off.

Romero told police officer that he never turned the taser on, but his son disputed that statement.

Very Low Flows

Annual river flows on the Rio Grande and Conejos Rivers are shaping up to be the fourth lowest in recorded history, according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources.

The May 1 Natural Resources Conservation Service forecast for the Rio Grande was 295,000 acre-feet, 45 percent of the long-term average, according to the Valley Courier. One bright spot: The National Weather Service is predicting normal to above average precipitation from June through August for the Valley.


Supremes Overturn Lobato

On May 28, the Colorado State Supreme Court overturned a district court decision in the case of Lovato v. State. The lawsuit was filed in 2005 by residents of the San Luis Valley and others throughout the state, arguing the state’s schools were chronically underfunded and that the state’s education funding system was not “rationally related” to a thorough and uniform standard, according to The Huffington Post.

In a 4-2 decision, the Supreme Court found the state education funding system to be constitutional.


$1M Bail Set for Bessey

Prosecutors were not able to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a preliminary hearing for Daniel Bessey, who is accused of murdering a Monte Vista couple in 2012, but a judge ruled sufficient cause to bind him over to district court, according to the Valley Courier.

Rio Grande County Court Judge Patrick Hayes, Jr. set bail for Bessey at $1 million, plus $25,000 cash up front.

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