The complex interrelationship of coal, methane and water in coal seams have required effective risk management for the safe development of energy and groundwater resources in the rural community of Las Animas County, Colorado. Since the 1980s, coalbed-methane (CBM) has been extensively developed in the central Raton Basin in close proximity to homeowners. Homeowners rely on private water wells as the primary source of water supply for domestic/household, agriculture and ranching. The relatively shallow nature of the Raton and Verjemo coals targeted for methane production have generated concern over potential impacts to groundwater resources. Using public sources of information from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and the Colorado Division of Water Resources (CDWR), this study aims to identify the risk management of downhole activities during CBM development. Well file records for each CBM well document, the permitting, construction, formation, completion, and compliance covering the wells lifecycle. Regulatory records were used to determine what the risks to groundwater resources were; what safeguards protected aquifers during downhole CBM activity; resolutions of citizen complaints; and if there was evidence that showed ineffective risk mitigation related to groundwater protection. Concern over water resource impacts and availability has always been a top environmental issue in Las Animas County. Citizen complaints drive COGCC staff to investigate issues of concern and to prioritize risk issues. Risk issues can be socially amplified or attenuated by citizen complaints and the regulatory response. This case study aims to identify evidence of CBM related impacts to groundwater and the response to risk events that led to the development of a mature regulatory framework that protects private water wells and groundwater during CBM development in the rural community.
Las Animas County, coalbed-methane, groundwater
Gilen, Kathryn Q.. "Managing the risks to groundwater resources during coalbed methane development in a rural community.." (2016). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/wr_sp/11