Oil and Gas Symposium fills out its speaker lineup | SteamboatToday.com

Oil and Gas Symposium fills out its speaker lineup

— Water quality and the need to test for possible contamination related to energy exploration has become a topic for passionate discussion at public hearings in Routt County this winter. However, one local expert, Bill Stearns, thinks the general public is unaware that there is a need to test water quality with or without active drilling of oil and gas wells in an area where hydrocarbons are present in the rock strata.

"There's a misconception coming generally from not understanding that many of the things they see on the news about oil and gas is more often than not from naturally occurring phenomena," Stearns said. "What we've seen is that throughout North America, people already have water quality problems and don't know it because they just haven't taken the samples."

Stearns works for Metis Consulting and is based in Steamboat Springs. He's an advocate of baseline water quality testing, and he'll be among six speakers taking part in the Northwest Colorado Oil and Gas Symposium II on Wednesday in Hayden. The event is sponsored by the Community Agriculture Alliance and Yampa Valley Data Partners. The cost to attend is $20, and advance registration is required by Friday.

Stearns said groundwater contamination could occur naturally from sources like gases migrating from oil and gas deposits. But in areas where oil and gas wells were drilled in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, they can also make their way into water wells from those historic extraction efforts. There also are places where biogenic gas can be found in shallow levels beneath the surface, Stearns said.

The related issues revolve around more than the presence of potential contaminants, Stearns said, but when, where and how to sample water in a scientific manner that is defensible.

"The oil and gas industry, as well as homeowners, should (undertake) baseline testing for their health and safety and to protect their assets," Stearns said.

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He added that it's critical to do the proper baseline testing before any energy exploration at a site takes place.

Other speakers at Wednesday's symposium include:

■ John C. Lamb, president of Steamboat Energy Consultants. Lamb will cover the history of oil and gas exploration, types of reservoirs, vertical and horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking procedures.

■ Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips will discuss the local and state permitting process and the creation of Gov. John Hickenlooper's new task force.

■ Attorney Ralph Cantafio will discuss oil company obligations to landowners and the public as well as current fracking legislation.

■ George Blankenship, of Blankenship Consultants, will talk about social and economic impacts of oil and gas development and how to plan for them.

■ Michael Warren, of Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, will discuss his agency's interaction with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regarding wildlife mitigation plans and the development of positive partnerships with industry.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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