I feel for you, but you own the surface. We own the minerals, and we’re coming in to drill. Here’s the Surface Use Agreement. You can sign it, but you don’t have to. If you sign it, you get a check for $3,000. If you don’t sign, you get no financial reimbursement for any damages that may occur.”
Telling personal stories
The oil and gas boom has been underway for a number of years in many locations across the country, and there are now a lot of stories about individuals and families whose lives have been personally affected. This post is part of a regular series of those stories on this blog to help you envision what could happen if drilling expands along the Beartooth Front. Look for these once a week.
Today’s story comes from the booklet Shalefield Stories: Personal and Collected Testimonies, published last month by Steel Valley Printers of Pennsylvania.
Previous posts in this series:
Tim and Christine Ruggiero, Wise County, Texas
Laura Amos, Larry Amos, and their daughter Lauren live south of Silt in the heart of Encana, the industrial wasteland in western Colorado.
They were among the first in their area to have natural gas drilling on their property. They
were also among the unfortunate who did not own the mineral rights under their property.
Encana sent a kind, older gentleman who sat at their kitchen table and told them more or less, “I feel for you, but you own the surface. We own the minerals, and we’re coming in to drill. Here’s the Surface Use Agreement. You can sign it, but you don’t have to. If you sign it, you get a check for $3,000. If you don’t sign, you get no financial reimbursement for any damages that may occur.”
In May 2001, while fracturing four wells on their neighbors’ property (less than 1,000 feet from their house on what’s known as the G33 pad), the gas well operator “blew up” the Amos’s water well. Fracturing created or opened a fracture or fault between their water well and the gas well, sending the cap of the Amos’s water well flying and blowing their water into the air like a geyser at Yellowstone. Immediately their water turned gray, had a horrible smell, and bubbled like 7-Up. Water production dropped drastically from 15
gallons per minute to nothing or near nothing. Tests of their water showed 14 milligrams (mg) per liter of methane. They were warned to make sure there were no closets or pockets in their home where the gas could build up and explode. They tested the water in the Amos’s well a couple more times that summer, ending in August 2001.
In the spring of 2003, Laura became very ill. She spent months in doctors’ offices and hospitals. She was eventually diagnosed with Primary Hyperaldosteronism, a very rare condition of a tumor in her adrenal gland. None of her doctors had any idea of how she could have acquired such a rare disease. The tumor and her adrenal gland had to be removed.
From August 2001 until January 2004, no testing was done on their water. Their daughter was only 6 months old when fracturing blew up their water well. Laura bathed Lauren in that water every day. She also continued breast-feeding her for 18 more months until she was 2 years old. During that time the tumor was developing in Laura’s adrenal gland. If there was a chemical in her body causing her tumor, Lauren was exposed to it as well.
Encana spokesman Walt Lowrey assured several of the Amos’s neighbors and the Amoses themselves that the toxic chemical 2-butoxyethanol (2-BE) was NOT used in fracking on their property. In addition, Lowrey told many reporters in western Colorado, Denver, and the Associated Press that 2-BE was not used on the pad or anywhere in this area. However, on January 31, 2005, Laura learned that the industry had not been telling the truth. They fractured 2,000 feet below the surface, and they DID use 2-BE.
According to newspaper accounts, the plaintiff’s lawyer obtained documents providing that chemicals present in the drinking water were used in the defendant’s fracking fluids. Laura Amos now has a gag order, nondisclosure agreement and settled out of court in a lawsuit.