The AP reports that the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that water produced from coal bed methane wells is groundwater and energy companies must obtain groundwater permits or replace the water. The companies must defer to senior water rights holders and replace pumped water that belongs to others. The Wyoming Supreme Court is also considering suits brought by ranchers over the effect of CBM development on their groundwater resources. In Montana, Helena District Judge Thomas Honzel ruled in December that water pumped to the surface to extract coalbed methane is, in fact, groundwater. But, re-injecting all that water is expensive for the gas company so, in order to avoid all these sticky legal hassles, your Montana legislators have come with a predictable solution, SB505. This stellar piece of lawmaking just declares that water pumped out of the ground in the production of methane, is, presto, surface water! The ground isn’t the source of the water, the pipe is! Ipso facto, no effect on ground water owned by someone else or on senior water rights and no recourse to the courts by other water users. What a brilliant piece of legislation! The bill is currently stalled in the House Natural Resources Committee by a 9-9 party-line vote. It should be dead, but that’s what we thought about SB425 and HB483, which also stalled but are now wending their way across town to the Governor’s desk. SB505 was pushed by Fidelity Exploration and Production Co. of, where else, Denver, Colorado!
As a side note, the Bugle ran across this article in the Vail Daily about a family near Fort Luton, CO who have a slight problem with their water. It’s flammable due to nearby methane gas production. You see, when you pump water out of coal seams to release the methane gas, it migrates to the surface. If all goes well, the gas flows up the production well with the water where it is harvested and sold. One small glitch is that the released gas doesn’t always know where the well pipe is and sometimes tends to just take the easiest route out of the coal seam. In this case, the best migration route happened to include water wells of some nearby neighbors. I wish I had seen the Denver TV video where they lit the unfortunate family’s sink full of water. There is also a report of another family whose lemonade caught fire when placed too close to the stove. Ah, the pleasant aroma of burning methane in the morning shower.