New complaints filed in lawsuit over pipeline leak in Piceance Basin

RBC | Attorneys for the Bishop Ranch on East Stewart Gulch in the Piceance Basin have filed a second amended complaint against Encana related to the $5 million lawsuit for property damage and destruction from a pipeline leak. Documentation from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission indicate that the leak, which Encana was supposed to remediate, has continued to spread. The amended complaint alleges negligence on Encana’s part for failing to effectively address the problem.

Property owner Mike Bishop was in the process of selling the 320-acre hunting property for $5 million when the leak was discovered. The sale did not go through because of the contamination. In July 2016, Bishop agreed to give Encana a year to remediate the damage done to his property. Remediation is defined as “the action of remedying something, in particular of reversing or stopping environmental damage.” Bishop originally filed suit in Rio Blanco County District Court against Encana and its subsidiaries for $5 million, the sale price of the property, in July 2017.

Encana Oil and Gas filed an initial spill/release report with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in June 2016, reporting a spill of produced water from a flowline of “more than five but less than 100 barrels” that impacted soil. A second report, filed by Hunter Ridge Energy Services LLC, a subsidiary of Encana, stated, “During an annual water sampling event on June 14, 2016, a discharge of hydrocarbon impacted water was identified within the East Stewart Spring. Condensate was identified to be seeping into the drainage at the spring’s discharge point.” The report further states that Encana was working with the two private property owners, one of whom is Bishop. The other owner reached an agreement with Encana for a land swap, receiving approximately 10 acres for every acre exchanged.

2018-07-20 17-35-32 Second Amended Complaint – Final

Documentation submitted to the COGCC from Encana described the leak as a “pinhole leak” in the pipeline. As of June 1, 2017, Encana had recovered 1182 barrels (49,644 gallons) of toxic condensate and/or produced water from the contaminated springs, surface and ground waters in the path of the release, and continue to recover 0-2 barrels of toxic condensate and/or produced water per day as a result of the spill.

Despite remediation actions taken by Encana, investigations performed by COGCC in May 2018, indicate the spill is continuing to spread, with four newly observed seeps. According to COGG documentation, “Two years later, condensate and impacted water is still flowing from the springs,” that “condensate [was] flowing into the creek,” that “condensate [was] flowing from the hillside” and that “the collection system need[ed] maintenance to allow condensate to discharge into the pipeline.”

“In the past, several seeps had been identified downgradient (north) of the springs. No condensate or black staining had been observed downgradient of the springs, so it was considered that the LNAPL (light non-aqueous phase liquid) plume ended at the springs. There was a concern, nonetheless, that the LNAPL plume would or could progress and extend beyond the springs. It seems that the concern was well founded,” states a COGCC report. “The distance from the springs to the outcrop is about 2,000 feet. The distance from the outcrop to the collection vault is about 500 feet. The newly observed impacted seeps suggest that the LNAPL plume has progressed 1,500 to 2,000 feet beyond the springs.” (All of the reports and photos from COGCC are available at http://ogccweblink.state.co.us/Search.aspx and type in the 9748 in the Unique Identifier box.)

According to Mark Mason, attorney on the case (http://www.masonlawfirm.com), the court has ordered the parties to file a proposed case management order by Aug. 30, with a conference scheduled for Sept. 6, “at which time the Court will address the plan to ‘get the case moving and heading forward.’”

Bishop is seeking a jury trial, $5 million in damages, plus court costs.

 

By Niki Turner | niki@theheraldtimes.com

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