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Erie town trustees tell angry residents they were unaware of venting near school, launch probe

Posted at 9:43 PM, Nov 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-15 00:32:31-05

ERIE, Colo. – At a meeting filled with angry parents, Erie town trustees said Tuesday night they were also unaware that an oil and gas site had been venting fumes into a nearby elementary school until they saw it on the news.

“I was just as alarmed as all the citizens of Erie to hear about this over the weekend—two months after the fact,” said Erie Mayor Tina Harris at Tuesday’s meeting, which comes on the heels of two reports by Denver7 that exposed the venting near Aspen Ridge Preparatory School.

Town trustees told the packed meeting they were launching an investigation into why they weren’t told about the violation by Crestone Peak Resources, the company that owns the well, until more than a month after the company was ordered to cease operations at the site.

The executive director for the school, Todd Cordrey, told Denver7 Monday that the school spoke with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staffers who visited the site on Sept. 12, but said COGGC did not tell the school that Crestone had been cited.

The COGCC told Denver7 Monday an inspector verbally told a school administrator that day, but said the issue had been dealt with, and that all was safe.

Dozens of parents, some with their children, testified at Tuesday’s meeting, saying the town and their children were “under assault” and “under siege” by oil and gas companies.

“We know who protects the industry,” said Erie’s Erin Gallagher. “Who protects the people?”

Harris said the town “would have informed the public” had it been informed, but some town residents said leaders should do more.

“I demand that you sue the COGCC for negligence. They have failed us. They have failed the city of Erie. They have failed you,” said Paula Oransky.

Crestone acknowledged Monday it didn’t communicate to the school the violation involving the drifting gases. “We sincerely apologize for this oversight,” the company said in a statement.

And COGCC officials similarly acknowledged Monday there was a communication error in letting the town and school know about the gases.

"There was communication, that's important to note. But it doesn't mean we can't do better," COGCC spokesman Todd Hartman said. “We don’t have an indication that there were kids that suffered any symptoms from any of this.”

Aspen Ridge’s executive director, Todd Cordrey, told Denver7 Monday he believed the school was safe and that he was in touch with the COGCC, Crestone and others.

Administrators further said Tuesday they were talking with an independent air monitor to track air quality levels at the school.

Crestone said it immediately started combusting the gases, rather than venting them, once it was hit with the Sept. 12 violation. It told Denver7 Monday it was plugging seven wells near the school.

Town trustees said once their investigation is complete, they will post the results for the rest of the town to review.