Colorado fines Logan County driller $1.2 million, yanks its permit to operate

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A Kansas-based oil and gas operator has been fined more than $1.2 million and the state has revoked its permission to work in Colorado for what regulators say is a pattern of violations.

Benchmark Energy LLC failed to report several spills and complete a well-integrity test at a problematic site, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Officials say the $1,267,555 fine handed down on Jan. 26 is one of the largest ever in Colorado.

Benchmark, which operated in Logan County, was ordered to the pay the fine within 30 days, but did not, state regulators said.

“Due to Benchmark’s failure to pay the penalty and return to compliance, the commission has revoked Benchmark’s right to conduct oil and gas operations in Colorado,” COGCC spokesman Todd Hartman told The Denver Post on Thursday.

Benchmark’s permit to operate in the state could be reinstated, but only if the company can demonstrate that it has brought all violations into compliance and paid its penalties, Hartman said. The company would also have to show that being allowed to resume work would not threaten or impact public health, safety and welfare, including the environment and wildlife.

A message left last week for Benchmark’s owner in Pratt, Kan., was not returned.

Benchmark first applied to operate in Colorado in 2011, state records show. Since then, the company has faced a long list of suspected violations at several different wells.

In the January order, COGCC said Benchmark has had eight releases of waste or produced fluids from oil and gas operations in the previous 18 months. One spill went unreported and the company did not submit appropriate paperwork for another five releases, the commission said.

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At one underground injection well where there was a spill, Benchmark resumed operations before passing a mechanical integrity test, investigators noted.

“Eight spills were not properly cleaned up and six spills were not properly reported in the last year and a half,” the January order says.

Before the January violation order, the COGCC said it had issued four prior enforcement orders that included more than a dozen violations.

State officials could not immediately say whether an operator’s permission to work in Colorado had ever been revoked before.

Syndicated from Denver Post



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