Given the number of squirrels that trigger power line break-downs, or the trouble raccoons can cause, it was probably inevitable that a cow would trigger a leak at a gas well head in La Plata County. There, apparently, were no witnesses, but cows can be curious, and like all animals, they do need to scratch.
So, between curiosity and an itch, a spill of about 400 gallons of “produced water,” a waste water byproduct, occurred from a valve a few days before Thanksgiving. The spill, near unincorporated Tiffany in the extreme southeastern corner of the county, was reported by XTO Energy to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and it is investigating.
Gas wells are often in pastures and fields where cattle, and horses, spend time, and piping and equipment might be fenced in. But usually, valves are large and tightly set, and secured with cables or light chains. Energy extraction equipment requires heavy components that are not likely susceptible to being bumped or rubbed by animals.
Leaks are taken seriously by both the energy companies and by the COGCC, as they should be (there have been eight in the county so far in 2017), but one incident involving a cow should not lead to an additional list of control requirements for the energy extraction companies.
Mandating fencing, for example, would mean another location to catch weeds, wind-blown trash and debris, and make working at the well site more difficult. Unless livestock are very numerous, that is not what should be required.
The solution is to keep valves tight and secured in some additional way. The industry knows how to do that.
No one who is close to the industry can remember a previous spill caused by a cow. We bet there will not be another.