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Commission OKs new groundwater sampling rules Applies to oil and gas wells By Lynda James Correspondent After a public rule-making hearing that spread over three months, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved new groundwater sampling rules on Jan. 7. The new rules require operators to sample water wells or springs within one half mile of a new oil and gas well borehole – up to a maximum of four sample sites. Horizontal drilling was not addressed by COGCC’s approved rule, only distances from a

GREEN, FOR WATER GROUPS IN PARK COUNTY Local government attorney Barbra Green represented three water entities in Park County at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s rule-making hearings on new groundwater sampling and setbacks for oil and gas drilling operations. New rules were passed by the commission during the week of Jan. 7. (Photo by Lynda James/ The Flume)

well’s borehole. Water sampling before a new oil or gas well is drilled will include sampling for a variety of constituents, including hydrocarbons. Such a sample must be taken between six and 12 months before drilling. The new rules also require additional sampling within 6-12 months after completion of a well, and again within 5-6 years of completion of a well. Those samplings will test only for hydrocarbons associated with oil and gas development. The rule also allows a company to use another company’s sampling results if all parameters are met, such as the time frames, required constituents, and the sampled water well is within one-half mile of the new proposed oil and gas well. All sampling results will be posted on the COGCC website, The rules will apply to any new oil and gas well, multi-well pad or injection well in Colorado except for the Greater Wattenberg Area, defined as from Township 7 North to Township 2 South and Range 61 West to Range 69 West. The GWA generally includes most of Weld County and small portions of Larimer and Boulder counties. The GWA area already had separate rules from the rest of the state due to the large number of oil and gas wells in the area. In the GWA area, one water well needs to be tested before drilling a new oil and gas well, and a test needs to be done once after completion. In Park County, the Center of Colorado Water Conservancy District, Upper South Platte Water Conservancy District and the Headwater Authority of the South Platte became parties to the COGCC hearings through local government attorney Barbra Green. “The post-op testing should be for more constituents than the pre-op testing because, if anything, you are adding constituents, not removing them,” said HASP director Dan Drucker. See RULES, Page 29

Police showing presence at Fairplay schools Fairplay Chief walks through twice a day; officers once a day By Jason Douglas Correspondent Fairplay schools are seeing a heightened presence of local police at school facilities in the wake of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn. Fairplay Police Chief David Gottschalk told board of education members of the Fairplay-based Re-2 School District at their Jan. 10 meeting that his officers are now required to walk through the school no less than once per day. The chief himself walks through twice per day, he said. Those statements were part of a discussion at the meeting on school safety. Park County Undersheriff Monte Gore planned on addressing the board that night as well, but he had to be present at the scene of an emergency. Discussions at the meeting also included cross-walk safety equipment, the addition of a teacher, and a clean audit received from the district’s outside auditor. The board ended with an executive session to discuss the district’s contract with Colorado Renewable Resources. Cross-walk safety Gottschalk has also procured cross-walk safety equipment paid for by the town of

Fairplay. He said that the Fairplay’s crosswalk safety program should be operational by Feb. 1. Clean audit Paul Backes, a certified public accountant with Avon, Colo.-based McMahan and Associates, gave the board a “clean audit” for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012. Backes informed the board that the district currently holds about $25 million dollars in equity. He cautioned the board, however, about a change in accounting laws that could drive that number down to about $15 million and thus affect the district’s credit rating. Next year the state will require school districts to deduct their share of the state workers’ pension deficit and Re-2’s share of that shortfall will be about $10 million dollars, according to Backes. New teacher Last month the board voted to approve the addition of Kelesy Haught, who will teach full-time to a number of first-graders. This month the board approved the hire of Lori Watt as a substitute teacher. Executive session The board entered executive session to discuss its contract with Colorado Renewable Resources. District E Representative Mike Smith recused himself from the session as it is his company that is currently supplying the Fairplay school with wood chips for the biomass furnace.


VERN WAGNER Hartsel-area rancher Vern Wagner will stand trial starting on Jan. 22 for a twoweek misdemeanor criminal trial. He is charged with four counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. (Photo by Mike Potter/The Flume)

Vern Wagner animalcruelty trial set to begin Hartsel-area rancher faces four misdemeanor animal cruelty charges stemming from 2010 investigation By Mike Potter Staff Writer

The long-delayed jury trial for Hartsel-area rancher Vern Wagner is scheduled to begin on Jan. 22. Wagner, who is facing four counts of animal cruelty, all class 1 misdemeanors, will stand trial for two weeks in Fairplay-based county court. The charges stem from an investigation that began in 2010 after the Park County Sheriff ’s Office began looking into reports of dozens of dead animals on Wagner’s ranch. In all, investigators said they discovered 143 dead animals across Wagner’s ranch. Wagner had previously told The Flume that he questioned whether all of the dead animals were his or if they had all died recently. He also said he didn’t believe deputies had found as many dead animals as they claimed. The 2010 investigation resulted in the seizure of roughly half of Wagner’s herd by the state. Those animals were sold at auction, and the money raised was placed in a court account. Then in December 2011, the remaining animals on Wagner’s ranch were seized following a decision by Fairplaybased District Judge Stephen Groome that found Wagner to be unfit to own cattle in Park County. It was at that trial before the court that the Colorado Department of Agriculture presented evidence to back its allegations that Wagner had mistreated his animals. “Despite Wagner’s contention to the contrary, the Court finds that Wagner mistreated and neglected the cattle under his care by failing to provide them with adequate food and water during the winter months of 2009-2010,” said a five-page order written by Groome, who presided over that court trial to determine if Wagner was fit to own cattle. Groome later ordered that the money raised by the seizure and auction of the herd should be divided among three cattle owners who leased the animals to Wagner. Groome said he found “strong and convincing evidence of Wagner’s dismal failure to provide adequate nutrition for the cattle under his control.” Wagner provided his own witnesses who testified as to his ability and to the condition of the cattle. Wagner has also stated that he disagreed with Groome’s decisions and vowed to appeal them. He has two appeals pending in the Colorado Court of Appeals. He is appealing Groome’s ruling that Wagner was unfit to own cattle, and he is also appealing an October 2012 foreclosure order by Groome in a 2008 case filed by Wagner’s one-time business partner, John W. Meyers. The foreclosure order was for Wagner’s ranch south of Fairplay along Colorado Highway 9. The Jan. 22 misdemeanor criminal trial will be a jury trial to be held in the courtroom of Fairplay-based County Judge Brian Green. Green is expected to rule on a number of motions, including one for a change of venue, on Jan. 22, the first day of jury selection for the trial. Wagner is being represented by Public Defender Daniel Zettler in the case. See TRIAL, Page 28

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