Kinder Morgan balks at $1.5M road repair

Kinder Morgan wants new talks on Road CC repair; Suckla counters

A pumping plant on Goodman Point. Enlargephoto

A pumping plant on Goodman Point.

Kinder Morgan officials requested to renegotiate a $1.5 million Montezuma County road-improvement plan, 28 days after the original agreement was signed.

Reached March 17 with Montezuma County commissioners, the initial pact called for North America's third-largest energy company to “maintain” and “improve” about 4.5 miles of Road CC, a heavy truck route utilized by Kinder Morgan during its continued gas exploration in Cow Canyon.

“We've paid enough,” Kinder Morgan regulatory manager Phil Kennedy told commissioners on Monday, April 14. “We're being treated unfairly.”

Kennedy said his company added about $16 million to county coffers in 2013 alone, and he requested a more “equitable sum” to maintain the damaged thoroughfare.

“If you damage the road, then you fix the road,” Commissioner Larry Don Suckla said.

Kennedy replied that the company's first responsibility was to shareholders.

“We're here to make money,” Kennedy said.

Commissioner Steve Chappell said he was appreciative of the company's economic contributions, but added commissioners must also be responsible to their constituents.

“Landowners receiving royalties are happy, but other residents want their roads,” said Chappell. “We have to walk a fine line between the two.”

Commissioner Keenan Ertel said that if road improvements were to only cost $950,000, for example, the company would not be charged the entire $1.5 million.

“We're dead set on having a paved road,” Ertel said.

County Administrator Melissa Brunner said Thursday morning that a verbal proposal to renegotiate contract details were still being hammered out.

“We are working on it today, but it hasn't been approved yet,” she said.

On Monday, commissioners denied a Cortez Journal request to obtain a copy of the March 17 road agreement. The Journal subsequently assessed an online version of the plan, a public document posted on the Montezuma County website.

Contained in the original contract, Kinder Morgan admits the company has caused “significant damage” to Road CC, and accepted financial responsibility for rebuilding the roadway starting in March 2018, once heavy truck traffic decreases. The agreement further states the company would continue to “exceed the county daily limit of 15 round trips per day” during its ongoing development of Cow Canyon. The deal holds the company responsible for gravel placement, grading, dust control, road surface protection and signage.

Four Kinder Morgan high-impact special use permits approved this year by county officials are contingent upon the road improvement plan. All four permits were subject to public hearings, but no one spoke for or against the proposals.

The last two high-impact special use permits were authorized on Monday. They include a Cow Canyon Compressor Station on a 13-acre leased easement, and the CB Cluster facility on a five-acre site, both located on Road BB about nine miles west of Pleasant View.

The Cow Canyon Compressor station will be in plain view of Hovenweep's Lowry Ruins, said Kinder Morgan agent Bob Clayton, adding that company officials would include landscaping measures to help lessen visual impacts.

“Once the trees grow, then we'll have pretty good cover,” Clayton said.

Last month, county officials approved the first set of high-impact special-use permits, allowing the company to construct a fifth carbon dioxide (CO2) production well along with a new pipeline cluster facility in Cow Canyon.

Valued at $110 billion, Kinder Morgan's expansion plan of CO2 production in Cow Canyon includes a total of 30 new production wells across some 250 acres of private and public property, according to county records. A total of four pipeline cluster facilities are also expected.

Kinder Morgan produces 1.3 billion cubic feet per day of CO2 from southwest Colorado. The CO2 is piped to oilfields in Texas where it is used to help extract oil from nearly depleted wells.

Kinder Morgan officials have said the $350 million expansion into Cow Canyon could add an additional 200 million cubic feet per day of CO2 to the company's total production.

About 6 percent of Kinder Morgan's 11,500 employees work in Colorado. The company has produced CO2 in southwestern Colorado since 1984.

tbaker@cortezjournal.com