Vandalism in gas fields growing
Ed Rasbold wasn't shocked that some of the gas wells he manages in the Coal Creek area had some vandalism happen two weeks ago.
He had seen things done to well heads and buildings before. He also knew other operators in the area have experienced vandalism of facilities on an ongoing basis.
But Rasbold indicated that he was taken back by what happened during a recent weekend because, in his estimation, someone could have been seriously injured or killed in the afermath of the incident.
"I just haven't seen this before and it concerns me," said Rasbold as he stood next to a power box that needed to be replaced because of the vandalism that had taken place. "This box is totally gone and the way it was done could have killed someone."
Rasbold, who is the production supervisor for Whitmar Exploration Company in Utah, manages nearly one dozen wells in the county.
What he discovered at some of the wells were tire tracks of a vehicle peeling out to get away fast and shell casings.
"They shot right through the back of this box and hit the hot lines," pointed out Rasbold in the burned ou metal enclosure sitting in the company's equipment compound. "We did some tests and the only thing they could have used to penetrate this box was a very high powered rifle."
But the perpetrators reportedly used more than one firearm as they damaged equipment and buildings across the gas field.
Rasbold stood on the north end of one of the well pads and pointed to the tire tracks and the .22 caliber casings laying on the ground.
He also walked over to a building and showed where it had been peppered with shotgun pellets.
"They stood back here and shot at the power box, the buildings and even at the gas line," said Rasbold.
The power box the unkown vandals hit had about 12,500 volts running through it. The power box was situated next to an access road that runs into the Book Cliffs.
"They had to drive right by it to get out of here after they caused the damage," said Rasbold. "That box was hot and it could have arched to their vehicle and hurt or killed someone."
"In fact, before we discovered the problem, anyone driving by here could have faced the same thing," added the production supervisor.
The Carbon County Sheriff's Office investigated the scene, but there wasn't much for law enforcement officers to go on except the tracks and the small shell casings.
"They picked up all the big brass and their shotgun shells," said Rasbold.
At another well site, Rasbold pointed to where the same people apparently were shooting at a gas line above the ground that contained pressures of 600 PSI.
"If they shot that with a weapon that would penetrate it it would have created a fireball you could have seen all the way into Emery County," said Rasbold. "It would have incinerated this whole area and may have killed the shooter as well."
In one building Rasbold had found a place where a high powered rifle bullet had blown out the side of a separator building. At first they couldn't find an entry point, but upon examination the did find the entry and it was through the roof of the building. The shooter had been standing where he or she was above the building and had fired down on the roof.
In another case, near where a control panel was peppered with BB's from a shotgun one could see a hole the size of a fist blown out of a building's side by a close up shotgun blast.
"The damage is one thing," said Rasbold as he pointed out that the total cost of replacing the damaged power box was $25,000 including labor, materials and downtime. "But somebody is going to get killed if people keep doing this kind of thing."
The damaged Whitmar wells are out of the way, in a little valley of their own so it would be hard for anyone to see any kind of vandalism going on there during the day or night. But other incidents have happened in less out-of-the-way places, yet no one reports anything.
"It's sad because our company pays taxes here, spends money on equipment and materials here and pays labor here which benefits the county and then something like this happens," said Rasbold.
Citizens are urged to look out for and to report any kind of unusual or suspicious activity around gas wells or gas well facilities to the proper police authorities. And if anyone has any information concerning the vandalism to the Whitmar field around Memorial Day weekend they are urged to contact the Carbon County Sheriffs Department.