Oil drilling sites approved

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— Routt County may not be experiencing the energy boom that neighboring counties are, but county officials are noticing an increased level of interest from drilling companies.

"We're getting a little busier," said Routt County Planning Director Caryn Fox. "We used to be very busy in the 1980s."

On Tuesday, Routt County Commissioners unanimously approved two special use permits for oil exploration and drilling at two remote sites about five miles south of Milner.

After approving the drilling sites, Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said oil and gas exploration is beneficial to residents. It generates more property and severance tax revenues that energy companies are required to pay, he said. The companies also pay money to the state, which returns the funds to government entities in the form of energy impact grants.

Energy exploration in the county also contributes to a more diverse economy, Monger said. There currently are several dozen active oil wells in Routt County.

Other aspects of oil drilling can create concerns, such as impacts on the environment and wildlife.

"For us in Routt County it's always been an issue of balance," Monger said.

Both of the wells that commissioners discussed are located on property owned by the state of Colorado approximately 10 miles southeast of Hayden and east of Routt County Road 27A.

No new roads need to be built to access the well sites.

"They're really old wells that didn't produce or production was low," Fox said.

The sites are isolated enough that noise should not be heard by nearby residents. Steps are also being taken to ensure the impacts on elk and Columbia sharp-tailed grouse are minimized. The land at the well sites will be reclaimed once the sites are no longer used.

The well sites should not be visible from county roads once the drilling rigs finish drilling the wells.

Roger Johnson is developing the drilling operations with Comet Ridge USA, an Australia-based energy company.

Brian Wood with Permits West represented the owners during Tuesday's commissioner's hearing.

- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210

e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com

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