The Routt County Board of Commissioners will meet with the Routt County Planning Commission in a joint meeting at 6 p.m. Sept. 1 to discuss oil and gas development and related county regulations.
Dave Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, will give a presentation on the state’s oil and gas regulations. Topics will include county involvement in the state process and the use of fracking in drilling.
Steamboat Springs Shell Energy has a Sept. 13 date with the Routt County Board of Commissioners to seek a permit to drill an oil and gas well on State Land Board holdings about two miles south of Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden.
The Dawson Creek Well would be drilled on a hillside on the east side of Routt County Road 37. The Routt County Planning Commission voted unanimously Aug. 18 to recommend approval of the project with conditions intended to protect sensitive grouse habitat as well as public roads. The site is used for grazing livestock, and the well pad would be on a 2-acre grassy area in the midst of sagebrush.
County planner Chris Brookshire said the chances of the well succeeding in completing its drilling without disturbing sage grouse and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse in the area will be improved if Shell can complete the work this fall. Otherwise, the company will have to wait until after grouse mating and nesting behaviors are completed next summer.
District Wildlife Manager Jim Haskins, of the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, told Brookshire in an Aug. 3 letter that the proposed well pad is within sharp-tailed grouse nesting habitat but is not thought to be within nearby greater sage grouse nesting habitat.
“Both species may abandon their nests with disturbance,” Haskins wrote, but “the proposed well pad site is not within critical grouse breeding habitat, which includes lek (courting ritual) sites.”
The site also has been mapped as an area where elk concentrate in the winter.
The permit applicant is Shell Western Exploration and Production LP. The division of Shell was formerly known as Shell Rocky Mountain Production LLC.
Shell anticipates a short but intense drilling period of four weeks, with drilling to take place 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to the application. There will be trailers on site to house an unspecified number of employees. In addition, two shifts of as many as 12 employees would be transferred to the well pad twice a day.
County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said this week that one of the strengths of county oil and gas regulations is a requirement that water quality, including wells, be tested before, during and after energy extraction projects. By requiring permit applicants like Shell to test water before the launch drilling efforts, baseline data is established to allow any changes in water quality to be attributed to the drilling, she said.
Brookshire said Shell officials told her during a visit to the site that they tentatively do not intend to use fracking techniques in the Dawson Creek well, which will be drilled to a depth of 10,285 feet into the Niobrara shale.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com