Diane Mitsch Bush: Clarifying my position

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Following is how the first paragraph of Wednesday’s front-page story in the Steamboat Today should have read:

“Two of the three members of the Board of County commissioners sent a strong signal that they oppose a moratorium on new oil and gas drilling permits. Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush, however, directed staff to investigate the legal issues regarding a moratorium, as well as Special Area designation under COGCC rules.”

I believe that a moratorium is needed because we have no experts on our staff for geochemical, hydrology or general geology issues. Without such expert input, I am concerned that we may not be able to adequately assess and evaluate potential safety and public health concerns. It is apparent to me that many scientific disciplines are necessary for a full, valid evaluation of on-site and off-site impacts.

We must do this right. We can learn from problems that other counties in Colorado, Wyoming, Texas and Pennsylvania have experienced. The more I study the issues, looking at case studies, data from quantitative studies such as the just-released EPA initial findings on the monitoring wells in Pavilion, Wyo., the more I realize how little we know and how much we need to know to adequately protect peoples’ health, water quality and quantity, air quality, soils, agriculture operations, neighbors’ private property rights, visuals and our tourism amenities/tourism economy, among many other issues. We must have adequate baseline data before the commencement of more drilling/exploration and production. A two- to three-month moratorium on new drilling permits would enable us to work closely with the industry, independent experts and the residents of Routt County to carefully identify areas of concern and potential effective regulation.

Most adequately regulated drilling operations have no problems, but a few do. All it takes is one cement casing failure or one unreported spill to pollute a well or groundwater. All it takes is one instance of high levels of ground-level ozone (smog) to make people, especially children, sick. We do not want that in Routt County, and we can prevent such negative impacts by having effective, complete, data-based regulations. I very much appreciate Shell’s attempt Tuesday night to outline specific conditions that they see as protective of our water and air quality. I look forward to partnering with the industry, independent experts and our residents to find effective solutions.

Diane Mitsch Bush

Chairwoman, Routt County Board of Commissioners

Comments

mavis 2 years, 9 months ago

Thank you for taking the time to research the issues you are elected to represent your community with. It is apparent that is NOT the case for the other elected officials representing the county. We can only hope that there is a turn around in their thinking or that enough people call them out on their rush to push this through.

Hasty decisions are destroying our community. With something as big as this they need to slow down and make EDUCATED decisions.

Quite frankly the coal we have in Routt County is phenominal and the coal mine has supported this community and neighboring counties as well. Why not improve upon what is already established and a KNOWN factor? They have been here for a LONG time and care about the quality of life, pollution and water they are using and giving their children, grand children and great grand children.

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sledneck 2 years, 9 months ago

Why not improve on [coal]? You kidding me? Anyone with a third grade economic education should be able to answer that. Why, with worldwide energy demand soaring, are our local coal mines languishing???? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm Come on... anybody....?? hello...????

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mavis 2 years, 9 months ago

Sled- Get a grip-- did you get a new job working for the nat gas field??

HMM coal mines are decreasing and regressing because of ALL of the GOVERNMENT regulations they are trying to meet and exceed. You are flipping out about the Sierra Club on the other thread- and yes they are blocking everything. They aren't even allowing already DEAD trees to be used and increase our sustanibility. The whole system is messed up.

But if you don't trust the government to run already existing systems of energy why are you thinking they can do NEW ones in this valley the right way???? I didn't say NEVER-- I said DO IT RIGHT- sled you need to gear down and do it right

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sledneck 2 years, 9 months ago

I DON'T think "they" (the government) can run energy. That's YOU, not me, Mavis. They can't even deliver mail, for God's sake. Everything they touch turns to feces and the American people keep looking to them for solutions. It's like calling "Satans Air Conditioning Service" when the summer heat becomes too much!

I was wondering something the other day... When the average American gets a letter in the mail with a return address from the government most of them open it with a sense of pure dread. Yet many of those same people who swallow hard and pray when opening a letter fromn Uncle Scam are somehow willing to empower him more and more and more and more. Why is that? Anybody know? For the life of me I can not figure it out. Somebody help me on this please...

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sledneck 2 years, 9 months ago

I have read and re- read Ms Bush's statement. She has a partially reasonable position. I think there may well be call for qualified county-level personelle to monitor operations such as drilling and fracking. I also fully support her concerns of having these rigs located unnecessarily close to residential areas. There are plenty of places to put these rigs.

My disagreement on a moratorium stems not from basic operational differences, but from a profound philosophical difference. When government says "just wait" to any particular industry, what it is really saying to those involved is that "we are unable to keep pace with your project and, rather than being hoodwinked, we want all your employees and staff and investors to sit still, forego a paycheck and wait for government to get up-to-speed". This philosophy holds private enterprise "hostage" while government vacillates. In the interrim there are any number of potential pitfalls. One is potential corruption. Second is market conditions could move against the enterprise. Third is the simple fact that "time is money".

When a government agency guards the only path to a businesses operation,; whether it be oil-rigs or home-building, they must apply a "time-is-of-the-essence" approach to clearing these endeavors for operation. To do otherwise is to hols those busineses, and all who work for them and their subsidiaries hostage.

I have argued in the past for a clear set of rules regarding zoning. Tell people what is allowed on a certain parcel of land and then get out of the way. This creates certainty for developers. The same needs to be applied to energy production facilities. Set up a clear (and reasonable) standard, apply it to all who seek such operational approval, and be ready to verify compliance on the schedule of those who bring the jobs.

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Phoebe Hackman 2 years, 9 months ago

sledneck - "... people who swallow hard and pray when opening a letter fromn Uncle Scam are somehow willing to empower him more and more and more and more. Why is that?" It's kind of like the way abused children will often be most loyal and most protective of the abusive parent, don't you think? We've become one big dysfunctional family.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 9 months ago

Of all the situations that may warrant a moratorium, this may be it. The consequences of getting it wrong is severe and long lasting. This would also seem to be a different geological area than where most fracking has happened before. We have volcanism and uplift and probably more types of geological activity cutting across sedimentary layers containing the natural gas.

And with apparent ground water contamination in Wyoming which has similar geology as Routt County that is apparently the result of shoddy concrete seals that were done poorly years after it was known how important it is to do the concrete properly then why is anyone so sure at this time it cannot happen here?

When one of the proposed drilling sites is in a basically residential neighborhood then it is important to get it right starting now.

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sledneck 2 years, 9 months ago

Good analogy Phoebe. Maybe that's it...

One big, dysfunctional, ill-informed, idealogically polarized cauldron. And it's starting to boil over. We are all in the pot and no one is outside who can turn down the heat... uh-oh...

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the_Lizard 2 years, 9 months ago

How many weeks months years have most people known drilling was a possibility in Routt county? Why now do we need a 2-3 month moratorium, weren't you informing yourself all those weeks months years, being proactive? The micro-management of a restaurant requires time but....

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sedgemo 2 years, 9 months ago

Liz, I can say what I think brought this issue to the forefront. It was the sudden appearance of unexpected fracking, curiously performed immediately post new-road-regulations by the county, regulations which were designed to place controls on water use and hauling on the road to the Wolf Mtn. drill pad. This paper printed an article announcing fracking with butane there and the consequent butane flaring.

It is quite apparent no commissioners knew this would or could happen so quickly and there was no way to determine the effects, if any. The existing regulations apparently said nothing about fracking.

The folks who own the minerals, own it where it lays. The concerns are large about how to extract it without diminishing the rights of others. The history around us (past and present) tells us we should try to find better ways to access these resources. We have a limited supply of land (and resources) but a seemingly endless supply of people. The days of "rape and run" resource extraction are over, the processes need to be wisely managed top to bottom, and can also be a source of job creation for many.

The consequences can be enormous, but don't have to be. The moratorium people want is quite limited (measured in months) and at a time of year when little drilling activity is planned. There is a legal question of delaying the oil companies access to their right to mine resources, which is called a "taking" so any delay by necessity cannot be long without financial consequences to the county.

It seems a modest enough moratorium proposal, especially in light of the sudden appearance of fracking at our doorstep.

And yes, Mr. Ross' article failed to accurately describe the events of Tuesday night.

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Scott Wedel 2 years, 9 months ago

Fracking is an evolving process where even the State of Colorado is playing catch up on the public disclosure of fracking fluids.

And now drilling is being proposed in new parts of the county. Parts of the county where uplift and other geology meant there had been no history of drilling are now seeing drilling applications. Previously, drilling activity was limited to the far west parts of the county which are sparsely populated. I think fracking in Saddle Mountain surprised everyone and so it is understandable that County failed to consider that sort of situation.

And even if County was fully prepared then news that apparently similar geology in Wyoming experienced groundwater contamination from fracking would be enough to call for a moratorium for a few months to be sure whatever happened there would not be allowed to happen here.

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the_Lizard 2 years, 9 months ago

mmmk, but she hasn't, until now, known there was a need for, "we have no experts on our staff for geochemical, hydrology or general geology issues. Without such expert input, I am concerned that we may not be able to adequately assess and evaluate potential safety and public health concerns" until now. Who the heck has been advising them if not experts in the field, Chris Brooshire? BTW this state has some of the strongest oil and gas drilling rules in the country.

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kevin fisher 2 years, 9 months ago

Colorado's drilling rules allows for landscapes like this:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-0P6Xuo7ru5M/TrfvLpCeuZI/AAAAAAAABz8/q5cFby9n25s/s1600/oil-colorado.JPG

It's our job to ensure Routt doesn't end up the same...

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sedgemo 2 years, 9 months ago

Liz, what I heard at the hearings were multiple references to short staffing at the county level... including that currently we have no long-term planner on staff.

The request for outside experts came from the public, especially in the geohydrology area. I think it's unfair to claim Ms. Bush didn't know there was a need, when what she is clearly saying is we have no expertise ON STAFF.

The last two work sessions were held to hear public input vis a vis reviewing and strengthening the regulations we have, since there are no experts on staff. Seems to me if the county can drop 3/4 of a million to open a seasonal part time restaurant at the airport they could find a way to hire a geohydrologist, or at least a consultant to help wade through this complex situation. In slow times maybe they could work at the restaurant ;-)

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the_Lizard 2 years, 9 months ago

Yep, segemo, makes you wonder about priorities on this: "Seems to me if the county can drop 3/4 of a million to open a seasonal part time restaurant at the airport they could find a way to hire a geohydrologist, or at least a consultant" Why do they need to have someone "on staff" I think the idea of a conultant is much better, less expensive and probably within their budget.

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sedgemo 2 years, 9 months ago

Works for me-the more independent the better.

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mavis 2 years, 9 months ago

Sled- I don't have much faith in the government so don't even go there. However the people that continue to VOTE for these people to make desicions for us need to educate themselves and not just jump on the gravy train too.

With that- it is what we have now, it needs fixed but until then Lizard has the point nailed. They can spend that much money for a restaurant they have no business running and yet they can't higher an expert or two for these oil decisions to determine the benefits and long term impacts??

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sledneck 2 years, 9 months ago

Read my comments above, Mavis. I agree. I think it is reasonable to monitor the fracking process and it is good to have reasonable regulations about the entire process.

I have commented many times that when government operates outside its domain what it is really doing is blowing money that should instead be allocated for things such as monitoring fracking, etc.

I have also tried and tried to point out that we live in a world of scarcity; there is only so much money. And if we blow it all on Iron Horses, Emerald Mts and Affordable Housing then there will be none left for infrastructure, schools, oversight of fracking or other stuff which is way, way more important than what the money gets wasted on.

I have also tried to get people to see that there is a tendancy in government to spend its FIRST money on vote-buying feel-good ideas that are not important and THEN, LATER come back to taxpayers asking for more money for the things that should have been funded FIRST. This is because if they spent their budget on, and took care of the basics, it would be far more difficult to convince taxpayers to add to government coffers to fund superfluous nonsense. That's why those things get funded first... so that when they come back for more they can say... "but it's for the children"... or "it's to keep us safe from fracking"..., etc Truth be told: if those were the primary concerns they should have been funded FIRST.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 9 months ago

Doug Monger, Please reconsider this vote. Time is on everyone's side here. Thanks.

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mavis 2 years, 9 months ago

really... I can only log onto the pilot AGAIN and only get articles from a week ago???? Really PLEASE actually let me log out so I can browse other plces safely and NOT see week old news????? I had my identity stolen// wonder if it was from the pilot considering how often this happens....Not much trust since I have known businesses crash their systems because of the pilot...

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