Thursday, December 8, 2011
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