Petition asks Routt County commissioners to stay oil, gas permits

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More than 260 community members have signed a petition asking the Routt County Board of Commissioners to reconsider their opposition to a moratorium on new oil and gas well permits.

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View the online petition here.

— Kyle Elston said Thursday that he was convinced he needed to inject himself into Routt County’s oil and gas debate shortly after he finished building fences last summer on a ranch south of Stagecoach.

“I was working alongside a couple people who came here from Rifle and told me about all the negative impacts of hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas exploration in Garfield County,” Elston said before he started his shift as a substitute teacher at Soroco High School. “They said the air quality there is terrible and some livestock are suffering.”

Elston, who said he opposes most forms of oil and gas exploration, said he has attended every public meeting he can in Routt County that centers on the permitting process. At a Tuesday night Routt County Board of Commissioners meeting, he was disappointed when two of the three commissioners opposed a short-term moratorium on new permits for oil and gas wells.

“It’s very frustrating to me because it seemed like they closed their ears to the demands of people in the room,” he said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Elston launched an online petition asking the commissioners to reconsider their opposition to the moratorium. Twenty-four hours later, more than 150 people had joined him in signing it. By Friday morning the number had swelled to more than 260. Elston said that he isn’t hoping to reach a specific threshold of signatures but that he hopes the petition persuades the commissioners to impose stricter regulations on oil and gas development, including baseline testing for water and air quality.

“In a lot of ways, I’m happy that so many people have signed it already,” said Elston, who graduated from the University of Colorado in August. “I’m at this age where in some ways I’m not ready to just completely give up on a democratic system. I’m not ready to be complacent and accept the answer of the commissioners when I know (their decision) wasn’t what the majority of the people (at the meeting) wanted.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, which drew at least 80 community members to the Routt County Courthouse, Commissioners Doug Monger and Nancy Stahoviak opposed a moratorium on new oil and gas permits and said the county should continue strengthening the regulations it already places on energy exploration. Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush offered the dissenting voice and said she would like to see a two- to three-month halt on new well permits because the county does not have enough information as to how an increase in drilling would affect air and water quality, among other things.

“We need more time to look at all the data we have and take the advice of the many people and citizens who are so concerned about this,” Mitsch Bush said Thursday.

She added that the county’s tourism-based economy, environment and health are at stake.

“All you need is one well to go bad, and then a property becomes worthless. We’ve seen it in other places, and I certainly hope we can learn from the other problems other areas have had.”

Stahoviak and Monger said they were receiving emails Thursday from constituents who signed the petition, but both indicated the opposition will not cause them to reconsider a moratorium.

“We already knew these people were against our decision, and it doesn’t change my picture of it at all,” Monger said. “I think we have all the tools in our toolbox necessary to deal with the issues of oil and gas permits. We probably have the strongest set of regulations in the state.”

He added that state statue likely would disallow the county from imposing a moratorium on new permits.

Stahoviak said the process the county already has in place to approve new permits is sufficient.

“My bottom-line reaction is we don’t believe we need a new moratorium,” she said. “I appreciate the passion and the desire for everyone to want to be involved in this issue, and I continue to ask them to do that.”

Meanwhile, Elston is using social media sites like Facebook to continue spreading the petition. He plans to collect more signatures this weekend in person in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Tim Rowse, who was among the first to sign the petition, said a moratorium would be beneficial to the county and to energy companies.

“Every element of the existing code needs to be looked at and then some,” he said. “A moratorium on oil and gas permits is a good idea until we do strengthen our regulations.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Kerrie Cooper 2 years, 11 months ago

You're my hero Kyle! Here's yet another story about the link of fracking to water contamination on Yahoo News today. "EPA theorizes fracking-pollution link"

http://news.yahoo.com/apnewsbreak-epa-theorizes-fracking-pollution-211055287.html

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the cause and effects. Now there are earthquakes in places without a history of earthquakes, coincidentally with recent fracking wells in the area. I don't understand how people can think you drill thousands of feet into the earth, pumping all kinds of crap into the ground and there will not be negative side effects. (I guess it goes back to our total disconnection to the earth & somehow our sick ability to justify anything)

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kevin fisher 2 years, 11 months ago

"Stahoviak and Monger said they were receiving emails Thursday from constituents who signed the petition, but both indicated the opposition will not cause them to reconsider a moratorium."

Well, how many sigs will it take, then? If half the county ends up supporting a moratorium, will their voices be heard?

“I think we have all the tools in our toolbox necessary to deal with the issues of oil and gas permits. We probably have the strongest set of regulations in the state.”

If our regs were truly that strong, there would not be a permit app on the table for my backyard. It is that simple. Statistics show that it takes up to 1100 semi-tractor trips for a new well start-up. The PRIVATELY MAINTAINED road in my neighborhood that would lead to the pad site is narrow enough that when cars approach each other from opposite directions one must pull over to allow the other to pass.

My well is located just a couple hundred feet from the drill site.

Most of the protective covenants in our neighborhood would be ignored and violated if drilling were to take place.

We are one of the few places in the county zone mountain residential.

The drilling would occur in a visual corridor with structures extending above ridge line.

I make these points not only for my obvious personal cause. Instead, I am trying to highlight the fact that if our county regs truly were comprehensive and had some teeth, the O&G industry would never have even looked at this site as an option. Period.

Again, I support responsible domestic oil and gas exploration. For me, it is one of the most important aspects in the revamping of our national security policy. However, we are a community almost solely reliant upon the tourism/real estate markets. One sale north of $700k has already come off the table in my area because of this proposed drilling. If we allow our community bespoiled by O&G, the trickle-down effect to our entire economy will be felt by us all.

These fossil fuels have been there for millions of years- they ain't going anywhere. Why is there a need to rush headlong into this? Let's take the time to protect our citizens, economy and ecology.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 11 months ago

Thanks Kyle. This is an important issue in Routt County's future. We should only extract these fuels with complete confidence that our groundwater is safe.

Fracking, in my opinion, will never meet that standard.

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sedgemo 2 years, 11 months ago

MR. MONGER/PETITION ARTICLE: “We already knew these people were against our decision, and it doesn’t change my picture of it at all,” Monger said. “I think we have all the tools in our toolbox necessary to deal with the issues of oil and gas permits. We probably have the strongest set of regulations in the state.”

Monger said in February that county regulations don’t provide for treating conservation easements differently from other land in the county when it comes to approving oil and gas wells.

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MR. MONGER/PDR ARTICLE: “I don’t believe our zoning regulations put conserved lands any higher than non-conserved lands,” Monger said. “We have a letter from The Nature Conservancy’s land conservation project director Jennifer Herrington suggesting we give this property additional protection. I don’t believe our current land-use regulations allow us to do that.”

Mr Monger, "these people" are also the ones you work for.

If they are accurate, these two quotes infer our toolbox could "probably" use a few more tools.

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spidermite 2 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Monger should think about not running for another term. When Nancy's term is up there is a really good chance that someone who cares about this valley and it's occupants will be elected. Mr. Monger won't be able to work with the new commissioners.

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spidermite 2 years, 11 months ago

Let's not forget about that $75,000.00 (of tax payers money) that he gave away to help a friend . I'm sure Nancy will declare that $ on this years income taxes.

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kathy foos 2 years, 11 months ago

Would it be possible to get a judge to put at least a temporary restraining order on well permits issued in Routt?Its just not acceptable that the commish won't listen to the people on this.They have already stated they will not change their minds,so why wait at all?Considering the huge potential loss to the people of Routt County,it seems reckless to pursue the current course without the EPA information that is being generated ,that will take untill Feb.No sense waiting to ask the Routt County courts for intervention, as the commish have stated its going to be,there way or the h-iway.Any legal experts with an opinion on how the well permits can be stopped at this point,since the County refuses to listen to the people?

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kathy foos 2 years, 11 months ago

It seems that since there are people throwing a into the ring for Nancys vacancy and hopefully someone from Hayden will run against Doug,how about if the Pilot does an in depth interview with all of the potential candidates?Im very interested in learning more about the positions that they take on issues,the sooner the better.I have heard that McCoy will be very much effected with fracking plans and would think that we should hear from the candidate's that are running ASAP.As more people decide to run later you could do more story's on each person as they are added.Thanks to all those who are running and I admire your determination as this will be a tuff job to fill.

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sedgemo 2 years, 11 months ago

Nearly 100 people a day have signed since Weds. Is anyone listening in the commissioner's offices?

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rhys jones 2 years, 11 months ago

Great stuff!! Online petition -- what a concept!! I signed, you bet.

Now if some enterprising lawyer facsimile were to apply him- or herself, I'll bet we could get things legalized hereabouts heretofore unheard of, or at least ballot proposals to that effect...

Just digressing again, thinking outside the box... yeah petition.

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sedgemo 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm with you, star... wondering since Colorado is an Initiative & Referendum state if there is some legal avenue our citizenry can pursue to ensure our voices are heard and acted upon. I'm not a politico so don't know what is possible, do you?

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sledneck 2 years, 11 months ago

Rejection of a pipeline from Canada, where they could have taken all the risks, proves that radical environmentalists don't care WHERE the energy comes from... they don't want it.

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sedgemo 2 years, 11 months ago

Sled, the bigger issue here is O&G folks OWN the rights in many places, and are buying up more as I type. Oil from Canada doesn't change the situation in Routt County. I doubt any of the oil extracted here will be sold here anyway, it has to be shipped to a refinery, then shipped out again from there, correct?

The question here is how to proceed in Routt County. We don't have a choice of rejecting or accepting, the issue is already here and people have legal rights on all sides. How to balance those rights is the issue before us.

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sledneck 2 years, 11 months ago

Total dodge. You folks don't want to drill here; don't want to drill in ANWaR, don't want to build a pipeline from Canada, don't want solar facilities in Nevada, don't want wind farms off Cape Cod, don't want nuclear, don't want hydro-electric...

Hell, when it comes to energy production and consumption you guys "ain't got nothin but the habbit"!! A habbit for cars, thermostats, light switches, ski-lifts, food in the supermarket, etc. and a hatred of EVERY SINGLE ONE of the means of providing those things.

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sedgemo 2 years, 11 months ago

Sled, I aint "folks", just meself, and don't indulge in hating.

How about you bring some solutions to the questions people have raised? You are bright enough to move the ball forward. O&G resources are here. People own it and have the right to extract it, which they are doing. Consequences will result, which can be good and bad and both at once. People on all sides are heavily vested, with legitimate concerns.

How can we make this work for all concerned?

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sledneck 2 years, 11 months ago

The truth is, Sedgemo, that I don't think we can satisfy all concerned. A further question is why do so many feel it's any of their concern? I remember reading one particular comment in which someone expressed they felt they had a"right" not to have to see the oil rig on Wolf mt. There is little chance of satisfying that individual, no?

In fact I don't think we can even satisfy the environmentalists; after all, they want no energy production but they also want light switches, thermostats and ski-lifts and cars. Those positions are incompatible. (I said "they", not "You")

I fear we are reaching an idealogical impass in this country. The polorized states of America. Balkanization, I think you might say.

There may be no easy return from this state. Everyone thinks they are entitled to a say over everyone elses property. That makes every teapot into a tempest. Society has been sowing those seeds for a couple generations. The Austro-Hungarian empire has never recovered from that turmoil. There is no guarantee we can either.

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sedgemo 2 years, 11 months ago

Sled, I agree with you on many things. I think we are all environmentalists (we have to be, really) and we are all energy developers since our numbers and lifestyles demand it. The Stone Age surely demanded less, but then there weren't 7 billion of us wandering around. No going back.

To avoid further polarization we need to accept that other's values have, well, value. In the example you cite above (not wanting to see a rig on Wolf Mtn.) if we get past the finger pointing, there are less objectionable ways to proceed, via camouflage paint for example (from a Chad Phillips slide), turning off rig lights at night, or allowing more rigs on a single pad to eliminate seeing rigs scattered like buckshot all over the county. O&G folks have to value residents' habitation and health, residents have to value what O&G folks paid for and have a right to extract.

What is polarizing is the black/white characterizations, the possibility of a sudden proliferation of "outside" industry (with a not-so-comforting track history) potentially poisoning an area more than a few people care about in profound ways, and at least the appearance of unconcern from our elected public officials.

Nobody is really too sure who owns what, and where, underground right now. If living here was a goal, not just some place you're couch surfing, it brings with it a set of values not easily replicated. For most raised here the values are the same and they treasure their rural heritage. Only a few can (or would want to) pack up and leave. We all share this environment, and what we (and you) call home isn't confined under a roof. It's much larger.

Moving forward with as much consensus as we can muster, weighing values we might not share or understand, and making informed and thoughtful decisions seems to me the least polarizing path.

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jerry carlton 2 years, 11 months ago

Bring back term limits! I live on a 5 acre lot. Can they drill on my land since it takes 5 acres for a drill pad? Drill off the California coast. What makes them better than the Gulf coast?

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sedgemo 2 years, 11 months ago

JLC, they won't need to, they can just drill under you if they own the rights under your few acres.

Petition is approaching 2,000 signatories now... hope the commissioners know how to read.

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spidermite 2 years, 11 months ago

sedgemo, They know how to read . They just refuse to accept our opinions. Don't forget to vote.

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sedgemo 2 years, 11 months ago

FROM THE PETITION

  1. Neil and Mary Talbott Dec 14, 2011 Colorado Springs, CO We in El Paso County are faced with the same situation and are thankful that the Colorado Springs City Council has just implemented a 6-month moratorium so that local rules can be enacted. Good local rules can protect the public, environmental quality and the long-term future of Colorado.
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kathy foos 2 years, 11 months ago

I want to thank all of the people who are supporting Routt County .All over the state and other parts of our country.We need this moritorium NOW,make sure all is safe before continuing on the present course.If people will please help by commenting to the BLM about proposed drilling in our Routt County area,it would help alot because the BLM is making a decision in Feb about a permit for the Flattops Wildersess area and other sites in the County.A denver Judge made a ruling saying no new roads in the National Forest and it should be respected.There are already old wells in the forest simply pumping oil,now they want to add fracking to that.Every well should not have a right to frack automatically.

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sedgemo 2 years, 11 months ago

COMMENT FROM THE PETITION

  1. Mark Petry Dec 15, 2011 Walsenbuerg, CO Shell Oil is exploring for gas on our property too. We have not agreed and demanded to see their claims to mineral rights before they step a foot on our property. We have been trying to sell our property for a couple of years then we get hit with this whammy. It sucks! I wish you luck.Good-bye property values. Mark
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