Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Oil and gas working group to be formed
Routt County Planning Department Director Chad Phillips said Tuesday that the Routt County Board of Commissioners has directed him to form a working group of informed citizens to explore issues related to energy exploration in Northwest Colorado.
“We have a lot of people living here who have expertise,” Phillips said.
Formation of a working group was a suggestion that came out of a Dec. 8 public work session on the county’s oil and gas regulations. Phillips said he tentatively is planning a meeting in the last week of December and another in early January.
The meetings will be public but will not involve public comment.
Steamboat Springs Local and regional advocates of more stringent oil and gas industry regulations called Tuesday’s announcement about new Colorado rules, which require the industry to divulge details about the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, a step in the right direction but not the answer to all of their concerns.
“It’s a great step forward, but this doesn’t get us 100 percent of the way there,” said Rodger Steen, of the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that members of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved a new set of rules to take effect in April that would require energy companies to disclose the chemicals they use in fracking and the proportions or concentrations of those chemicals. The rules allow energy companies to withhold some details about compounds they deem proprietary except in cases of an accident. The companies would have to explain the proprietary nature of the chemicals and name the chemical family of those compounds. Should an accident occur, the companies would be obligated to provide full details to emergency responders.
Mike Chiropolos, land program director for Western Resource Advocates in Boulder, said simply knowing the chemicals used in fracking won’t be sufficient to protect public health should those chemicals show up in drinking water wells. In addition, he said, the citizens of Colorado should be protected by baseline and ongoing testing to establish water quality prior to the commencement of energy drilling in locations across the state. The recent finding by the EPA that fracking fluids are a possible cause of well-water contamination in Pavillion, Wyo., speaks directly to the need for baseline testing, he added.
Energy industry officials are saying the EPA’s report is unfounded. Chiropolos said prior water testing could have answered the question with more certainty.
“This was a compromise, but it was an example of a collaborative effort,” Chiropolos said about Tuesday’s decision in Colorado. “Baseline testing (of water) is integral to this. If you don’t know the problem, you can’t address it. That’s unacceptable. It should be mandatory for every well in every formation. It shouldn’t matter where you live.”
Steen is co-chairman, with Paul Stettner, of the Community Alliance committee on the county’s oil and gas regulations. He said his group is pushing for energy drilling permits to be a county permit process separate from the permission to use hydraulic fracturing on the same well.
Routt County Planning Department Director Chad Phillips said Tuesday that current regulations do not allow the county to directly regulate whether an energy company fracks a well. However, the county exerts indirect influence on that decision because it has the authority to regulate the use of county roads, which lead to most fracked wells, because of the heavy weight and resulting impact of the water trucks that make multiple trips to the well pad during fracking.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com