Thursday, December 29, 2011
Steamboat Springs Routt County’s oil and gas working group used its first meeting Wednesday to make a significant dent in the review of 61 conditions of approval for oil and gas permits.
The volunteer group of local property owners, county officials and industry professionals waded through the first 47 conditions of approval, many of which apply to most permit applications. The process will resume at the group’s next meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 4 in the historic Routt County Courthouse. About 30 members of the public attended Wednesday’s three-hour meeting, but there was no public comment.
Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips said after the meeting that he thought the group made good progress. When complete, the group will make recommendations on county oil and gas regulations to the Planning Commission and eventually to the Routt County Board of Commissioners.
Phillips told the group before the discussion started that the goal is to complete the conditions of approval template for all oil and gas permits before a public hearing at the Jan. 19 Planning Commission meeting for an application from Quicksilver Resources to drill on the Camilletti & Sons Ranch west of Milner.
“I thought it went really well,” Phillips said. “I knew, which is not a bad thing, we’d get bogged down in the education component. ... If it wasn’t for that, we would have gotten through (all 61 conditions of approval). But because of that, we had a better exchange of ideas.”
County Commissioners told Phillips on Tuesday that they didn’t want any suggestion or idea withheld. The commissioners said they wanted to hear everything. And they will.
For instance, there was a lengthy discussion about how quickly a violation or citation issued by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state’s regulatory agency for the industry, or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment would be reported. The existing reporting requirement is within 72 hours.
Routt County Director of Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf said it depended on the violation, which the county could assist with if it required immediate attention. Some members of the working group wanted to make sure significant violations were dealt with immediately.
“If your trash can tipped over, that’s one thing — 72 hours is fine,” said working group member Paul Stettner, of the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley. “If you’re dumping some garbage waste into the water supply, it’s immediate. How do you address that in the language?”
Assistant Routt County Attorney Eric Knaus suggested listing the type of violation and the immediacy that would be required to remediate it.
Quicksilver Resources senior director of government and communication Steve Lindsey and Jane Harris, a petroleum landwoman for Shell Oil, said many of the conditions of approval were already requirements of the state Oil and Gas Commission and could be removed.
“I think we ought to do closed-loop systems in this county,” said working group member and former Routt County Commissioner Ben Beall. “Require closed-loop systems. No pits.”
Beall’s suggestion, which he said would reduce the possibility of air and land pollution, was placed on a separate list. Other policy-type suggestions included having a different permitting process for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and doing background checks on oil and gas companies to see if they have a history of violations.
Linda Carlton, who just moved to a home near the Wolf Mountain drilling site after living in Steamboat for nearly 20 years, said she attended the meeting because she was concerned oil and gas exploration could affect her quality of life. Carlton said she was impressed with the process.
“I think both sides has some very valid points and did a good job educating me,” she said. “And there were people on the (working group) really interested in Routt County, people who’ve been here a long time and have a lot of experience.”
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com