Routt County oil, gas group reviews conditions of approval

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— 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

Comments

pitpoodle 2 years, 10 months ago

I would like to note that the Camilletti's own hundreds of acres that could be mined or drilled but apparently they prefer to disrupt and destroy the property values of Routt County homeowners for a profit. Also, it preserves the rest of their property for cattle grazing which is probably more important than those pesky residents. I remember a few years ago Camilletti insisted on putting up a gravel pit in Saddle Mountain Ranchettes subdivision. This ruined the quality of life for everyone in the area. From what I recall, there were all sorts of proposed guidelines and safeguards, unfortunately, these were never enforced - were they, commissioners? The County Commissioners allowed the gravel pit with some of their decision based on the "poor rancher is just trying to make a living". As we all know, the demand for gravel fell drastically and the Camilletti's probably lost their shirts. They got what they deserved. Now, I am sure they are crying "poor us" and will again get commissioner's approval not based on how it will affect the subdivision's water or property values or quality of life but on new guidelines and safeguards that will never be enforced.

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 10 months ago

Is Routt County comfortable with guidelines set by the Feds or by the State? To my knowledge these guidelines EXEMPT oil and gas extraction from the Clean Water Act.

We should do what is right for Routt County, not what is right within the DC beltway. If it comes to a fight, please spend my taxes defending Routt County's clean water.

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kathy foos 2 years, 10 months ago

The new regulations to be presented in February ,by the EPA,will have requirement for better casing system that is not prone to malfunction like the present system.I suspect that the concerned party's are attempting to bypass up and coming regulations by rushing this through like this now.I think a court order is needed to get a delay for the facts to emerge.The Oil Companys and Comish are playing hard ball now and that is what we must do too.This group is not qualified to make such important decisions concerning our County,hire and expert ,go to Rifle and talk to people.You cannot learn it all about oil safety in a crash course,no matter how well intended.The comish want to deflect the attion to someone else.They already allowed pollutions at Wolf mountain ,I am sure.What is to be done? Slow down,wait for the BLM to make a decision,they actually listen to comments from the public.Let the EPA do its reform ,see where we are.Don't rush this through in January,big mistake,who is going to pay for the damages?The Comish.Could someone get a court order for postponment soon?Cannot trust this situation at all for anything,what a joke,never heard the like,Get an expert opinion people,better yet ,get an judge and stop this crap shoot.Considering that the EPA is changing ,BLM is listening,people are speaking,property values and lives are at stake,this needs to be stopped for now.Not unreasonable.More unreasonable to push ahead at all cost with the EPA warning about Gas Fracking causing pollutions in Wyoming.Now that the word is out is it a potential crime to go ahead and pollute taxpayers interest.A crime against the people .

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Julie Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

I agree completely with sun above. It is so important to do the research and have sound factual information to support delaying more drilling. The casing issue could make all the difference. I think hiring an expert would be tax dollars well spent, although I know those dollars are scarce. We do not want to be outsmarted by big oil and gas money.

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sedgemo 2 years, 10 months ago

JK, I agree with you but have to point out that nothing is being "rushed", leases were bought and sold, and these permits have been applied for in process for some time. The locations of drill pads, in my understanding, has more to do with gaining exploratory information of the geologic deposition of resources than "choosing" to disrupt a neighborhood. Unfortunately, the concerns for neighborhoods barely factor into the decisions. It's also far from automatically profitable, these are at first exploratory wells, only productive ones have any chance of becoming profitable.

Mineral rights (gravel or oil) are property rights with equal value in the eyes of the law to surface rights, so if you want to sell your house for a profit, or someone else wants to sell their gravel for a profit, both are legal and acceptable in our profit-based society. The questions arise around HOW to do these things safely, and what constitutes "safe." I don't envy our commissioners!

I fully support caution and careful regulations concerning oil and gas extraction, including taking as long as it takes since the peripheral risks are so very high.

That said, it doesn't help our community conversation about these issues when anyone misrepresents another, agreed?

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pitpoodle 2 years, 10 months ago

At the meeting, the so-called community conversations were dominated by the gas and oil industry representatives from what I understand. Residents are asking for baselines to be established before discussing approval conditions. That makes sense. Residents are asking for information about the hazardous effects of the drilling methods used, yet, the commissioners have no answers and appear unwilling to apply a moratorium to take the time to get some answers. Just like the Camilletti gravel pit of a few years ago, the commissioners will not address the concerns of the individuals they should be representing and protecting but will do anything to see that the industry gets what it wants. Instead, the time frames dictated by the industry are being given more respect and consideration than the citizens' concerns. Why is that? There were no answers as to where the millions of gallons of contaminated water used in the fracking process will be disposed. Will it be in the wells of the residents or just dumped to end up in the rivers? Chad needs to stop deferring to the gas and oil industry and demand that the critical issues of groundwater monitoring and hydrologic study reviews be done before permits are handed out like candy. Take these residents seriously, Chad, or are you too afraid of your bosses to do a good job?

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sedgemo 2 years, 10 months ago

PP, I was at the meetings and did not come away with the impression you describe. There were O & G reps but they were far outnumbered by the public in attendance, and of those most were in favor of slowing down the process in the name of safety.

Chad is swinging for the bleachers near as I can see, and can't make the rules but only make recommendations to the commissioners. He pointed out at the first work session that there is NO long-term planner on staff at this time, so there is a lot of work needing to be done but no manpower to do so. I think plenty of people are putting in extra miles on this issue but have other things on their plates, too. It's also worth repeating these January permit applications have been in the "pipeline" for a while now, though there are surely more coming.

Two of three commissioners were okay with the rules as they stand, but have yielded a little to the public input in the form of the petition Kyle started, which led to the approval of creating a working group. It's not great but it's more than what seemed possible a few weeks ago.

The commissioners supposedly work for us, so we need to make sure they understand that, and earn their wages. What happens if the comissioners decide to ignore the recommendations from the working group? Hiring a staff person for this specific area of concern would be a good start, or even an independent consultant.

The other difficulty is that state rules supersede local regulations in most cases, so as I understand it the county has only limited means of regulating these activities at all, let alone enforcing compliance to existing rules. I would love to learn more about how Colorado Springs, for example, was able to enforce a moratorium when supposedly we cannot.

Maybe we can sell Iron Horse and use the money for something far more useful to our residents in the form of talent to guide us through these murky seas.

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canyonwind 2 years, 10 months ago

If the Federal Goverment would allow an area in Alaska known as ANWR to be open for oil drilling that alone could drive the price down to $40 a barrel. There is more oil up there than in all of Saudi Arabia. Off the California coast there is enough Natural Gas to meet the demands of the 50 million west coast residents for over 30 years. toss in the Keystone pipeline (oil sands) and there is more than enough oil to meet our demands for thr next 100 years. However after that big find in Alaska was discovered the Oil Industry created this Peak Oil Myth and floated it over to Green Peace and others for one reason and one reason only; to keep the price as high as possible. That is the main reason we are in the middle east, that war has nothing to do with 9-11 which is likely another lie along with Oklahoma City. So as long as Oil is at $100 a barrel they will drill where ever except where the massive finds are. Plus this is a much nicer place to live than Texas, Louisianna or California.

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