A group of community members urged the Routt County Planning Commission to proceed with caution when considering oil and gas exploration.
More than 60 people attended the oil and gas work session that followed the Planning Commission meeting Thursday. Of those who attended, 28 spoke, including three representing the oil and gas industry. But most expressed concerns that oil and gas exploration could lead to negative impacts on the community.
“I want to make sure Routt County doesn’t turn into Garfield County, where there are well pads everywhere as far as the eye can see,” Steamboat resident Justin Hirsch said. “We all live here for a reason, the natural beauty, and I don’t want to see that destroyed.”
The industry representatives said they wanted to work with residents to address their concerns.
“I’m here today to listen and let you know there are impacts from oil and gas development,” said Liz Gallaway, an attorney with Denver law firm Beatty & Wozniak, who attended the meeting on behalf of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “I don’t deny that, but I do think it can be done responsibly.
“At the end of the day, conflict between the industry and you guys isn’t good for anybody.”
The Oil and Gas Conservation Commission oversees the industry statewide.
Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips said the county is working on a revision to its oil and gas regulations, which first were adopted in 1972. He presented examples from other governments, in and outside Colorado. From those examples, he suggested 19 possible additions to the county’s regulations.
Planning Commission Chairman Jay Gallagher explained that the possible additions hadn’t been compared with state regulations or reviewed by the county’s attorney.
The residents in attendance, many of whom live near a proposed oil well in the Saddle Mountain Ranchettes subdivision on Routt County Road 179 near Milner, said they worried that oil and gas exploration and development could lead to water and air quality issues, create noise and ruin streets.
Hirsch and other community members urged the county to impose a moratorium on future oil and gas drilling applications.
Quicksilver Resources, of Fort Worth, Texas, has the county’s only active drilling site on Wolf Mountain. The state has approved three others that the county is considering.
Phillips said he would present the public feedback to the Routt County Board of Commissioners at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 6. He said commissioners could give him direction for next steps at or after that meeting.
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com