- Tuesday, October 18, 2011, 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
- Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs A riled up Routt County Board of Commissioners could hardly wait until Tuesday’s scheduled public hearing to send Shell Oil back to the drawing board.
The commissioners expressed their dismay Monday afternoon that information they sought more than a month ago to help them protect county roads in the vicinity of a proposed exploratory oil well has not been produced.
“We’ll begin the meeting by saying, ‘We’re really sorry, but we don’t have the information we requested in order to proceed,’” Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. “Why should we encourage bad behavior? This shows a total lack of respect for the county and the Board of County Commissioners. We’re not going to start permitting drilling this way. It’s a bad practice. A bad practice. This submittal is not completed.”
Shell Oil is scheduled to appear before the commissioners Tuesday afternoon to make a second request for a special use permit to enable it to drill a well known as Dawson Creek about two miles south of Yampa Valley Regional Airport. The commissioners previously tabled the permit Sept. 13 because of a lack of information about the protection of wildlife, surface water and air quality and impact to local roads.
Michael Bergstrom, Shell Oil’s senior regulatory adviser in Northwest Colorado, who spoke at the September hearing in Steamboat Springs, referred a request for a response to an associate based on the Western Slope.
Shell’s Carolyn Tucker, who was scheduled to attend today’s meeting with the commissioners, wrote in an e-mail message late Monday that her company wants to work with the county and satisfy its requests for information.
“The desired information is quite technical and takes additional time to properly collect, analyze and report,” Tucker wrote. “The road impact report will be submitted to the planning department (today). We will work with the County to better understand their expectations as we navigate the permit process together.”
During a Monday afternoon briefing with Planning Director Chad Phillips and county planner Chris Brookshire, the commissioners expressed amazement that Shell Oil officials, who had been eager to begin developing the well pad in mid-September, had not been more diligent. They had asked Shell Oil to provide detailed information about the number of truck trips and the axle weight of the trucks that would deliver heavy drilling rigs to the site. They directed Shell to provide Road and Bridge Department Director Paul Draper with the information so he could relay it to a consultant working on the permit application. They also asked Shell to work with the Colorado Department of Transportation on the route the trucks would take to U.S. Highway 40 in Hayden.
“They haven’t even made a phone call to CDOT,” Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said Monday. “I find that absolutely shocking. I think that we made it quite clear to Shell Oil on Sept. 13 what we needed.”
County Attorney John Merrill said that in addition to information about the nature of truck trips, the county needs cost estimates of necessary road improvements, a reimbursement agreement and arrangements for collateral to protect the county from any damage to roads.
Brookshire said she had been in touch with Shell officials last week, and they submitted a written response outlining their stance on a variety of conditions the county is placing on approval of the special use permit. They range from measures to protect wildlife to surface water and air pollution monitoring.
In some cases, including ground water monitoring, Shell officials termed the county conditions redundant and asked the county to replace its language with requirements already put in place by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Stahoviak said she would not entertain issuing a permit to Shell Oil until she’s reassured county roads are protected.
“I’m drawing the line, right here, right now,” she said.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com