Our View: Loud and clear

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Editorial Board, Sept. 25, 2011, to January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter

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Local governments and residents may not be able to prevent oil and gas exploration from taking place in Routt County, but they can insist that such development is done responsibly. Kudos to the Routt County Board of Commissioners for sending that message loud and clear to Shell Oil last week.

The county commissioners’ pointed words to Shell Oil officials who failed to supply necessary information in a timely fashion about their company’s special-use permit application to drill an exploratory well near Yampa Valley Regional Airport set an appropriate tone for how local governments should deal with oil and gas companies in the coming years. Not only did Shell Oil fail to provide specifics about truck traffic to the proposed well site, it also brushed aside the county’s conditions for measures such as wildlife protection and surface water and air pollution monitoring.

“Why should we encourage bad behavior?” Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said last week. “This shows a total lack of respect for the county and Board of County Commissioners. We’re not going to start permitting drilling in this way. It’s a bad practice.”

Shell Oil’s special-use permit application isn’t the first the county has seen this year, but it is representative of what’s expected to be an increasing number of energy plays in our backyard as oil and gas companies seek to tap into the unknown fuel supplies of the Niobrara shale deep below the surface of Northwest Colorado. And while the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission establishes many of the requirements for oil and gas developers, there are elements of local control that can and should be seized by entities like the Routt County Board of Commissioners. Those elements include impacts to roads and wildlife as well as air- and water-quality monitoring.

Now is the time to set the standard in Routt County for how oil and gas companies will be received here. The commissioners’ action last week, which resulted in a second tabling of Shell Oil’s permit application, sent the clear and appropriate message that we’re paying attention and that our public officials intend to stand up for local interests.

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