Environmental experts discuss oil, gas exploration in Routt County

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— Energy development negatively affects water quality, air quality and wildlife, environmental experts told a crowd of about 120 people at a public forum Tuesday night.

The Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley hosted the forum that brought together the panel to address the impacts of oil and gas exploration and production, which many expect to increase in Routt County because of the Niobrara shale formation located beneath the surface. Extra chairs had to be brought in for the crowd in Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library.

“I often say, and I’ve lived in Colorado for most of my life, this is one of the last best places on Earth. It’s worth protecting,” said panelist Todd Malmsbury, spokesman for the Colorado Wildlife Federation.

Malmsbury added that he’s not anti-energy. He said all energy development, not just oil and gas, impacts wildlife populations.

The rest of the panel members highlighted instances of environmental contamination from oil and gas exploration and production. The experts included Judy Jordan, former Garfield County oil and gas liaison; Rodger Steen, air quality consultant with Lakewood-based Air Sciences; and Frank Smith, director of organizing for Western Colorado Congress, the Community Alliance’s parent organization.

Routt County Planning Department Director Chad Phillips also spoke about the county’s role in reviewing, permitting and oversight of the oil and gas industry.

No industry experts or consultants were present to address the positive effects of oil and gas development, such as less dependence on foreign oil, job creation and economic benefits to municipalities and landowners.

Jack White, a member of the Community Alliance board of directors, said the nonprofit that strives to preserve the natural environment, enhance quality of life and retain the community’s character just wants to make sure energy development is done correctly.

Jordan, who worked for Garfield County from 2007 through June, highlighted instances of groundwater contamination in that county from fracking, an oil and gas extraction method.

Steen said dust and emissions are released into the air from trucks driving to and from the drilling sites. He said the fracking process also releases harmful gases into the atmosphere.

Phillips said a majority of local permits involved fracking, which uses water and chemicals to fracture rock, to release oil or natural gas.

Smith said that there are 43,000 active oil and gas wells in Colorado and that there have been nearly 1,000 documented spills since 2008. Smith said that the Western Colorado Congress isn’t trying to stop exploration but that the organization’s position is that drilling can be done better, and he encouraged the public to speak up.

Phillips said the county will begin to revise its oil and gas regulations this fall and is seeking public comment. He said there is some urgency to adopt new regulations before oil and gas drilling picks up. He said the county is reviewing four permits and expects more by the end of the year.

Steamboat resident John Hanley attended Tuesday’s forum. He said that he owns land in Craig where seismic testing is taking place and that he wanted to learn more about oil and gas development.

“I didn’t realize we were possibly facing this in Routt County,” he said. “I guess it’s a situation I don’t want to see an oil rig in the park, that kind of thing. But on the other hand, we do need to extract these resources. I’d prefer we conserve. We all say that, but everyone drove here, almost.”

Comments

kathy foos 2 years, 10 months ago

Routt County is unique in the fact that so much pure water is on hand both below ground and on surface including a dam that is a state park.The water originates here,flows through relitavily purely and people have worked hard in the past to protect and use it.The air has been protected as much as possible by scrubbers at the power plant,now we are supposed to blindly accept hydo gas fracturing when there are many warnings against it?Peak oil is over ,that is stateed by the oil industry itself.Considering the fact that we have become so dependent on the product and the finite capibilitys to produce it,it should be declared a rare earth mineral immediatly and the retreival and processing should be a state of the art industry that doesn't waste it or take chances with water , air ,public safety and wildlife issues.It needs to be reserved for manufacture and cars to get away from using it.Heating homes has to get away also .What good is driving around in cars if you cant breath right and get a good glass of water?Lets just hope humanity wont work itself into that corner.I dont like the images from North Dakota well site shown in a clip by segdemo in the comments section on Tom Ross's recent oil article.It shows that the gas is being burned off to get to the sweet crude they want.They dont have nearby facilitys to process the gas so they burn it out.Is that good conservation in harvesting a product that is getting rare?Is it in the fine print we dont read that the natural gas is going to be expelled and wasted to get to the crude? I dont think is it unreasonable for Routt County to declare oil a rare earth mineral here,and demand it be properly done and nothing wasted.It could help to set standards to what they should be.Most countys dont have this much pure water and many other people use this pure water after it leaves the county.You do have a special responsibility to keep it leaving your valley clean and sparkling..We are the wetlands that collects the water for the Yampa.With the class action suit in Rifle looming,you have to make a bold decision or do nothing and potentialy watch a nightmare unfold.You all saw from afar the Gulf Crisis,this could be yours ony in different form. I dont envy the people making these decisions about the gas industry ,they are hard choices that must be delt with strong leadership and mind to do the right thing. Its very good to see so many who care that attended the meeting.Sorry not to be there.

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rhys jones 2 years, 10 months ago

yvb -- Don't bridle the horse, let 'er run!! Just read slower. :)

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