Steamboat Springs Routt County’s oil and gas working group made quick work of its chores Wednesday, but the night’s discussion brought out the differing approaches some longtime residents and industry representatives would bring to regulating energy exploration here.
The working group needed less than two hours to plow through the task of making final comments on a list of 23 conditions that could be added to the list of standards applied to oil drilling permit applications. The Routt County Board of Commissioners will begin to analyze them in a work session at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
However, the theme that emerged from the night’s roundtable was the desire of some working group members to gain the cooperation of energy companies in affording extra protection to the county’s natural resources. Industry representatives on the panel wondered out loud why Routt County would go beyond what they say are already well-established state regulations enforced by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
“Treat Routt County — see what we’re all about and see what we can do,” said Paul Stettner, of the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley. “If you can ease the impact, that’s what we’re trying to get done.”
Steve Lindsey, senior director of governmental affairs and community relations for Quicksilver Resources, which has drilled one well in western Routt County and is pursuing several more, told the group that strong regulations are in his company’s best interests.
“Our desire is to have as robust a set of regulatory (provisions) as we can because it helps us as an operator,” Lindsey said.
And when it came to submitting comments on proposed conditions dealing with everything from managing visual impacts to the permissible density of well heads within a finite drilling area, Lindsey pointed out that state regulations already cover those areas.
“It gets into a fundamental question of, if the state has purview over setting density (for example), does the county even have any” standing in the matter, Lindsey said.
“The answer is ‘yes,’” former County Commissioner Ben Beall replied. “We don’t want impacts to our wetlands, to our floodplains, and somehow, we’ve got to get there.”
Sarah Jones, of the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, urged the commissioners to think about the impacts of energy development in the county in time should the exploratory efforts of 2012 blossom into a full-blown production scenario.
“It’s Routt County’s job to look at long-term impacts and take those into account. It’s our responsibility to look at what’s being protected cumulatively well after well after well,” Jones said.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com