State health official to discuss oil, gas with Routt County commissioners

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Past Event

State health official meets with Routt County commissioners

  • Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 5:30 p.m.
  • Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs
  • Not available / Free

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Yampa Valley residents with concerns about the potential impacts of energy exploration on air, water and soil quality are invited to attend a meeting Tuesday in Steamboat Springs featuring a presentation by Kent Kuster, who serves as the oil and gas liaison for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

Routt County Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf said Tuesday that he doesn’t think the Department of Public Health does enough to communicate its role in regulating the oil and gas industry at the local level.

Zopf is hopeful that in addition to Kuster, the Department of Public Health division directors for air quality control, water quality control and hazardous materials and waste management will participate via conference call.

“People can expect to hear what the state is doing in terms of regional air quality impacts,” Zopf said. “We know there are emissions at the drilling, development and production phases. I expect to hear more about the three state studies undertaken by Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.”

Members of the public attending the meeting will be invited to comment and submit questions.

Zopf has a list of 41 questions of his own and submitted them to the Department of Public Health and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

High on his list of questions is seeking an explanation for why Colorado’s baseline water quality monitoring program is voluntary for energy companies. The purpose of the program would be to establish water quality before a well was drilled.

“Why doesn’t the state already have statewide baseline water quality monitoring?” Zopf wondered Tuesday.

A sampling of Zopf’s other questions includes:

■ “What are the current (best management practices) with respect to emissions at production facilities? Can Routt County require flaring and/or combustors of all air emissions beyond Department of Public Health requirements?”

■ “Areas such as Pinedale, Wyo., and the Uintah Mountains (in Utah) have serious ozone levels, likely worsened by emissions from oil and gas facilities. What can the Oil and Gas Commission do to manage this risk to Colorado?”

■ “What is the possibility that Routt County could get a special area designation with larger well spacing?”

■ “Are the seismic issues arising in areas such as Ohio being investigated or addressed by the Oil and Gas Commission?”

■ “Might Routt County require hydrological/geological studies be performed on a well-by-well basis?”

■ “In the new rules concerning disclosure of (fracking) chemicals, are operators required to provide well-specific information, or is the disclosure more general in nature? Is disclosure required for non-hydraulic fracturing techniques (e.g. butane or propane)?”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

kathy foos 2 years, 7 months ago

Since our area is not historically an oil producing area ,we should be able to examine and control the drilling here without blindly excepting whatever is ordered by the oil and gas commission.Its interesting to note that in the past couple of days there have been news stories about the natural gas production being slowed down because of an overabundance being produced in the US at present and the price is too low ,the industry want's it to rise.A different article stated that Canada and the US want to sell gas to Mexico in the future.So we take the pollution and property value loss so big oil can sell the natural gas to other country's??

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sedgemo 2 years, 7 months ago

Sun, oil has been produced in Routt County since as early as 1911. Near Tow and Cheney Creeks there were 33 wells producing oil there in the 1940s, according to The Historical Guide to Routt County.

The concern today is based on the scale of operations and the question marks around production techniques and their known and potential consequences.

It is a mischaracterization to indicate the COGCC is ordering anyone around, or that anything is being blindly accepted. Rights were bought or leased, sellers cashed the checks, permits have been applied for, there are regulations in place but not enough to address concerns around these new technologies and techniques.

This is a complex situation which doesn't fit into the box you have described. Big Oil bought the rights to drill and extract these resources, which they can legally do without concern for pollution or property values other than what is written in our existing laws. This is called Capitalism.

"We" citizens unfortunately have little legal say in these matters at this time, which is part of the uneasiness in the air. The rules as they stand put that power in the hands of our elected representatives, the State of Colorado, and the Federal Government.

The only power we have is at the local level, which means our limited permitting requirements, which are being revised this winter under pressure. I sincerely hope we find some serious leadership on these issues from the candidates running for County office this fall. Make sure you ask them these questions!

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Steve Lewis 2 years, 7 months ago

Good comments.

Sedgemo, COGCC, and the Attorney General on COGCC's behalf, have written several letters to local jurisdictions.

The AG's letter to Arapahoe County closes with this sentence, "Therefore the County Commissioners should reject the proposed rules and instead, work with the COGCC to address local concerns through the State program."

COGCC's letter to Douglas County writes, "... these potential conflicts are of concern to us because they may materially impede the responsible and balanced development of oil and gas in Douglas County." "These potential conflicts could also interfere with our statutory authority to regulate oil and gas operations so as to prevent and mitigate significant adverse environmental impacts... to the extent necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare ... taking into consideration cost effectiveness and technical feasibility..."

It does appear that COGCC is ordering people around. It also appears the COGCC regulations are geared to ensure industry profits.

The letters are saying that environmental protections may be limited to cost effectiveness. When COGCC rules say things like, "... operators shall avoid or minimize impacts to wetlands and riparian habitats to the degree practicable." , doesn't it appear that COGCC is making environmental protection a matter of fiscal discretion by the oil and gas companies?

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sedgemo 2 years, 7 months ago

Lewi, from what you posted the COGCC is throwing its weight around but the words "should reject", "concern us" and "may materially impede" are not legal terms that force results, just bullying tactics. They also imply the Arapahoe County Commissioners are NOT working with COGCC, so they've created a false either/or argument. Surely it is possible work with COGCC but also ramp up local controls. How did CO Springs get a moratorium enacted under these conditions anyway?

Interesting they are worried about local control unbalancing responsible development, and how local authority could interfere with their own... if the State truly has jurisdiction over local regulations they have nothing to fear if rules are duplicated. If local rules are more comprehensive they should have nothing to fear, either, so long as they don't specifically contradict COGCC rules.

I agree the COGCC may not be good friend of small communities, and is clearly hedging on costs vs. local concerns. How does one define "practicable degrees" of impact, for example? Every site will be different, and in different seasons.

Has anyone published report cards on the COGCC's track record in these situations? Is their authority different on public vs. private lands?

I have always believed in local authority over local concerns, to the fullest extent possible. The COGCC is not the "Routt County Quality of LIfe Commission" so by definition their focus is limited. The citizens of Routt County need a place at their own table.

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