Quicksilver hopes for compromise with Routt County


Oil & gas issues in Routt County

— Steve Lindsey, of Quicksilver Resources, said Wednesday that his company is determined to continue working with state agencies and Routt County toward a compromise on the subject of water-quality monitoring for oil wells. However, Colorado Assistant Attorney General Jake Matter said he does not see a way for the dispute between Routt County and Quicksilver to land back in the lap of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

“I don’t think there’s a chance for Quicksilver to come back to the commission and say, ‘Commission, you be the tiebreaker; you sort this out.’” Matter said. “The permit was initially considered at the Oil and Gas Commission. That’s done. It’s fully permitted. There isn’t an opportunity I can think of for the issue to land back at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.”

Matter added that his sole client at the attorney general’s office is the Oil and Gas Commission.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the permit for Quicksilver’s Camilletti oil well north of Milner. But Lindsey entered his objection to the inclusion of a condition of approval that requires his company to drill a water-quality monitoring test well down gradient from the oil well to help determine whether any contaminants related to the drilling process have made their way into the groundwater.

Lindsey acknowledged Matter’s remarks Wednesday and added that he thinks it would be undesirable if Routt County’s actions Tuesday night led to counties all across Colorado devising their own similar conditions of approval for oil wells.

Instead, Lindsey said, he thinks there needs to be a policy in place that is consistent across the state, county and industry levels. And he thinks it makes more sense to borrow an existing water-quality monitoring system.

“The (Oil and Gas Commission) approved our permit, and so I’m sure as Jake stated, in their eyes, their job is done, and really the issue lies with the county and the state,” Lindsey said. “Our focus is going to be to work through the commission’s process to see if we can identify a compromise solution for the county’s permitting process and specifically for the Camilletti well. … If the county truly wants to work toward a compromise, they will be a willing participant and seek to work with us and the commission to seek a long-term solution.”

He added that if the Oil and Gas Commission’s nine-member board determined that his company should install water-quality monitoring measures at the Camilletti well, his company quickly would comply.

However, in an email to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Oil and Gas Commission Interim Director Thom Kerr made it plain that he thinks water-quality monitoring measures at the local level are not needed.

“The county’s proposed water-sampling program, in addition to being in conflict with the (Oil and Gas Commission’s) permitting regime, is unnecessary because other technical safeguards, such as proper casing and cementing of the well, will address the county’s concerns over water quality.”

Kerr was traveling Wednesday and could not be reached for additional comment.

Matter said lawsuits about permitting of oil and gas wells are not uncommon on Colorado’s Front Range.

“I hope Quicksilver does not sue Routt County. And I hope Routt County does not sue Quicksilver,” Matter said.

County Attorney John Merrill said one of Quicksilver’s options might be simply to choose not to act on the Board of Commissioners’ approval.

“They don’t have to take the permit,” Merrill said.

If Quicksilver were to sue the county in an attempt to have the water-quality monitoring condition removed, it would be done under a specific form of suit: Rule 106(A)(4) used to challenge an action by a government agency, Merrill added.

Asked about that possibility, Lindsey did not directly address it.

“I think our goal is to work through the (Oil and Gas Commission) to reach a compromise. If the county chooses not to do that or the (Oil and Gas Commission) turns us down, we’ll cross that bridge,” Lindsey said. “On my return to Fort Worth, I’ll be meeting with the rest of our leadership team to make a determination. There are a lot of options on the table.”

He pointed out that as a public company, shareholder value is at the top of Quicksilver executives’ minds. Other considerations include commitments made in leaseholder agreements with local property and mineral rights owners like the Camilletti family.

“We’ve got to make prudent decisions about what option is best for the company,” Lindsey concluded.

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


kathy foos 4 years, 9 months ago

In Routt county we've got to make prudent decisions about what option is best for our water ,air and citizens.If eveything is so safe about your fracking process,WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?We cannot control what the rest of Colorado does,but this is OUR home and not yours to do what you please with.The EPA will make it "even worse" for you in a year with even stricter rules.


Steve Lewis 4 years, 9 months ago

With all due respect, Colorado Assistant Attorney General Jake Matter is wrong. His ethical and legal problem with this position, that COGCC has a "completed" permit, is that the existing permit is in error. And he knows it.

As Commissioner Stahoviak pointed out, the COGCC permit shows "No Comment" from the Routt Local Government Designee (LGD) on this application. The truth is that the Routt LGD did submit a comment and it was ignored by COGCC.

Commissioner Stahoviak stated at the hearing, and COGCC director Thom Kerr also stated in his last minute letter to Routt County, that the Routt LGD submitted the following comment about this application:

"Routt County is concerned that this community is protected from increased noise, air pollution, traffic, contamination of water resources, etc. The applicant should develop monitoring systems for these concerns and mitigation measures established and maintain during the life of the well. There is also a stream and an agriculture water source to the east of the proposed well site. Any access roads and the well pad must have (a) comprehensive BMP plan and (be) continually monitored for protection of these water sources from erosion and contaminants."


Steve Lewis 4 years, 9 months ago

Thom Kerr, the COGCC Director, visited Routt County earlier this year and spoke to many of these issues. At that event I thanked him for his sincerity in trying to fully answer Routt's concerns. I believe his letter's openly listing the LGD comments from Routt stems from that same commendable personal quality.

I suggest that Quicksilver and Routt County both request a review or reopening of this COGCC permit.

The State of Colorado, and Hickenlooper, face a more serious question: How can the Governor's task force on Oil and Gas regulation make a single recommendation - that the role of the LGD be strengthened - and months later we stand witness to that LGD being not only ignored, but erased from the record.

I am amazed that my County Commissioners are the first in Colorado with the courage to stand up in opposition to the State's pressure, siding with their constituents' and their county's best interests. Certainly it helps clarify priorities when this particular well is proposed 3/4 of a mile uphill of the 39 domestic water wells of the town of Milner.

The flawed priorities of the State of Colorado, through the COGCC, could not be exhibited more clearly.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 9 months ago

Steve, This story is too good to be a local story.

The idea that Quicksilver and the state Oil and Gas commission could object to a single monitoring well makes this a story that people would read. Most people would be surprised that after all the controversy over fracking that a state could approve a new well uphill of a community without a single groundwater test well or that the driller and the Sate would object to that requirement added at the county level.

Colorado Legislature could today write a bill saying where there is groundwater then there must be one groundwater test well per drilling pad and it wouldn't be clear if that would be a Republican bill to embarrass Hickenlooper or a Democratic bill seeing if any Republicans up for election are dumb enough to oppose it.


john bailey 4 years, 9 months ago

good job,CC do it the way we as routt couty citizens want or get the heck out of our county. once you screw it up theres no going back. thats just the way it is. sorry


Steve Lewis 4 years, 9 months ago

Scott, The story is too good, or just incredibly simple. A no-brainer.

There are other pieces to weigh going forward. One aspect missing from this coverage is the dropped requirement of emission capture. Routt dropped it because their air consultant gave them little or no scientific advice and instead handed them chapter and verse of state standards. Rather than belabor another sticky point with Quicksilver, Routt dropped the emission capture from the permit of this well. That wasn't exactly collaboration, but it was a compromise received by Quicksilver on this permit.


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