Hayden resident Tracey Rogalski and Steamboat Springs City Manager Jon Roberts watch as Steamboat resident Mary Littman speaks with Shell Oil's Matt Holman on Wednesday during an open house put on by Shell at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Hayden resident Tracey Rogalski and Steamboat Springs City Manager Jon Roberts watch as Steamboat resident Mary Littman speaks with Shell Oil's Matt Holman on Wednesday during an open house put on by Shell at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Shell Oil makes its pitch at Steamboat open house



About 100 people attended Wednesday's open house hosted by Shell Oil at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

— Shell Oil’s Matt Holman left no doubt about his company’s desire during an open house it hosted Wednesday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

“Can I please drill three wells in Routt County this year?” Holman asked the room of about 100 people. “I ask this with all earnestness.”

Holman, Shell Oil’s exploration project manager for Northwest Colorado, is seeking public support in anticipation of drilling permit applications going before the Routt County Board of Commissioners. Holman said the first of the three drilling applications could be considered by the commissioners in late July. The three proposed well sites would not use the controversial hydraulic fracturing process, Holman said, and they would be dug for exploration purposes. Holman said he might want to drill six more wells next year before the company decides whether to move from an exploration phase to a production phase here.

“We are in exploration phase,” he said. “We might drill only three wells and be done. I hope not.”

Holman used Wednesday’s open house to try to prove to the community that Shell Oil can operate safely and responsibly.

“I want to at least drill three wells so I can establish a track record,” Holman said. To do that, he said Shell Oil would follow the 60 local guidelines adopted by the county. Those are in addition to rules from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and were developed in part by a citizens group.

“These are the ones that I’m interested in and these are the ones that you should be interested in, too,” Holman said. “In the end, we all need to get along.”

Holman also said his company would agree to 13 additional conditions developed after meetings with the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley.

The open house included a free catered lunch and a raffle for a gas card. A dozen of Holman’s colleagues were there to answer questions and listen to concerns from residents.

“I am here to learn, that’s all,” Hayden resident Tracey Rogalski said about why she attended the open house.

Fred Robinson, who drives a yellow Hummer fueled by alternative energy sources, was hoping to talk to Shell Oil officials about capturing natural gas and making it available for local public transportation vehicles. He does not want to see the gas burned off, like it often is at well sites.

“I’m here to raise awareness about what they can do with natural gas emissions,” Robinson said.

Mary Littman, who moved to Steamboat 12 years ago, was most concerned with how energy exploration would affect water, views, air and wildlife. She doesn’t want to see drilling rigs in Routt County.

“I want it to stay as pristine as possible,” Littman said. “I want to see the hills and the green and the snow.”

Littman said she attended the open house because she wants to know whether Shell Oil was being truthful.

“I’m here to make sure that these guys aren’t going to cheat us,” she said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com


Michelle Hale 4 years, 11 months ago

I am old Democrat, and 6th generation from Routt County. I am also very PRO drilling. I also know for a fact the extreme efforts, concern, and energy Shell has put forth in the attempts to work in Rio Blanco County. What is over looked is THEY DO CARE.......THEY ALSO LIVE HERE. They call this place home, their children go to school, they hunt, fish and play here as well. They too are concerned and care. This is about jobs, and helping bring GOOD jobs to this community.

I will add. Every time I hear someone wrinkle their nose about FRACKING I have to laugh. How do you think they have gotten Oil and Gas out of the ground for the last 50 plus years? Thats right, FRACKING. There is no such thing as free flow gas and oil. I was raised in Rio Blanco who for the longest time was one of the richest counties in the USA and was the richest in the state of Colorado. Why OIL AND GAS, it was 78% of the tax base, as is energy in North West Colorado. Agricultures has never been the tax base, it has been less that 1%. Now is the time to work as a team, embrace jobs, and embrace energy. Please don't be like Rio Blanco County and end up closing down everything to energy, then wonder where all the tax dollars are, along with brand new empty schools, and forclosed houses. The tax burden that is left in the wake of poor management and the lack of ability to work with oil companies, has left the residents of Rio Blanco in a very rough spot. Now the jobs are ONLY government jobs. If you live in Rio Blanco you work for the town, county, state, or feds. The rich and removed have purchased the White River, and also added to pushing up the tax base and burden, yet maybe only live there a week or two out of the year. Real people need real jobs.

For every real energy job, it has a direct effect on 10 business. For every rig, there are close to 100 people that will have direct money and positive effect.

Oh by the way. The Carpenter Ranch had the first oil wells drilled on it in the late 1800s. My Grandfather worked on rigs, my Dad (who graduated from Hayden 1951) and my Son who work for Shell for many years and still in the oil business. All from this area. Be educated yes, active yes, but don't be a bone head. This is a chance for many to see and embrace a better life. This is a chance to see money major money to help our community, our people, our county. It should NOT be about those who feel they have the right to stand in the way of jobs, because they don't want to see a rig on their land. We are all long over due to start looking and working with each other. Routt County has always been ABOUT ENERGY, mining, gold, oil and gas. Nothing has change there, except the idea it was just about Skiing and Ranching. Not true. Energy people.........energy.

Michelle E. Hale


Steve Lewis 4 years, 11 months ago

It does look like Shell is willing to drill on Routt County's terms. Quicksilver is resisting those terms and keeps mentioning attorneys. It is a big difference, and is appreciated.

Fracking has seen exponential growth. Even 10 years ago saw nothing compared to today. These latter years with the vast bulk of it are unfortunately occurring with exemptions that cloud its safety. Hidden formulas, exemptions from some very important regulations obscure the information. If these exemptions did not exist, I would agree the track record is meaningful. But with the exemptions we are left with every platform neighbor fending for themselves when they feel they have been adversely affected. Civil courts do not produce industry indictments. They produce settlements and gag orders. This is the bed the industry made for itself. The suspicions of their performance are their own doing.

Regardless of the Pavillion findings, there is little or no connection of "fracking fluids" to groundwater contamination. There is, however, real evidence of other groundwater or aquifer contaminations from the drilling and production cycles taken as a whole. Weld County, Garfield County, and Jackson County have such evidence. It is a mistake to speak about a long history and then only care about fracking fluid contamination. The hundreds of other contaminations are well documented.

Fracking today in Routt looks to be propane fracking. It seems very new. Certainly its ratio of toxin content will be way higher than water fracks. What history do we have for what Routt is about to see?


John de Wardt 4 years, 11 months ago

Michelle, Well put. I am a little tired of negative comments being posted in this newspaper about fraccing by people who seem to be ill informed. Shale gas has already started to drive the next economic boom in the USA and will continue to do so. It will also reduce dependence on outside sources for energy and improve the balance of payments. The alternative means to achieve these very beneficial effects is to immediately cut energy consumption by at least 50% in every USA household as this is the differential in energy consumption in the USA per capita compared to the next countries in the OECD ranking.

I have spent 36 years working in the drilling industry in 26 countries around the globe. I fracced my first well offshore The Netherlands in 1979 without any problems whatsoever, under the watchful eye of the Dutch authorities.

As with any endeavor, there are some bad actors that tarnish the reputation of the majority good actors. Such bad actors should not be permitted to operate. In many jurisdictions, regulations are the means to prevent such bad actors. Effective regulations, ones that will protect the environment and allow the good actors to grow the economy, need to be stable, consistent and realistic.

In my opinion, Routt County shale development will be driven by two primary forces: 1. the type of regulations applied. This is in the hands of the Commissioners. 2. the quality of the shale and the cost effectiveness to produce from it. This is driven by geology and, unfortunately for Routt County, the upward transition of the Niobrara shale from the west toward Mount Werner leaves the risk that the productive potential is far lower than that in Moffat County.

It behooves the county to enable Shell as a prudent, safe and environmentally conscious operator (a good actor) to drill their wells and determine the potential of these wells and thus the outlook of shale as driver of the local economy.

Currently, it looks like the regulatory environment and the geology favors Moffat County as the primary beneficiary and all this brouhaha may be for naught.


Steve Lewis 4 years, 11 months ago

John, The County Commissioners do not get to regulate O&G as they choose. The State of Colorado, and the gas lobby COGA, warns a growing list of cities and counties that they have no right to exceed the very low industry standards the State sets throughout its Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). Routt is one of those counties that has been warned against stronger regulations. One example:


If what you post about local control were true, we would could relax and simply put better regs in place. Since it is not, we have to do what we can that doesn't get us sued. Any well can be sold to another Lone Pine, who sets this example not 30 miles from here:


Shell is willing to accept conditions of approval in Routt that go beyond the COGCC standards. Credit to them. Unfortunately Quicksilver is far less amenable to our goals.

Yes this is an important industry and we benefit from it. But it is also a powerful industry that is allowed excessive levels of pollution. Lone Pine is the standard? That is the question we face.

I welcome correction of any comment you find ill informed.


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