Click here for coverage of this year's races and issues.
Steamboat Springs The outcome of the Nov. 6 election has the potential to shift county government’s regulatory outlook on permitting oil and gas wells, but longtime Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, who will not seek re-election, said even if that came to pass, she thinks it would take time for any policy changes to be noticed.
“I think there could be a change,” Stahoviak said Wednesday. “But even if there was a totally new philosophy on the board, it would take awhile for those changes to happen. I would be hopeful that whoever came in and sat on the Board of Commissioners would listen to all of the public comment and concerns, then have a broad discussion.”
Two energy companies, Quicksilver Resources and Shell, have permit applications scheduled for Routt County Planning Commission and the all-important hearing in front of the Board of Commissioners.
Both final hearings postdate the election — Shell on Nov. 20 and Quicksilver on Dec. 4 — however the new Board of Commissioners won’t be seated until January.
The Planning Department confirmed this month that five oil wells have been permitted in Routt County since January 2011, and there is the potential for at least 17 additional wells to be approved based on proposed wells that have a state permit for a local well or have a state permit and are in the process of acquiring the necessary Routt County special-use permit.
Of seven proposed wells with applications in review by planning staff but no hearing dates, at least six are within seven miles of Hayden.
Routt County has adopted a lengthy set of conditions of approval for oil and gas wells that include provisions allowing it to require water-quality monitoring wells and air-quality monitors when it deems them to be appropriate. Those conditions have put Routt County at odds with Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission officials.
One thing that is certain is that the makeup of the three-member Board of Commissioners will change after the election. Stahoviak chose not to run for a sixth term in Commissioner District 1. Her successor will be Republican Jim “Moose” Barrows or Democrat Tim Corrigan.
Barrows has said he thinks the current Board of Commissioners has been influenced by special interest groups that don’t understand a rural point of view regarding the development of private property rights. Corrigan has said he supports oil and gas development but also supports the decisions of the existing county commissioners to date.
In the race for Commissioner District 2, incumbent Democrat Doug Monger has said his personal convictions were stretched by the conditions of approval imposed on the energy industry but adds that he felt a responsibility to represent all his constituents while protecting public health, safety and welfare.
Republican challenger Tina Kyprios said this month that she is satisfied that the Oil and Gas Commission’s well bore integrity program is sufficient to protect public health from any contaminants that might result from drilling.
County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democrat, is not up for re-election in District 3 but is running against Republican Chuck McConnell for Colorado House District 26. Should she prevail, the Routt County Democratic Party would appoint someone to complete her term.
Stahoviak said that although Barrows and Kyprios have expressed in general terms that they think the county process has been too rigorous, they haven’t gone into detail.
“None of the candidates have been that specific. Broadly, they say they don’t want the county to get in the way (of energy exploration) with water quality or air quality or traffic studies,” Stahoviak said. “If the (makeup) of the board changes, I don’t think any of us can say exactly what they will do with oil and gas. I don’t believe some of them know what we’re doing right now.”
Oct. 1, 2012: State oil and gas commission reopens oil well setback, water rules
Sept. 10, 2012: Candidates quizzed on energy exploration, property rights
Sept. 19, 2012: Citizens Supporting Property Rights: Balance, respect needed
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
Oil wells in Routt County