Routt County commissioner joins appeal to governor on Longmont energy suit

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— Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger was among 82 local governmental officials in Colorado this week who signed a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper registering their disappointment that the state has sued the city of Longmont because of its oil and gas drilling regulations and asking him to withdraw the suit.

The Longmont Times-Call reported in late July that the suit is about regulations adopted by the Longmont City Council that require energy exploration companies to install water-quality monitoring devices and that prohibit surface drilling within residential subdivisions, among other things.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners also was involved in a dispute with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission during the summer because of its insistence on imposing requirements for water-quality monitoring wells on some proposed oil wells.

Monger said Friday that he thinks there is more common ground for local governments and Gov. Hickenlooper to explore short of a lawsuit.

“We’re not against oil and gas; we’re supportive,” Monger said. “We want to be partners with oil and gas, and we want to be partners with the state of Colorado. But it’s very concerning that the sate would be coming in and testing our land-use authority that has been in effect since 1972. Local governments have the right and responsibility to protect health, safety and welfare of our citizens.”

Monger’s Republican opponent in the fall election for the Routt County Commissioner District 2 seat, Tina Kyprios, said she thinks that Colorado already has standards regulating oil and gas drilling that are among the best in the country and that Longmont will need to make some concessions to the state. However, she too would like to see greater cooperation.

“The question, ultimately, is trying to get (local governments) and the state to work together outside the courtroom,” Kyprios said.

Republican Chuck McConnell, who is running for Colorado House District 26 against Democrat and Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush this fall, said he doesn’t understand the concerns Monger and others who signed the letter have about protecting public health, safety and welfare from oil and gas drilling.

“If the governor and the (Oil and Gas Commission) have worked through all the issues and they’re saying this is safe, it’s hard for me to understand where the fear is coming from,” McConnell said.

Mitsch Bush said Routt County, like Longmont, has statutory authority over land-use policy in its jurisdiction. She added she would have signed the letter but was under the impression that Monger had signed on behalf of the Routt County Board of Commissioners.

“For Routt County, we believe water and air quality (protection) are within our local land-use authority,” Mitsch Bush said. “And while I can’t speak for Longmont, I just don’t think the state should make a practice of suing local governments for doing their job.”

Colorado Senate District 8 Democratic candidate Emily Tracy, of Breckenridge, said in a statement this week that she supports the letter to the governor. Based on her experience in local governments, she said her constituents would have the best opportunity to influence how energy exploration moves forward in their area through public hearings at the local level.

Her opponent, Republican legislator Randy Baumgardner, could not be reached Friday. At a recent campaign event in Hayden, he said that to allow each county in Colorado to develop its own set of rules governing the oil and gas industry would serve as a deterrent to business.

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

Comments

John Weibel 1 year, 7 months ago

Purely political posturing on Monger's side, in my opinion. Longmont has little concern of water contamination from a well within its boundaries as its water supply comes from far away. The citizens safety is probably of very high concern for the owners of the wells as any one hurt in a residential setting would be a major fiasco/lawsuit.

The welfare of one group can not trump another. General welfare is a hard thing to quantify and one that government seems to use to push their agenda these days.

I still can not obtain an answer from any county commissioner, manager as to why a firewall is needed to protect safety in my operation if it is classified as two buildings versus one which would not require one according to the structural engineer.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

On Labor Day, I talked to one of the CCs and mentioned how State Oil & Gas sued Longmont for their law passed after Routt defied them on Quicksilver's permit. Reaction I got was that time expired for state to sue Routt and that Longmont clearly went too into into regulating drilling practices.

So I suspect the support for Longmont is more of a general support for local government and telling the state to be more cooperative, and not as much supporting Longmont on the particulars of their law and resulting lawsuit. This is pushback on the state threatening to sue Routt and so on.

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Ken Collins 1 year, 7 months ago

McConnell can't understand concern from Monger and others about protecting potential public health problems from oil and gas drilling? Well, he could ask Gulf Coast folks about BP, thousands of folks involved in the original Keystone pipeline project, or just about anyone where drilling is taking place. McConnell's head is apparently stuck in an oil company's drill rig.

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 7 months ago

“If the governor and the (Oil and Gas Commission) have worked through all the issues and they’re saying this is safe, it’s hard for me to understand where the fear is coming from,” McConnell said.

Chuck, how many wells are there now in Colorado? And how many inspectors are there for those wells? How often are those wells expected?

How many COGCC violations occur each year? How many result in fines?

How is it that oil and gas companies with some of the most egregious environmental violations in Colorado are at the same time receiving awards from the State agency you defer to.

I look foward to your response either here, or at the next forum

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 7 months ago

Those are good questions for our County Commissioner candidates. If these answers are new to you, you may begin to understand why Routt has to protect itself, and why what the COGCC is doing IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

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