Routt County tables oil well permit for BLM land near Wyoming

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— The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to table Entek Energy’s application for an oil well drilling permit on public land close to the Wyoming border while it takes the time to study a report from the federal Bureau of Land Management on the proposed well.

“One of the issues that led to the tabling is the fact that the BLM permit has not been issued yet,” Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips said Wednesday. “We hadn’t received any referrals from the BLM until just prior to the meeting when we received a draft copy of the BLM conditions.”

Phillips said a BLM contact indicated that the conditions his agency intends to impose on the proposed well would not be relaxed and, if anything, might be expanded. The permit application is expected to return to the commissioners at 1:30 p.m. May 7.

Commissioner Steve Ivancie said he understood a significant portion of the 30 people attending the hearing were frustrated by the tabling. But because the current Board of Commissioners had not previously heard a permit application for a well on federal land, it wanted to take the extra time to fully understand the issues.

“You don’t want to make an important decision like this when you’ve been through a long hearing, and you’re tired,” Ivancie said. “We definitely did not want to hold this up so made a point of getting back to it as soon as possible. We’ll revisit it in two weeks.”

Entek’s application differs from the oil well permits Routt County considered in 2012 in that the wells would be drilled on federal land with one exception where the surface is privately owned and the subsurface mineral rights are held by the federal government.

Routt County’s purview over wells being drilled on BLM land is limited to the potential for impacts on neighboring private land and public roads, Phillips said. However, this well site would be reached via Moffat County roads from the west, so road impacts are less of a concern for Routt County.

In this case, he said, the proposed well pad would be less than one-quarter mile from private ranch boundaries, and there are concerns about wildlife, including the greater sage grouse and elk.

Phillips said the neighboring Stull Ranch and luxury guest ranch Three Forks Ranch were represented at the hearing by Steamboat Springs attorney John Vanderbloemen.

Ivancie said the conversation during the public hearing was “spirited” and a majority of the comments from the public favored approving the permit that night. He added that the commissioners are aware that there is a significant number of protected grouse leks in the vicinity of West Gibraltar Peak near the proposed well site.

“There is a large complex of grouse leks and a very active study area there,” Ivancie said. “The whole grouse question is something we’re very attuned to. It’s not new to us, and we’ve been talking about it for quite awhile.”

The April 4 oil and gas permit update compiled by Routt County Planner Chris Brookshire indicates Entek has received permits from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for three new wells within the BLM’s Focus Ranch Unit. Five more Entek drilling permits in Routt County, all on federal land, are pending before the Oil and Gas Commission.

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

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