Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Oil & gas issues in Routt County
Steamboat Springs The Routt County Board of Commissioners needed just an hour Tuesday night to approve a permit for Quicksilver Resources' third oil well on Wolf Mountain.
And after the meeting, there was talk of representatives from Shell Oil, Quicksilver and Routt County convening in the spring for an informal public meeting to discuss the future of energy exploration and permitting in Routt County.
Shell’s “Matt Holman told me before the (November) election they’d like to come talk to us after the joint venture was final,” Commissioner Tim Corrigan said.
Board Chairman Doug Monger has something similar in mind now that Shell and Quicksilver have closed a joint venture agreement that involves sharing of revenues from their mutual gas leases in Northwest Colorado, with Shell doing most of the drilling going forward.
“We’d like to know more about what their specific plans are,” Monger said. “We don’t have any permits pending, and I think it’s the perfect time to have that conversation.”
He predicted a meeting could take place in the spring.
He added that he would like to explore involving the Western Colorado Oil and Gas Association, which hosts working groups involving industry and public officials in other counties where the development of energy fields is more mature.
The brevity of Tuesday night’s hearing was in marked contrast to a March 20, 2012, hearing for the second Quicksilver well on Wolf Mountain northeast of Hayden. That meeting stretched past seven hours before being approved 2-1 by a previous board of commissioners. The meeting wasn’t adjourned until after midnight.
A big difference between the two hearings was the number of people stepping to the microphone to make a public comment. Although there were about 30 people in the audience Tuesday, only Steamboat resident Paul Stettner rose to ask for clarity on the water well testing program being required of Quicksilver.
Water-quality testing on Wolf Mountain was the most contentious issue in March 2012, and it again was the major topic of conversation Tuesday night. But there was much less tension in the air.
Another big change since March 2012 is the makeup of the Board of Commissioners. Monger is the lone holdover after Nancy Stahoviak retired and Diane Mitsch Bush was elected to the Colorado Assembly. In their places for the latest Quicksilver hearing were new District 3 Commissioner Steve Ivancie, who was appointed to replace Mitsch Bush by the Routt County Democrats, and South Routt School Board member Tim Corrigan, who claimed Stahoviak’s former District 1 seat in the November election.
Ivancie said he was pleasantly surprised and pleased to learn that Quicksilver is adhering voluntarily to the requirements of a new state rule that won’t become formal until summer. The rule will expand requirements for water well monitoring beyond the existing half-mile radius to one mile.
Ivancie noted that Quicksilver’s willingness to live by the new rules before they go into effect will bring an additional well inside the testing zone.
“I’m satisfied that we now have an adequate monitoring of these wells,” Ivancie said. “The learning curve has been long; it’s been difficult. As difficult as it might be, it’s certainly worthwhile that we’ve gone through this. I’m hopeful the county will be able to look at this with more predictability in the future.”
Corrigan said that he’s satisfied, based on what he knows at this time, that the monitoring program Quicksilver has in place is adequate. However, he pointed out that the number of established new wells represents a small sample, and his perception of the effectiveness of current monitoring requirements could change with the passage of time.
“I continue to be concerned about the cumulative impacts of these wells,” Corrigan said. “As we look at them one at a time, they don’t represent a major concern in my mind. But I’m still going to reserve the right as commissioner to look at that water-monitoring program every single time. I’m not sure I’m ever going to get to the point that I’m going to agree to blanket water monitoring.”
Did the change in the post-election makeup of the board account for the quick approval of Quicksilver’s Pirtlaw 32-09 well Tuesday night? Monger said afterward that he thought it was as much that the current application was Quicksilver’s third in close proximity as that the issues already had been examined thoroughly.
“I’m definitely in favor of moving forward on this,” Monger said. “I think we’re ready to work on some agreements on water quality.”
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com