Routt County hosts meeting Tuesday about oil, gas regulations
December 5, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Concerns about the threats energy exploration could pose to air and water quality are apt to come up again Tuesday night when the Routt County Board of Commissioners host a public work session that could lead to new local standards regulating the oil and gas industry.
The meeting follows up on a Nov. 17 work session held by the Planning Commission that drew 60 people to the courthouse. Of those, 29 made formal comments and several expressed concerns that the drilling technique known as fracking could compromise groundwater quality. There also were concerns that diesel motors used at oil wells could create downwind air pollution.
Tuesday night's meeting is being held specifically to hear from the public, Planning Director Chad Phillips wrote in a memo, as the county compares its regulations to more recently revised state regulations updated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2008. Phillips wrote that he would begin Tuesday night's work session by providing examples of regulations from other counties experiencing the impacts of energy exploration. He'll also review as many as 19 possible additions to local regulations.
Paul Stettner, of the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley, recommended at the November meeting that the county require the use of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel for drilling rig engines and vehicles to limit impacts on air quality. He also urged the county to establish and enforce standards for air quality, noise and light pollution and visual degradation. Stettner also called for a moratorium on new drilling permits and fracking until the regulations are in place.
In the interest of protecting groundwater, Stettner called for monitoring water wells and requiring remediation plans for groundwater contamination.
Matt Holman, exploration project manager in this area for Shell Oil, which has plans to drill in Routt County, said his company doesn't have intentions of despoiling the landscape. Holman said doing so would be bad for business. He suggested that the most effective safeguards are transparency in operations, responsible development and accurate data, principles he said his company believes in. But Holman added that oil and gas operators are not all the same, nor are all wells the same.
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Vicki Ferguson, a resident of Saddle Mountain Estates, where an oil well is planned, told Planning Commission members that her water well is very vulnerable and that if anything were to disrupt the water table, she would be without water.
Lee Cox, who owns a 35-acre building site in Saddle Mountain about eight miles southwest of Steamboat, told those attending the November meeting that she and her neighbors are concerned about impacts on roads and traffic in their rural neighborhood if Quicksilver Resources, of Fort Worth, Texas, follows through on plans to drill beneath her property.
Cox previously told the Steamboat Today she was aware when she bought her land in 2009 that the subsurface mineral rights were detached. But she never dreamed an oil well would be drilled there so soon.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com