Routt County quickly forms oil, gas working group | SteamboatToday.com

Routt County quickly forms oil, gas working group

— Routt County's new 18-member oil and gas working group includes well-informed property owners, county officials and oil industry professionals — some actively looking for oil here and some not.

Two members who live in South Routt County reflect the diversity of the group. Phippsburg resident Maynard Short describes himself as a mining engineer with expertise in managing information about the handling of toxic materials. Ken Rogers, of rural Oak Creek, said he has been studying the use of liquid propane gas fracking and butane fracking since a subsidiary of Quicksilver Resources purchased a large tract of land close to his property.

"Quicksilver, via subsidiary Thunderhead Properties, LLC, purchased 3,400 acres adjacent to where we live in South Routt County for the purpose of oil and gas exploration," Rogers wrote in an email. "Because they did not simply lease a pad site, but rather all the land we can see in one direction, we fear what they may be able to do with that much acreage."

Short spent part of his career observing the oil industry in Texas.

"I was manager of the Digital Oil Well Log Division for Petroleum Information in Houston from 1979 until 1984," Short wrote in an email. "Then I was the government systems director for Micromedex, the author of poison control databases."

Also represented are the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley and the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council. Executives of Quicksilver and Shell Oil, companies that are drilling for oil in Northwest Colorado, also will sit in on the working group.

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Routt County Planning Dep­artment Director Chad Phillips said he will run the meetings of the working group with a specific goal in mind: reviewing the county's existing menu of 61 conditions it may consider imposing on new oil and gas drilling permits and exploring whether more should be added to the list.

"I want to begin by letting them know our constraints as a local government," Phillips said.

The first meeting is scheduled Dec. 28 and a second is Jan. 4.

There is some urgency behind the way the working group was assembled this week and the schedule of meetings, County Manager Tom Sullivan said. A Routt County Planning Commission public hearing has been scheduled Jan. 19 to consider Quicksilver's newest well-drilling application on the Camilletti & Sons Ranch west of Milner.

Members of the public suggested the creation of the oil and working group Dec. 6 during a work session hosted by the Routt County Board of Commissioners. The next day, Sullivan said, the commissioners began hearing from their constituents, who were calling for a moratorium on new drilling permits or for the creation of the working group. Those contacts made an impression on the commissioners, he said.

The number of people who have signed a petition favoring a moratorium on new drilling permits at http://www.signon.org had grown to 3,167 at mid-afternoon Friday. A preponderance of the large number of people who signed the petition Thursday gave addresses on Colorado's Front Range.

On Monday, Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak and Sullivan discussed the public's interest in the matter. Stahoviak had assembled a working list of people she thought spoke thoughtfully during the Dec. 6 meeting and after.

Commissioner Doug Monger had expressed reluctance Dec. 6 to establish a working group but got on board Monday provided those involved could get something accomplished in advance of the Quicksilver hearing.

Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush was on vacation.

Sullivan endorsed creation of the working group.

"I like the credibility it lends to the transparency in government we try to promote," Sullivan said. "As the commissioners agreed on Dec. 6, and I know Diane agreed, Routt County's opportunity (to influence the path of energy exploration here) is to place conditions on them. I was glad Quicksilver and Shell were at the meeting and understand that if they want to be successful here, they need to pay attention to what the community wants."

Group members

■ Former Routt County Commissioner Ben Beall

■ Shell Oil senior geologist Matthew Holman

■ Quicksilver Resources Senior Director of Government and Community Affairs Stephen Lindsey

■ South Routt resident Kyle Elston

■ Stantec environmental division leader Jim Kerr

■ Environmental cleanup expert and Yampa Valley Sustainability Council member Sarah Jones

■ Mining engineer Maynard Short

■ Saddle Mountain Ranchettes resident and media executive Bethanne Dressel

■ Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission member Kris Neidel

■ Routt County property owner Karen Utterback-Norman

■ Routt County property owner Ken Rogers

■ Routt County Planning Commission member John Ayer

■ Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan

■ Routt County Director of Environmental Health Mike Zopf

■ Routt County attorney John Merrill

■ Assistant Routt County attorney Erick Knaus

■ Routt County Planning Department Director Chad Phillips

■ Routt County Planning Department Planner Chris Brookshire

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