State health official to discuss oil, gas with Routt County commissioners | SteamboatToday.com

State health official to discuss oil, gas with Routt County commissioners

Yampa Valley residents with concerns about the potential impacts of energy exploration on air, water and soil quality are invited to attend a meeting Tuesday in Steamboat Springs featuring a presentation by Kent Kuster, who serves as the oil and gas liaison for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

Routt County Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf said Tuesday that he doesn't think the Department of Public Health does enough to communicate its role in regulating the oil and gas industry at the local level.

Zopf is hopeful that in addition to Kuster, the Department of Public Health division directors for air quality control, water quality control and hazardous materials and waste management will participate via conference call.

"People can expect to hear what the state is doing in terms of regional air quality impacts," Zopf said. "We know there are emissions at the drilling, development and production phases. I expect to hear more about the three state studies undertaken by Utah, Wyoming and Colorado."

Members of the public attending the meeting will be invited to comment and submit questions.

Zopf has a list of 41 questions of his own and submitted them to the Department of Public Health and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

High on his list of questions is seeking an explanation for why Colorado's baseline water quality monitoring program is voluntary for energy companies. The purpose of the program would be to establish water quality before a well was drilled.

"Why doesn't the state already have statewide baseline water quality monitoring?" Zopf wondered Tuesday.

A sampling of Zopf's other questions includes:

■ "What are the current (best management practices) with respect to emissions at production facilities? Can Routt County require flaring and/or combustors of all air emissions beyond Department of Public Health requirements?"

■ "Areas such as Pinedale, Wyo., and the Uintah Mountains (in Utah) have serious ozone levels, likely worsened by emissions from oil and gas facilities. What can the Oil and Gas Commission do to manage this risk to Colorado?"

■ "What is the possibility that Routt County could get a special area designation with larger well spacing?"

■ "Are the seismic issues arising in areas such as Ohio being investigated or addressed by the Oil and Gas Commission?"

■ "Might Routt County require hydrological/geological studies be performed on a well-by-well basis?"

■ "In the new rules concerning disclosure of (fracking) chemicals, are operators required to provide well-specific information, or is the disclosure more general in nature? Is disclosure required for non-hydraulic fracturing techniques (e.g. butane or propane)?"

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