Garco panel considers oil, gas regs |

Garco panel considers oil, gas regs

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Garfield County’s Planning and Zoning Commission will consider Thursday whether to pursue ground-breaking regulations applying to oil and gas development.

This may be the first time both the industry and the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance have agreed they want oil and gas regulations in the county’s land-use code, GVCA organizer Patrick Barker said Wednesday. But the two entities are at odds over just what those regulations should be.

The industry submitted its proposal after the state Supreme Court in June declined to review a challenge of oil and gas regulations imposed by Gunnison County. Barker said that ruling helped clarify whether counties can regulate the industry as long as the rules don’t conflict with state regulations.

The GVCA fears that Garfield County now may adopt the industry proposal rather than undertaking a process to obtain input from a broad range of people and create rules that better consider the interests of county residents.

“Garfield County has a golden opportunity to address residents’ concerns on oil and gas drilling and offer them an extra layer of protection over state law,” GVCA president Liz Chandler said in a news release Wednesday.

The group believes some of the conflicts between residents and gas developers could be eased if wells and open waste pits had to be located farther from homes. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission allows wells as close as 150 feet from a home.

The GVCA also would like to see buffer zones required between oil and gas operations and bodies of water, and wants regulations addressing site security and emergency preparedness and response and limiting noise and visual impacts.

Barker worries that some planning commission members may not have read the full industry proposal, yet could be inclined to approve it as the panel seeks to complete work on a comprehensive rewrite of its land use code.

County Commissioner Tresi Houpt thinks the county is looking at not just the industry idea but a range of proposals.

“I think what will come out of it is a very comprehensive proposal that doesn’t mirror any of the proposed regulations we’ve received but will be well-thought-out regulations that will fit with our code,” she said.

Phil Vaughn, chairman of the planning commission, said the industry proposal was one of several options the commission first took a look at last month regarding oil and gas regulations. Some others included adopting a modified industry proposal, looking at Gunnison County’s plan, or wrapping up the land use rewrite without dealing with oil and gas at all, and leaving that to be considered in a separate process.

The planning commission has met about 40 times to rewrite the code and was about ready to adopt a final version when the oil and gas proposal came up.

Vaughn said he thinks the code already addresses all land uses, no matter what industry is involved.