Garco shelves industry-backed gas regs |

Garco shelves industry-backed gas regs

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Energy companies on Thursday night backed off a request for Garfield County to immediately adopt far-ranging new oil and gas regulations as part of its land-use code.

Instead, the industry recommended taking more time to consider regulations, to allow for input from a variety of interested parties.

That recommendation met with support from the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance. The GVCA had been concerned that the county Planning and Zoning Commission might quickly approve regulations proposed by industry rather than considering a more broad-based proposal.

In the meantime, at the industry’s request, the planning commission worked Thursday night to adjust certain aspects of its proposed new land-use code to more clearly define certain uses related to energy production. It also clarified what level of county review proposals for such uses would receive.

The planning commission has met some 40 times to work on revamping the county’s land-use code, and hopes to complete that effort next month. 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.

The GVCA would like to see oil and gas rules put in place in Garfield County as well, but wants them to address things such as the spacing between homes and wells, limits on noise and visual impacts, and requirements for site security and emergency preparedness and response.

Doug Dennison, an industry representative who helped spearhead its proposal, said the industry had tried to get together with the GVCA to work up a joint recommendation.

“Frankly, they would not meet with us,” he said.

He said the industry still is interested in participating in a “stakeholder process” to develop oil and gas regulations, working with the GVCA and others.

In an interview, Patrick Barker, a GVCA organizer, blamed the lack of a meeting with the industry on miscommunication, and doubts by the GVCA that its concerns could be quickly addressed.

He told the planning commission that it made sense “at this late stage” for the planning commission to complete its land-use code rewrite and have the county deal with creating specific oil and gas regulations later.

For the time being, the planning commission worked Thursday to further refine its proposed new code to cover energy production uses such as pipelines, well sites and water impoundments.

The planning commission decided such impoundments should be subjected to limited rather than major county review. That concerned Liz Chandler, president of the GVCA, who said the impoundments can include contaminated water produced during drilling.

“What we’re talking about in a water impoundment is highly toxic,” she said.

However, planning commission members said several state agencies regulate the impoundments, and the limited county review still would include an opportunity for public comment.

Barker said he hoped that any industry-related provisions incorporated in the land use code now would be superseded if comprehensive oil and gas rules are adopted by the planning commission later.

More important for now, he said, “They’re not adopting the industry proposal. That’s one thing we didn’t want.”