Garfield County air-quality monitoring study finalized | AspenTimes.com

Garfield County air-quality monitoring study finalized

John Colson
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County on Monday formally sealed a deal with Colorado State University to conduct a three-year study of the effects on air quality from gas drilling activities in the county.

“This study is the first of its kind. This study has, certainly, local importance, but also national and international importance,” said county manager Drew Gorgey.

The study is to cost approximately $1.76 million, and the board of county commissioners agreed to pay up to $1 million of that cost.

The rest, according to the county’s oil and gas liaison, Kirby Wynn, is to be paid by area gas drilling companies.

David Ludlam, director of the Western Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association and a key player in the negotiations leading to the CSU study, wrote in an email that the industry participants are WPX Energy, Bill Barrett Corp., Antero Resources and Encana Oil and Gas (USA).

Each company will pay “roughly 25 percent of the total industry share,” Ludlam wrote. “Each company is responsible for establishing their own contract and contribution to CSU.”

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The four companies were picked “based on having activities in the valley and their overall geographical relevance to the endeavor,” Ludlam added.

“It’s all scientific, and it’s under the control of the university, not this board,” said Commissioner John Martin.

Gorgey noted that the county’s contribution is coming from the oil and gas mitigation fund. The fund receives mineral lease fees and severance taxes paid by the industry to the state, and distributed by the state to counties affected by industry activities.

Gorgey said industry and government officials will be closely monitoring the outcome of the study. The results will not be made public until the study is completed three years from now, he said.

The study, according to Gorgey, is designed to measure the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on air quality.

The procedure involves the injection of millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to break up deeply buried gas deposits, creating a pathway for gas to flow to the surface.

Wynn added that, aside from the fracking technique itself, the study also will gather data on other “completion and flowback” activities, and that the gas drilling industry has agreed to give the CSU scientists access to drilling pads.

The CSU scientists, Wynn said, will be working with Air Resource Specialists of Fort Collins, Colo., a firm that has worked with Garfield County on previous air monitoring projects.

Anita Sherman of Glenwood Springs asked the commissioners to explain the difference between this study and one started in 2010, known as the Health Impact Assessment (HIA), conducted by the Colorado School of Public Health.

The HIA was specifically concerned with the Battlement Mesa subdivision and its surroundings near Parachute, but it was discontinued by the commissioners in 2011, before it had been completed.

Her interest in asking questions, Sherman said, was to be certain the county is making the best use of public money by calling for a second study.

Martin said that there were “deficiencies” in the HIA’s conclusions, and that information on that topic is available on the county’s website, http://www.garfield-county.com.

The HIA was an analysis of existing information, whereas the CSU study is meant to establish baseline air quality data for later analysis, Gorgey explained.

“One was theory, the other is actual data,” Martin said.

jcolson@postindependent.com

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