Garfield County looking into impacts of booming natural gas industry |

Garfield County looking into impacts of booming natural gas industry

Donna GrayGlenwood Springs correspondent

As the natural gas industry has surged in the past year, Garfield County has initiated a number of studies to determine its impacts.On Thursday, county oil and gas auditor Doug Dennison reported on the studies to the Northwest Oil and Gas Forum in Rifle.One study will look at the relationship between drilling activities and water resources. A contractor will be chosen within the next two weeks, Dennison said.Another is a health-risk analysis focusing on the natural gas industry.A $371,000 fine the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission levied against EnCana last year – for drilling violations related to natural gas contamination of West Divide Creek south of Silt – will pay for the two studies. A county-funded air-quality monitoring program is already under way. Seven sampling stations have been set up in western Garfield County, and Dennison said results will soon be available on the county’s website, Both airborne particulates and volatile organic compounds will be monitored, Dennison said. The study is expected to last two years and could be extended.A cumulative impact study, funded by the county, is also in the works. It will look at wide-ranging social and economic effects of the gas industry in Garfield County. In particular, the study will examine property values, human service organizations, the school system, emergency services, employment growth and demographics of the county. A request for proposals from prospective contractors will be released in the next few weeks, Dennison said.Garfield County Commissioner Larry McCown also told attendees of the oil and gas forum that a loophole in the state severance tax law has been discovered that would allow companies such as gas producers who pay severance taxes on resource extraction to contribute their share directly to the counties for use in special projects. Doing so would meet their severance tax obligations, McCown said.”As the severance tax fund continues to grow, it becomes more of a target for raids each year by the state, so local governments are not getting their fair share,” he said. “[The money] should go back to local areas where the impacts occur.”McCown said he will work with other county governments on promoting the idea.”This is something that could work for us,” he said.