GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A controversial plan for a new natural gas compressor station meant to boost pressure for customers on the east end of a Rifle-to-Avon service pipeline operated by SourceGas earned approval Monday.
It’s a location that company officials said ended up being as good or better than one previously chosen on Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus southeast of Glenwood Springs.
It’s also one neighbors of the area told Garfield County commissioners they could agree on, as long as adequate noise controls and other protections are in place.
Commissioners gave the nod in a 2-0 vote Monday for the facility to be built on a 4.2-acre section on the east end of the larger, 355-acre Jim Nieslanik ranch.
The ranch is located on the upper end of County Road 115, beyond the intersection with the main CMC Road (CR 114), about two miles east of the college’s residential campus.
An earlier plan had called for the compressor to be built on a vacant section of the CMC campus, for which SourceGas had secured a tentative lease before seeking land-use approvals from the county.
CMC students, teachers and some college officials joined neighbors in objecting to the plans, saying it was too close to the campus and nearby residential areas. CMC won a court ruling in May determining the lease to be null and void, after SourceGas filed suit against the college.
“As you know, this is not the first site we selected, but it is a site that worked out well and proved to be a very good one,” said Tim Knapp, an attorney representing SourceGas before the commissioners Monday.
“By locating the compressor station in a natural bermed area, we are taking advantage of the natural terrain” for noise and visual buffering, Knapp said.
What Knapp referred to as “critical grade silencer” will be used to control noise levels from the compressor site when it’s activated, which is only expected to be during the peak winter months when demand for natural gas is highest.
Noise control measures are intended to keep noise levels within 55 decibels during the day and 50 decibels at night for the nearest residential areas.
However, noise levels cannot be maintained any lower than 65 decibels on a section of U.S. Bureau of Land Management land to the east of the site, without reconfiguring the location and creating more impacts on the other neighbors, Knapp and other SourceGas officials said.
That led to a compromise from the county commissioners, dropping one condition of approval that would have required the compressor station to meet the 50-55 decibel range around the entire site perimeter.
Members of the Nieslanik family, who had questioned whether the former CMC lease was legal under their land deed to the college, said the new location is a better option if a compressor station is to be built at all.
“I’d rather work with these guys than against them,” Jeff Nieslanik said of SourceGas. “They have done all the work we’ve asked them to do, and we said this was the only site where we’d be willing to do this.”
Added his father, Jim Nieslanik, “SourceGas has been fair to us. … I’d rather have a compressor station than a bunch of houses, myself.”
Additional conditions of approval for the compressor site OK’d by the commissioners related to addressing visual and traffic impacts, as well as adopting recommendations from Colorado Parks and Wildlife related to wildlife impacts.
“Everyone in this room realizes that compressor stations are necessary if we’re going to have gas to heat our homes,” said Commissioner Mike Samson, who was joined by Commissioner John Martin in approving the compressor station.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky was absent from the meeting, while attending a meeting in Denver regarding plans to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse in western Colorado and Wyoming.