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Better late than never

EnCana Oil & Gas received approval for a special use permit from the Garfield County Commissioners for a storage pond in Parachute despite the fact that the pond was already built.Commissioner Trési Houpt took EnCana and Jimmy Smith, of Wagon Wheel Consulting, to task for bypassing county regulations. EnCana hired Smith to oversee the permitting process for the pond and other future developments at the former Unocal property.However, commissioners Larry McCown and John Martin overruled Houpt, saying Smith made an honest mistake in neglecting to apply for the appropriate permits. Besides the special use permit, the excavation of the pond also requires a grading permit.”He admitted it was his fault that he didn’t talk to EnCana about the grading permit,” Martin said.EnCana’s pond is intended to hold water produced during drilling operations on natural gas wells. The water is treated and stored in the pond for eventual reuse in drilling.The three-acre pond is located on 27,000 acres in Parachute that Unocal formerly owned. EnCana purchased the parcel last year. Unocal used its land for its oil shale operations in the 1980s. If the had county decided to be punitive about the infraction, it could have sought a court injunction that could have forced EnCana to remove the pond, Martin said. The court also could have imposed a fine. But then EnCana would be free to come back for a special use permit to rebuild the pond. “We said, ‘How is that a benefit to us?'” Martin said.In addition to granting the special use permit, the county also assessed double the usual fee for a grading permit, Martin said, which amounts to about $400.Smith applied for a special use permit in February, and the matter was referred to the county commissioners on April 11 for consideration. County planners visited the pond site on May 10 and discovered the pond was already built.”By the fact that the pond has been constructed without a special use permit or a grading permit, it represents two violations of the county’s building and land use regulations,” county planner Fred Jarman said in a report to the commissioners.Smith told the commissioners he knew he needed a special use permit but thought it was permissible to excavate the pond and install the line before getting approval for the permit. He said he forgot that a grading permit was also required.The oversight was in part due to the fact that the property has already been highly disturbed. The pond “is in a remote location on the property such that it is situated at the end of a dead-end county road which is used primarily for industrial traffic serving the existing industrial uses in the area with very limited general population traffic,” Jarman said in his report. “Further, the site itself is situated in an industrial area already characterized by intense industrial activity from the oil shale exploration/processing activities.”In voting to approve the special use permit, both McCown and Martin voted for and Houpt against.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com


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