CMC has until this Friday to decide on gas compressor site
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
SPRING VALLEY, Colorado – Colorado Mountain College has been given until the end of the day tomorrow, May 4, to decide between two proposed on-campus sites for a SourceGas compressor station.
That is the deadline set by SourceGas, a natural-gas distribution company that already holds a 20-year lease on a five-acre, compressor-station site on the campus, adjacent to a natural gas pipeline built in 1994.
The lease was signed by the company and CMC President Stan Jensen last year.
The company had planned to start construction this month on the compressor station’s four buildings, finishing by November 2012, according to documents on file with Garfield County.
The compressor station is needed, company officials say, to boost the pressure of gas traveling between storage facilities in Rifle and customers in the Roaring Fork and Eagle River valleys.
Recent objections to the company’s plans among faculty members, students and neighbors, however, have disrupted the deal, although company officials say they are standing firm on the May 4 deadline.
“We have to look at what’s right for the rate payers,” said Mitch Peebley, senior director of SourceGas operations for Colorado and Wyoming.
Peebley spoke at a 2 p.m. meeting on Wednesday with students and faculty. Another meeting was scheduled for later in the day, at 6 p.m.
According to Peebley, it might cost the company $12 million to build a compressor station at the CMC site.
But to build a new pipeline that would bypass CMC property, he said, “We could spend $200 million.”
A second site, near the college water tower to the east of the campus, has been proposed by college officials and accepted as feasible by SourceGas, Peebley said, although the company would have to start fresh in terms of engineering and other design functions.
Peebley was asked at the meeting if the company would be happy with a site on private land if it were offered, and if the college and the Garfield County commissioners rejected both the first and second campus sites as unacceptable.
“I would say the likelihood of that happening is, well, no, it would not happen,” Peebley said, explaining later that it must be one site or the other in order to keep the company’s costs from skyrocketing.
Pressed further by insistent questions from faculty members, Peebley at one point mentioned the possibility of condemnation, presumably through the powers of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
But the company’s deputy general counsel, Tim Knapp, interjected that condemnation is not under consideration and added, “We’d have to look into that.”
After the meeting Knapp also declined to say whether the company is prepared to sue the college if no agreement can be reached on either campus site.
He said the company has complied with the county’s land-use application requirements, won a recommendation or approval from the Garfield County Planning and Zoning Commission, and expects no opposition to the project from the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).
“So, you believed it would be approved by the county commissioners before you even went to them?” asked one woman who did not identify herself.
“Yes,” responded Knapp, explaining, “the i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed” in the company’s application.
Although the company’s application has been delayed for six months to accommodate negotiations over a site, Knapp said the company is confident the project will be approved by the BOCC.
Numerous questions were asked regarding noise from the compressor station, and a CMC staffer sought to reassure the gathering that the compressor would be relatively quiet.
Aaron Sifuentes, physical plant manager for the Roaring Fork Campus, said he went on a tour of an existing compressor station.
“I had to ask, as soon as we got there, are you going to turn it on, or is it on?” he recalled. “There’s hardly any noise to it.”
But a woman, who also did not identify herself, said she had attended a sound test held by the company, designed to show how loud the compressor station would be.
“It was really loud. We could hardly hear ourselves think,” she declared, and others in the audience backed her up.
The disparity between the two experiences was left unexplained at the meeting.
The Wednesday afternoon meeting lasted for an hour and a half, and a similar amount of time was set aside for the meeting later in the day.
College spokeswoman Debra Crawford said the college administration will be meeting either today or tomorrow to discuss the matter.
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