Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission visit to Glenwood Springs fuels public consternation over new regulations |

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission visit to Glenwood Springs fuels public consternation over new regulations

Garfield County resident Bob Arrington speaks before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in Glenwood Springs on Thursday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Colorado’s 2019 oil and gas regulation barring developers from creating drilling and fracking operations within 2,000 feet of residences, schools, hospitals and all other buildings fueled public scrutiny during a public hearing in Glenwood Springs on Thursday.

Hosted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission at the Hotel Colorado, members heard about 20 public comments — the majority of whom questioned whether Senate Bill 181 is actually creating a healthier environment for Garfield County residents.

Lulu Colby of the Save West Mamm Creek Coalition spoke to extractive activity south of Rifle. In November 2022, Garfield County commissioners unanimously approved a variance for a proposal made by Terra Energy Partners Rocky Mountain LLC, headquartered in Houston, to drill 21 new natural-gas wells within about 640 feet of Beaver Creek and closer than 2,000 feet to four residential dwellings within the proposed site. The new drilling expands an existing well pad.

“Oil and gas pressure from the west and north is intense,” Colby said. “High density oil and gas has crept up to the rim between Beaver and West Mamm Creek.”

Colby worried the new well locations and pipelines will be within the vicinity of a hydraulic pump currently upgrading nearby riparian areas and wetlands, home to many forms of White River National Forest wildlife.

“One in the 2,000-foot precedent setback, one 250 feet from a domestic water supply,” she said of the new natural gas well pads and pipelines. “CPW (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) staff has told me what a massive disruption this project will be to the valley’s wildlife.”

“In Garfield County, unfortunately, dollars always win out over protections for wildlife, public health and safety.” 

Glenwood Springs resident Sheri Tonozzi offered similar thoughts, saying her main concern is public health and how extractive activities are linked to issues like cancer and other diseases.

Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky speaks of why the oil and gas industry benefits the area.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

“I’d appreciate more transparency and education about what’s going on with all this because, as you can see, there’s not a lot of people here today,” she said. “There’s not a lot of young people, and I think there needs to be more education or outreach.”

And while the COGCC has no control over it, people speaking against further extractive development argued that the COGCC does more when it comes to oversight of the proposed Uinta Basin Railway, which will substantially increase the amount of oil trains going through the region.

“One, is that you use reliable data in evaluating the impact of each project,” Debbie Bruell, Garfield County Democratic Chair, said. “Data from the oil and gas industry will clearly be biased. So I hope you will only consider data from outside entities that have no financial stake in the project being reviewed.” 

There are nearly 12,000 active gas wells currently in Garfield County, which make up about 25% of all active wells in Colorado. The wells are mainly overseen by one of three large operators in the area — Terra, Williams Companies, Inc. and Caerus Oil and Gas LLC.

Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky was in attendance Thursday. He said the industry itself makes up about 56% of Garfield County’s assessed value — about $1.6 billion.

Jankovsky also pointed out, to adhere to SB-181’s mission to promote and protect “health, safety and welfare,” that Caerus Oil is set to conduct $25 million on an environmental project involving the replacement of about 8,000 pneumatic devices with solar devices — most of which, however, is in Utah.

Still, Jankovsky said oil and gas “is a very important industry for Garfield County.”

“It provides jobs,” he said, adding the industry accounts for 25% of the county’s property tax revenue. “It also funds our special districts, fire departments, parks and rec. departments, hospitals, CMC, libraries and water districts.

“Our operators are starting to work and understand and they’re working through your rules.”

In 2022 alone — three years after SB-181 was passed — the COGCC received proposals for about 1,900 new oil and gas wells.

Glenwood Springs resident Mark Barritt argued that continued development like this is the right way for the U.S. to move from being energy dependent to independent, especially amid geopolitical uncertainties.

“This purposeful weakening of our country continues to this day, and if you think that solar wind and electric will win a war if we’re attacked, you’re sadly mistaken,” he said. 

“Our national security is at risk,” Barritt later added. “Our oil and gas production strengthens our national security, and the USA produces the cleanest oil and gas in the world. I would just say that if our country is destroyed, climate change will matter to no one.” 

By the meeting’s end, COGCC Commissioner Brett Ackerman said it’s important to receive input from the public and the work that’s been done by various groups in relation to SB-181.

“We try to develop energy while we do everything that we can to be protected, and that’s my goal,” he said. “Personally, as a commissioner, I think it’s important we are protected going forward, but I do think we need to continue to be realistic about the need for energy and energy security, as was brought up today.”

Post Independent western Garfield County reporter and Assistant Editor Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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