County commissioners try to define `pipeline’ |

County commissioners try to define `pipeline’

The Garfield County Commissioners chewed on pipelines Monday, and ordered up a second helping for Tuesday, Sept. 2.

At issue is the definition of “pipeline,” which Garfield County Planner Mark Bean said the county does not have, and the circumstances under which a special use permit for pipeline construction is required.

“We have a dilemma,” Bean told the commissioners.

At least eight oil and gas industry representatives attended Monday’s meeting to explain pipelines, and how they’d like to seem them regulated in Garfield County.

Rosemary Bilchak was one of two Silt-area property owners who spoke. Bilchak concluded her brief remarks by saying, “Please don’t forget the landowner.”

Hundreds of natural-gas wells have sprung up on public and private lands in the western part of Garfield County during the past few years, and all that gas must get to market via networks of pipelines.

Those pipelines cover short distances from the gas well head to larger pipelines, which deliver the product to even larger pipelines, which deliver the raw gas to processing facilities.

The most commonly used terms for the three pipelines are “flow lines” that run from the well head to a “collection” or “gathering” pipeline, that ultimately feeds a “transmission” pipeline that can run for hundreds of miles and across state lines.

In a memo to the commissioners, Bean said Garfield County has required a special use permit for all lines that connect “a number” of well sites. Industry definitions for “gathering” lines are different from the way the county has been using the term, so a number of pipelines have been built that should have been subject to the land use permit process, Bean said.

Bean researched pipeline regulations in Weld, La Plata, Rio Blanco and Boulder counties, and learned there is no “clear similarity” between the counties. He recommended Garfield County consider a pipeline definition similar to Weld County’s, which applies to pipelines 10 inches in diameter or larger. Bean also recommended the county identify standards and criteria for pipelines.

County Commissioner John Martin indicated the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has considered whether to establish statewide regulatory criteria for pipelines, but has not acted. Martin wondered whether the issue should be “put back on the table.”

Commissioner Larry McCown said he doesn’t want Garfield County to pass its own regulations only to see them superseded by state regulations.

Commissioner Tresi Houpt indicated Garfield County should move forward, regardless of what the state does. “One size doesn’t fit all,” Houpt said. “We need to address it for our county.”

Pipelines are already regulated by the federal Department of Transportation, and the permit process can include federal and state agencies, depending on the pipeline’s route.

McCown asked that staff present DOT regulations before the Sept. 2 meeting.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

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