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County to look at effects of gas industry

Donna Gray

What started out as a way to use the $371,000 EnCana fine has been taken to heart by the Garfield County Commissioners. The state fined EnCana for drilling violations relating to a natural gas seep last spring that contaminated water wells on private land on Divide Creek south of Silt.In 2005, the Cumulative Impact Study will look at the wide-ranging social and economic effects of the natural gas industry in the county.Rather than using the fine to pay for the study, the county commissioners will foot the bill. Monday, the commissioners and county oil and gas auditor Doug Dennison discussed the scope of the study. The study will include larger questions about commercial and residential development and population growth.Complementing the study will be a concurrent study, funded by the EnCana fine, of the impacts of gas drilling on the water and geology of areas affected by gas drilling, and a health-risk analysis. The county will also fund an air quality monitoring program this year.Among the issues the CIS will address will be how or if gas production affects property values, local government revenues from the industry, employment growth, the industry’s effect on the economy and impacts on infrastructure such as roads.The study will also look at impacts on society such as human services organizations, the school system, recreation, emergency services, law enforcement and changes to the overall demographics in the county.The county commissioners have earmarked $150,000 for the first phase of the study in 2005. Once the scope of the project is established, requests for proposals will be sent out to interested companies.Commissioner Larry McCown urged Dennison to design the scope to be as broad as possible.”It will be a skewed analysis if we don’t include all development,” rather than focusing on the gas industry, he said.”That’s the key point,” Dennison said.Commissioner Trsi Houpt pointed out another study that will complement the CIS is the Rural Resort Region’s periodic benchmark report that identifies and analyzes growth trends and issues and demographic changes in the Colorado Mountain resort towns on the Western Slope. That report is due out this month.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com


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