Details bog down Garfield County’s rewrite of man camp rules
Garfield County is trying to make its permitting rules for energy industry man camps more streamlined, but Commissioner John Martin said Monday the effort to date is anything but that.Martin and other county commissioners postponed a hearing on the proposed regulation rewrite until Feb. 4 after they and industry representatives raised concerns about it.Martin said the proposal has become cumbersome and “just got out of control.””It’s snowballed,” Martin said. “… It’s too complicated and it tries to cover too many issues.”Last year, the county instituted a special use permitting process for temporary housing at natural gas drilling sites. The goal of the man camps is to reduce the need for commutes to remote sites, and to provide worker housing in a region with a housing shortage.Under the proposal drawn up by the county Planning Commission and planning staff, the industry automatically would be entitled to house up to six workers at a time at what is often called a “man camp.” Camps housing from seven to 24 workers would require authorization by the county planning department. Anything larger would require a hearing before county commissioners, as the county has been requiring of camps of all sizes under its current rules.Doug Dennison, who led an industry group that worked with the county on trying to come up with the regulations, said the industry has several concerns with the proposal that resulted. Energy companies question the need for so many different levels of review for occupancy, and point to the increased manpower the rules would require of both the county and industry. They also worry that the rules could hamper an industry that needs to be able to adjust drilling schedules quickly, without too much regulatory delay, Dennison said.County Commissioner Trési Houpt questioned giving the industry the right to house up to six people at a site without planning review. In cases where drilling occurs on private property on which people don’t own the underlying minerals, the result could be workers living on the property without notice or review.”I think that we are not respecting people’s surface ownership when we allow something like that to happen,” she said.However, county building and planning director Fred Jarman noted that commissioners previously went along with allowing up to four people to live on a pad during drilling because they are essential personnel who need to be available around the clock.Commissioner Larry McCown worried that the proposed regulations would result in little inspection for recreational vehicles used as employee housing, “and they were the root of the problem to begin with.”But Martin said if the county prohibited the use of RVs, that would discriminate against smaller energy companies that can’t afford more elaborate temporary housing facilities.Dennison also voiced fear that the rules could require companies to have to upgrade many temporary housing facilities to a newer code, at considerable expense, and at a time when such housing already is in high demand.Dennison estimated that the new rules could result in 850 drilling-related building permits having to be issued by the county next year. He said the county could expect 70 to 75 applications being made for large, centralized housing sites in 2008.David Pesnichak, a county planner, said the industry projections may be high. He said that under the existing rules, the county has issued 10 special use permits, for 43 facilities.On Monday, commissioners renewed a permit for a Williams Production RMT housing facility about 15 miles northwest of Rifle, but only after Houpt expressed disappointment over the fact that the site previously had been occupied despite a failure to obtain a building permit.”I get very concerned about the fact that people come in front of us and apologize after the fact,” she told Williams officials. “Our regulations are in place to protect people, including your employees.”Contact Dennis Webb: email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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