EAB considers its role in community oil and gas plan
A community plan that would control energy development in Silt Mesa and Peach Valley has taken a first tentative step. One of the two women who are spearheading the effort brought the idea to the Energy Advisory Board Thursday night for its consideration.On Friday, Jan. 28, Christy Hamrick and Liz Lippett proposed the idea to more than 200 Silt Mesa and Peach Valley residents who are expecting the impending arrival of natural gas drilling north of Colorado River between New Castle and Silt. Hamrick is a member of the EAB and presented the idea at the EAB’s monthly meeting in Rifle.Some residents in those communities have already been approached to lease their mineral rights by energy companies such as Antero. A community development plan could require quiet drilling rigs, no flaring of gas, mitigation of noise, protection of air quality and reports by companies of their annual drilling plans. Hamrick said she and Lippett will poll communities in the area whether they would support such a plan.”That’s still a question,” she said.Hamrick posed the question of whether the plan could best come to fruition within the framework of a subcommittee of the Energy Advisory Board or as part of a local environmental group, the Grand Valley Citizens’ Alliance.”Make it an EAB committee so there won’t be any duplication” between the board and the community plan, said EAB member Scott Brynildson.Hamrick suggested the EAB might be willing to hire a paid staff person for the community plan with knowledge of the industry. That person could be expected, among other duties, to facilitate air and water quality testing programs and gather data on health impacts.EAB chairman Harlan Hansen suggested the group could also be part of the GVCA.”They’ve got the expertise, they’ve got the money,” he said.GVCA has been active in monitoring the natural gas operations in Garfield County and lobbying for more government controls of their activities.”Would it be like a municipal master plan or a growth plan?” GVCA president Duke Cox asked Hamrick, who said it would.In that case, Cox added, energy companies would have to provide their annual drilling plans. GVCA has long pushed for companies operating in the county to provide those plans to residents, but companies are reluctant to do so, saying that divulging such information would give their competition an unfair advantage.None of the energy industry members of the EAB commented on the plan. Hansen set the topic for further consideration at the EAB’s next meeting on March 3.In other business, Harlan presented a proposal he called the West Colorado Land Purchase Co. With concerns mounting about gas development’s potential to reduce the value of private property where drilling and gas production are occurring, Harlan said the company could purchase the land and hold it until gas production comes to an end.Funding would come from an initial private stock offering of 100,000 shares of $5 each that would be used to purchase the properties.The company would buy the land for a fair asking price from the owners then hold it for the 20- or 30-year predicted life of the gas. During that time, the land could be leased for ranching or farming, he said. After the drilling was over, the land would be sold, presumably at fair market value, and the shareholders paid off.”We would need the (financial) backing of a group, like the bankers’ association or Club 20, or maybe one of the operators could lend us one of their executives,” Hansen said, somewhat tongue-in-cheek.His proposal brought virtually no response from the EAB members and Hansen suggested the board give the idea some thought and revisit it at the March meeting.
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