Garfield County commissioners won’t seek hearing for drilling farther than half mile from Project Rulison site |

Garfield County commissioners won’t seek hearing for drilling farther than half mile from Project Rulison site

Phillip Yates
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Residents who live near the Project Rulison blast site and who are opposed to gas drilling in the area had a sometimes contentious debate with the Garfield County commissioners on Monday.

The residents asked the commissioners during their Monday meeting if they could present them with scientific data they have about the possible dangers of drilling in the area. The residents wanted the commissioners to use that information to request a hearing with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for permits outside the half-mile of the blast zone.

However, commissioners did not grant them that request Monday. Commissioner Tresi Houpt recused herself from taking a stand on the issue because of her position as a COGCC commissioner.

“Today is real simple, you give a us a chance to put science forward,” said Wesley Kent, a resident whose property abuts the blast site, at the Monday meeting. “With $11 billion worth of gas around us, that’s a lot of pressure to play Russian roulette with our lives. I think we should have the chance to put science out there that will substantiate some of the fears we have.”

Commissioner John Martin responded by saying commissioners are very concerned about drilling near the blast site, and that “we don’t make a little issue out of it.”

But Martin added the county already has much information about the matter, which includes an independent study by the Colorado School of Mines, information from the U.S. Department of Energy, and a sampling and analysis plan done by the state.

That data has not swayed the county to request a hearing for permits farther than a half mile from the blast site, Martin said. He said the state, in issuing permits for the area, takes the responsibility for drilling in the area.

“We haven’t seen anything in the last six months to change our minds,” said Martin, adding the cost of a hearing could cost the county $500,000.

Martin added if more detailed, scientific information comes forward from the residents, commissioners could request a hearing for permits farther than a half mile from the blast site.

Commissioner Larry McCown wondered what new relevant data the residents had that wasn’t already released at an Oct. 2 meeting about drilling near the blast site.

The residents responded by saying that meeting didn’t adequately address their scientific concerns near the blast site, and that it was not an evidentiary hearing with participants under oath.

The residents last month asked the county to ask for an extension to request a hearing for drilling permits about one mile from the blast site, but the county declined that request. It is the position of the county to request a hearing for permits within a half mile of the blast site.

The government detonated a 43-kiloton nuclear weapon 8,426 feet below the surface at the Project Rulison blast site in 1969 in an experiment to free up commercially marketable natural gas.

Kent and others who live near the blast site argue that the use of fracturing technologies, which are designed to stimulate greater production of natural gas from subsurface formations, increases the risk that radioactive contaminants from the Rulison blast site may reach the surface.

Officials with Noble Energy, a company that holds several drilling permits for locations near the blast site, feel their permits to drill have been scrutinized “quite a bit,” said Stephen Flaherty, director of government relations for the company. He added the company is committed to working with “everyone” on a recently completed sampling and analysis plan for the area.

In other business the commissioners considered Monday:

– Commissioners voted to approve a conceptual plan to take two area senior programs and fold them into the county. The commissioners also voted to create a new position to oversee those programs.

Colorado Mountain College sponsored the two programs that provided transportation and nutrition to seniors, but in May the college said it would no longer sponsor the services, said Susanna Bozinovski, a consultant who helped with the conceptual plan.

Bozinovski and Lynn Renick, the county’s director of its Human Services department, presented the plan to put those two programs under county control on Monday. CMC will maintain the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, according to documentation provided to county commissioners.

Those programs are expected to be under county control on July 1. The estimated cost of both programs is expected to be about $679,20 for the programs’ first year. The county’s share would be $249,845. However, the conceptual plan to fold those senior programs still needs to be discussed with local municipalities and organizations.

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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