Garfield County doesn’t like gas rules |

Garfield County doesn’t like gas rules

Phillip YatesGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The Garfield County commissioners on Monday cited several concerns with new draft rules for the state’s oil and gas industry as the county prepares for formal hearings over the issue.Some of the concerns commissioners had included 90-day drilling restrictions in the area, a lack of clear definitions and the rules’ possible economic impacts on the county and other municipalities.County commissioners outlined their concerns to County Attorney Don DeFord, who will be composing the county’s prehearing statement for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s formal hearings about the new rules. That preliminary statement is due by Friday. A final statement, which could include testimony by county commissioners John Martin and Larry McCown and county staff, is due by May 14, DeFord said.Garfield County is “a party” to the rule-making hearings, which means that county officials are able to present evidence and put witnesses forward and cross-examine other witnesses. Commissioner Trési Houpt recused herself during discussion of the county’s position for its prehearing statement on Monday because of her role as a COGCC commissioner. The state is drafting new rules for the state’s oil and gas industry because of legislation passed by the state Legislature, which required that the COGCC expand its focus to consider public health and wildlife impacts, and require the use of best management practices to minimize harm from oil and gas development. The agency released a set of draft rules in late March, which immediately drew criticism from the energy industry in Colorado.The drafting of new rules for the state’s oil and gas industry comes as the surge of drilling permits for locations in Garfield County continues to grow. Natural gas permits issued in Garfield County last year accounted for 40 percent of all oil and gas permits issued in Colorado.Martin said his concern over the new rules was about the fiscal impacts they could have on the COGCC’s budget and staffing, along with the fiscal impacts to the state, counties and municipalities. He also voiced a concern about the dearth of definitions in the new rules.”I think that is very lacking in this document,” Martin said.Martin also questioned the proposed 90-day drilling restrictions. The COGCC has said the restrictions are meant to protect critical wildlife areas, especially on the Western Slope. The agency has said new rules do allow a company to avoid the 90-day drilling restriction if it limits the density of its development in an area or consults with the COGCC and Colorado Division of Wildlife. But Martin said he was worried about that rule’s possible impact on the state and local economy. He said there was no real science behind the proposed rule.McCown said he concurred with most of Martin’s comments.”The rules, on their face, not knowing how they are going to be interpreted or implemented, are quite onerous,” McCown said. “If they are interpreted and implemented to the letter of the law, I think a good (amount) of them are unenforceable.”McCown also said that the rules, as written, would not allow drilling in Garfield County for three months of the year. He said operators would probably lose high-efficiency rigs that can drill multiple wells from a single well pad.”It will virtually be impossible to get them back,” McCown said. “That is a big issue.”The COGCC is expected to adopt the new rules on July 1.Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117pyates@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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