Glenwood Springs City Council unanimously supports removal of oil and gas exemption |

Glenwood Springs City Council unanimously supports removal of oil and gas exemption

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Glenwood Springs City Council will mail a letter to the Colorado Congressional delegation supporting an effort to repeal an oil and gas industry exemption.

That exemption does not require disclosure of chemicals used in the frac’ing process during natural gas extraction.

Frank Smith of the Western Colorado Congress asked City Council to back the effort with a letter of support at council’s May 7 meeting. However, it didn’t come without opposition.

Charles McLean, president and CEO for Denver Research Group Inc., based in Aspen, asked City Council to hold off for two to three weeks before sending the letter to allow the council time to educate themselves on the frac’ing process and the newly adopted Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) rules, which have already addressed the issue. McLean said that he heard from several oil and gas representatives after the letter was made public earlier in the week.

“The key point that I thought could be communicated to the City Council was you might want to take a two-week time-out to actually look at the frac’ing process,” he said. “It’s no longer confidential.”

McLean said according to the new COGCC rules in section 205, which he said all of the City Council members supported, operators have to keep a chemical inventory at the well site of all the chemicals used in drilling or stored for use in drilling including frac’ing stimulation, in an amount exceeding 500 pounds.

“The rules have been rewritten to say that the director of the COGCC has access to all of that information,” McLean said.

McLean also said that new COGCC rule 341 requires continuous monitoring of the chemicals.

Councilor Russ Arensman did not agree with McLean’s statements.

“My point is that it’s your contention the problem has been addressed because the COGCC made new rules,” Arensman said. “But I don’t feel the access [to the chemicals] they made in the new rules has addressed the issues.”

Mayor Bruce Christensen said that he had received e-mails from several energy representatives regarding the letter. Christensen said that a message to City Council from Ken Wonstolen, an attorney for the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), stated that the letter was just a political statement by the Glenwood Springs City Council supporting environmental nonprofits.

The message read, “Why is it that the new COGCC rules, a major objective of environmental organizations such as Western Colorado Congress and Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, are not adequate response to the expressed public concern? Is federal regulation by the [Environmental Protection Agency] inherently superior to state regulation by agencies with relevant expertise?”

The message went on to state, “The issue has been addressed and resolved in Colorado and the draft letter is unnecessary and ill-advised. It can only be regarded as a political statement in support of certain environmental organizations seeking to erect every roadblock possible to oil and gas development.”

“The idea that we are making a political statement on an issue regarding safe drinking water for our community is offensive,” Christensen said.

Randy Fricke, interim president for the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, a sister organization with the Western Colorado Congress, said this is the second attempt to try and repeal the exemption behind federal legislation introduced by representative Diana DeGette, but that support from Garfield County municipalities is needed. The citizens alliance is seeking support from other Garfield County municipalities.

Council decided to support the effort in part because of issued drilling leases in the Thompson Creek area. Thompson Creek is the largest sub-watershed of the Roaring Fork Valley, and drilling in the area led to concerns that chemicals could potentially leak into the Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

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