Loading structure will scrape sky but help clean up air near Rifle | PostIndependent.com

Loading structure will scrape sky but help clean up air near Rifle

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

A loading structure for the energy industry may add to visual pollution but its advocates say it will reduce air pollution near Rifle.Garfield County commissioners on Monday approved a facility for unloading natural gas well fracturing sand. The structure will be almost two and a half times the normally allowed height for its location.County planning staff had recommended denial of the project. But commissioners were swayed by the argument that the facility would reduce idling truck traffic, and thus the resulting emissions from them.The project consists of three storage silos to be built by Unimin Corp. on about 10 acres of land it leases from Union Pacific on land just west of Rifle.The normal height limit for the property is 40 feet, but a nearby cement facility is about 100 feet tall and was approved by county commissioners. The silos will be 89 feet high, but an elevator will result in a structure that’s 132 feet high.Energy companies use the sand in underground hydraulic fracturing operations designed to increase gas production. The current process for unloading the sand from trains and onto trucks that deliver them to well pads is slow, which can result in dozens of trucks waiting in line. The silo system will speed up the loading process significantly, reducing the waits for truckers.The county’s height requirements are designed in part to protect views from Interstate 70.”I don’t like deviating from height constraints,” County Commissioner Trési Houpt said. “If you drive down I-70, I think you’re seeing a lot of impacts in this county, and I don’t like the precedent it sets.”But she found herself swayed more by the appeal of reducing air pollution at the site.Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the proposal, after Houpt and John Martin rejected a compromise proposed by Commissioner Larry McCown. It would have cut the height to 112 feet through the use of a conveyor system rather than an elevator. But that would have had to be motorized, and Houpt and Martin favored the idea of a gravity-powered elevator.”If we’re going high we might as well do it right,” Houpt said.Also Monday, commissioners approved proposals by energy companies for temporary housing at drilling sites northwest of Parachute.Marathon is planning to use two of the units on 7,000 acres it is leasing from Chevron. EnCana obtained approval for two units on its 45,000-acre parcel, formerly owned by Unocal. Both properties are off County Road 215.Each unit can house up to 24 workers. The proposals are designed to cut worker traffic to and from drill sites and ease the local demand for housing.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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