Oil and gas company Oxy hits a snag in bid for remote ‘office’ north of DeBeque
An oil and gas company ran into some trouble with Garfield County recently concerning plans to build a “permanent” office facility in an area north of DeBeque.Though the company, Oxy USA (a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum) was applying for a permit for the new facility, it turned out that an earlier, “temporary” facility had never been properly approved.A hearing on the application, begun at the Sept. 21 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, has been continued to Oct. 19.The company was hoping to get a “land use change permit” from the commissioners, for a roughly 3-acre site in the Conn Creek drainage.The terrain is described in a county memorandum as “large tracts of land under corporate ownership with [natural gas wells] and related facilities on the canyon floors. … The topography of the area is that of narrow canyons … pinyon-juniper forest and sagebrush,” all located beyond the end of County Road 213.The office was to “replace a small complex of trailers that have been permitted as ‘temporary’ office facilities,” according to a memo from Dusty Dunbar, who until Sept. 22 was a planner with the Garfield County Building & Planning Department.The head of the department, who confirmed that Dunbar no longer works for the county, declined to comment on why she was terminated.Of the seven trailers now at the site, the company was requesting that one be allowed to remain in service alongside the new, permanent facility, according to the application.The office facility is to be available to employees 24 hours a day, every day, and be able to accommodate up to 19 workers at a time.The company planned to supply water from a storage tank filled regularly by a truck. Trucks also would be contracted to empty out the facility’s port-a-potties, a process known as “vault and haul” in planning jargon.At the hearing on Sept. 21 before the commissioners, during a conversation about exactly when the new, permanent facility was to be built, a company representative confirmed that the “temporary” office trailers had never received the proper permits from the county.A somewhat fragmented discussion between the commissioners and the company’s representative indicated that the company was seeking permission for a permanent office facility that might never be built, in order to legitimize the existing, “temporary” facilities.”It seems to me like we’re talking about semantics here,” declared Commissioner Mike Samson, explaining that from his perspective the company had done everything it was asked to do by county staff and the permit for a permanent facility should be granted.But, countered Commissioner Trsi Houpt, “There’s been confusion about what the focus of the application is.”Samson, clearly frustrated by the direction the hearing had taken, demanded of no one in particular, “What’re we going to do to make sure this never happens again?”The commission directed staff to straighten out any irregularities in the application and to come back with a new presentation in mid-October.Planning director Fred Jarman said the confusion stemmed from an unclear presentation, such as Dunbar’s statement that the temporary trailers were “permitted,” and that the next time the matter comes up it will be made clear.He also stressed that the company had voluntarily admitted that the temporary trailers were not there legally.”We didn’t bust them, they came to us,” Jarman said. “It’s a fairly benign application. They came to us to say, we’d like to get the permits for a permanent operation.”Jarman said that, among other things, the planning staff would recommend that the company be required to dig a well and install a septic system, which Jarman said is the normal requirement for a permanent email@example.com
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