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Pieces missing from drilling picture

Dear Editor,

Recently, a neighbor of ours south of Silt was approached by an energy company about leasing his mineral rights for gas drilling. Since our properties adjoin, this incident prompted us to start asking questions about about the gas industry. Two months later, the answers we have found are few. What we have encountered is a convoluted maze of bureaucracy that makes it difficult at best to understand what rights property owners do or do not have.

We have talked to the local and state Bureau of Land Management Offices, and they have some pieces of the puzzle. We have talked to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and visited their website. They also had some pieces of the puzzle. We tried to contact Mark Bean, the Garfield County planner who is supposed to have answers to these questions, and have received no response to our questions. Our neighbor talked to a local attorney and we have talked to a Denver attorney. Both had some answers, but the bottom line is that after two months, dozens of calls and a great deal of frustration, we still do not have all the answers we would need to make a decision about leasing mineral rights. It almost seems like the entire process is purposely designed to keep people in the dark.

Mark Bean has a full-time job as the county planner, and I can understand – given the growth Garfield County is experiencing – that he is a busy man. Why then, did the commissioners give him the added responsibility of overseeing the single most impactful industry in this county? Gas drilling is exempt from EPA air standards, clean water standards and hazardous waste standards, just to name a few. Additionally, there is virtually no oversight of their activity at the county level. These issues are particularly upsetting when drilling is taking place on private land near homes.

Because of the federal mandate to move full-speed ahead with fossil fuel energy development, it is more important than ever that the county maintain local control of its land use decisions. If I recall, local control was a hot election topic a few years ago. Why does it seem to be a non-issue now when the number of gas wells in Garfield County could double in the next two years?

La Plata County has challenged the state and won in the Colorado Supreme Court to maintain local land use control. Other counties that are being impacted by gas development are following suit. I urge our county commissioners to look beyond the short-term revenue generated and see how devastating this industry is to their constituents’ health, well-being and property values.

Sincerely,

Bob Utesch

Dry Hollow


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