Pitkin County looks to beef up oil and gas regulations
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Pitkin County has not felt the oil and gas development boom that has hit parts of western Colorado – particularly nearby Garfield County – but it’s looking at bolstering its regulation of those operations nonetheless.
The county’s Planning and Zoning Commission has approved beefed-up land-use regulations related to oil and gas operations; they are scheduled for an initial review and public hearing before county commissioners on March 10.
“We’re updating the code to have the most stringent regulations we can have,” said Cindy Houben, the county’s director of community development.
The county, in adopting a new land-use code in 2006, incorporated the most up-to-date regulations in the state at that time, modeling its rules after those adopted in La Plata County, a major natural gas-producing area in southwest Colorado. Since then, the state Legislature has increased the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s regulatory authority; the commission subsequently adopted revised rules that went into effect last May.
The county hired Peter Hart, conservation analyst and staff attorney with Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop, to review Pitkin County’s regulations with an eye toward areas where they might fall short.
Most notably, say county officials, the proposed new regulations would strengthen the water-quality standards and monitoring requirements that would be applied to oil and gas operations. The application process would also become more detailed and demanding.
Pitkin County does face potential oil and gas development, according to Houben. There are leases and leasing interest in the northwest corner of the county, in the Thompson Creek Divide area outside of Carbondale. Old well pads and still-active pipelines exist within the county’s boarders in that northwest corner, as well.
“There are definitely well sites back there – in Pitkin County,” she said.
The proposed new regulations aim to “ensure that exploration and production of oil and gas resources occurs in a manner that conserves other natural resources, that is compatible with existing and proposed land uses, and that prevents, or adequately mitigates for adverse impacts to public health, safety, welfare and the environment,” according to a draft of the updated code provisions.
The amended code addresses the visual and noise impacts associated with oil and gas operations, air quality, wildlife impact avoidance and requirements for surface and subsurface water protection and water monitoring, among other concerns.
The proposed code also augments the financial assurances required by the COGCC to cover potential accidents, unforeseen events and potential long-term damage to the health of citizens, the environment, water and wildlife.
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