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Silt plans oil and gas meetings this week

Donna Gray

Silt residents concerned with impending natural gas development in their area continue to organize neighborhood meetings. Two are on tap this week. A meeting for people who have been approached about leasing their land for gas development, or think they will be, is at 6 p.m. Friday at the Silt Fire House. About 25 to 30 people from Silt Mesa met last week to talk about how to have drinking water tested for chemicals associated with gas production, such as methane, said Tara Meixsell, a member of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, who is helping organize the meeting. “If you go to the state they won’t test for (those chemicals),” she said.Many people don’t realize that they “have the ability to ask gas companies for a surface-use agreement,” she said. Company representatives usually present a prepared lease they ask land and mineral owners to sign, often without asking for input.”They’re not there to educate you,” she said.Organizers intend Friday’s meeting to provide information about what a land or mineral owner can do to be proactive about development, such as hiring an attorney to help negotiate a surface use agreement or knowing what noise regulations gas producers must comply with.The meeting “is definitely for people who stand to be impacted and what they should know,” Meixsell said. There is a growing need for education “as we hear back from people as being approached by these companies (with information) that is not always accurate,” she added. “The public needs to educate themselves.”Another meeting is planned at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Silt Fire House, for the Silt Mesa/Peach Valley Gas Community Development Plan. Since the plan’s introduction about three weeks ago at a meeting that drew more than 200 local residents, groundwork has been laid. Two Silt Mesa residents, Christy Hamrick and Liz Lippett, organized the first meeting and continue to work on shaping the plan.Key to the plan is cooperation between residents, local government and the gas industry itself, Hamrick said.”You’re going to have to have a lot of community buy-in (to make the plan feasible), from government and industry as well,” she said. “I see a lot of people feeling they’re being divided from their community as a result of the gas industry. Hopefully (the plan) will be something to bring the community together.”As a next step, committees will form to look at industry impacts, safety issues, long-range planning by industry to minimize landowner impacts, and best practices to reduce impacts on air and water quality and surface disturbance.”We want to be sure (the plan) is coming from the community, not one person, that’s why we’re trying to stay as vague as we can until we hear what they want,” Hamrick said.The Garfield County Energy Advisory Board, which advises the county commissioners on oil and gas issues, will hold its monthly meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the meeting room at the Garfield County Fairgrounds. That meeting is also open to the public.


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