New rules fair to everyone
Addressed to: Citizens
For the past four days, letters to the editor have appeared in our local newspapers. The subject has been “temporary housing” on a drill pad, plus the term “use by right.” In this note to you, I hope to clear up some of the misused terms.
First, a little background. For as long as oil and gas drilling has been done, people have been on a drill site 24 hours a day until the drilling was completed. For the same amount of time, most believed the issuer of the drill permits controlled the well site in all areas.
Surprise, living areas on a site were not controlled. Garfield County is now trying to have a fair regulation, with three levels.
One: “temporary” living quarters for eight or less people identified as “essential people”: geologist, driller, tool pusher, company man, safety person, mud foreman, and, depending on the company, up to a total of eight persons who stay on the drill site 24 hours per day until the well is completed. Don’t confuse this with “affordable housing”; that’s a totally different issue.
Two: living quarters for 9-24 people. A full land-use application, in which the property (surface) owner must be the applicant.
Third: Living quarters for 25 or more. A larger application, and must have the property (surface) owner as the applicant, also meeting state requirements.
The term use by right in the letters has been used as if the oil and gas companies were given the right to place living quarters on anyone’s land if the company so chooses. Wrong, that would be a “takings” issue, something I would never support.
Use by right is a county planning department process that requires the company to meet 20-plus standards, fill out an application with the county, a review of the application, a third-party site inspection, but most of all, have a state-approved well site, with a surface use permit in place, signed by the surface owner, or a state-approved bond.
Please understand there are only up to eight qualified and identified people using the living quarters meeting all the standards, and can only remain until the drilling is complete. This application would be on file with the county planning and zoning office.
If there are violations or misinformation, we will now be able to enforce our regulation through our county zoning officer, something that did not exist before.
Garfield County must also make a request to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to have the full disclosure of on-site living quarters as a requirement on a surface use agreement in the upcoming rule-making session later this month.
I hope you will read all the letters again, understanding I am not giving anyone an unfair advantage or turning a blind eye toward anyone else. My duty is to be fair to all.
John Martin, of Glenwood Springs, is a Garfield County commissioner.
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