Garfield to industry: Remote fracking regs to be left to state

Garfield County commissioners on Monday reassured natural gas developers Monday that they don’t plan to regulate the growing practices of remote and centralized well fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves sending fluids at high pressure down wells to crack open formations and promote flow of natural gas. With remote fracturing, the operations are conducted via pipelines from a site away from a well pad. Centralized fracking entails doing fracturing on multiple well pads from one remote location.

County planning staff raised the issue of county land-use regulation of the practices because of the potential impacts involved.

“The significant volume of water and chemicals may result in traffic, air and water quality impacts, as well as impacts to adjacent properties through noise, vibration and odors,” Kathy Eastley, a county planner, wrote in a memo to commissioners.

However, representatives with Williams Production RMT said the whole point of remote fracturing is to reduce impacts from fracturing. Primarily, it eliminates the need for truck trips to each well pad to deliver more than 500,000 gallons of water per well.

“If we can reduce that we can reduce a lot of the complaints that we get,” said Steven Harris, well completions superintendent for Williams in Parachute.

Williams attorney Ann Lane said remote fracking already is regulated by the state under its new oil and gas rules. The rules create a new permitting process for surface facilities, and the process includes notification of counties.

Eastley said while truck traffic is somewhat reduced, water still must be delivered to the remote fracking site, and in the case of centralized operations the facilities’ impacts can last for an extended period of time.

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce took the position that use of remote fracturing should be encouraged where possible, rather than discouraged through duplicative regulations.

County commissioners said they realize the benefits of remote fracking and didn’t see a need for the county to regulate it.

“We’ll leave that to the COGCC,” Commissioner Mike Samson said.

Commissioner Tresi Houpt, also a gas commission member, said she thinks it’s important for the industry to recognize that the county wants to have a say on land-use aspects of oil and gas development. But she said she’s OK with working within new gas commission rules as long as she knows the county will have more opportunity to weigh in on issues.

“I think there is a tool in place now that really does bring the county to the table,” she said.


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