Energy Master Plan ready for county to use
Officials can cross-check development with state, federal agencies
It’s been years in the making, but the Mesa County Energy Master Plan is finally finished.
The Energy Master Plan was requested by the County Commission more than two years ago. County staff and Skinner went to work and created a Web site that has a layered series of maps of Mesa County. By clicking on map layers, people can see what energy opportunities there are in the county and the possible constraints associated with each location. Those constraints range from state, federal and local regulations to environmental conditions such as watersheds, mud-slide areas and protected lands.
Joe Skinner, a local consultant, described the plan as a road map when he presented it to the commission recently. The map allows those in the private sector the ability to quickly and easily see what regulations they need to comply with and what environmental areas they need to be concerned about.
For county officials it provides a means to quickly and accurately spot any shortcomings in energy-related development applications.
As the system was being built, it was put to use in a limited capacity to cross-check permit applications energy companies applied for through the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The county has been using the master plan’s Web site to examine areas a permit has been requested for and then respond to the oil and gas commission with comments and concerns based on the information provided.
Skinner said the process allows the county to do “back filling” around regulations it cannot change. Although the state has the authority to issue permits and is charged with monitoring and regulating energy activity, the county does not have to sit on the sidelines and idly watch development happen.
By using the Energy Master Plan, the county now has the ability to flag areas of concern and bring them to attention of permitting agencies. If the county’s concerns are not addressed through this process, it has the ability to set regulations of its own that are secondary to the actual permit. For instance, it can limit vehicle weights on roads or limit operating hours.
A county permit process was laid out to the commission as its next task in the continuing evolution of the Energy Master Plan. Skinner told the commission it can set policies to protect local values.
“That’s what you need to do,” he said.
But the county’s first action, compelled by the master plan, is to rid its land-use code of outdated, conflicting or no-longer-applicable regulations.
The commission indicated it would hold joint sessions with the Mesa County Planning Commission to accomplish that task.
Also, the question of enforcement was raised.
“You don’t have a single policy on how you are going to deal with enforcement issues,” Skinner said.
The board indicated it would seek compliance from developers rather than focus on punitive measures.