Garfield fears drilling delays due to new oil, gas rules

Garfield County commissioners are worried that proposed new state rules to address conflicts between oil and gas development and neighborhoods could unduly drag out how long it takes companies to get approval to drill.

“It adds a year to the process,” Garfield Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said Monday about a proposed local government consultation process, echoing a concern also raised by Commissioner John Martin.

Jankovsky said the proposal could add $500,000 to $1 million to the cost of developing a well pad.

But Leslie Robinson, president of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, said the extra time is warranted to address concerns such as the possible impacts of drilling to the thousands of residents in Battlement Mesa.

“It should go through this long process,” she told commissioners.

The commissioners are working to submit comments to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as that agency prepares to act on two recommendations of a recent state task force. The agency is looking to require energy companies to consult with the affected local government when proposing a large drilling operation near an urban residential area, and require companies to provide long-term drilling plans to local governments.

Citizen activists are looking to the rulemaking for some new protections for homeowners in cases such as Ursa Resources’ current proposal to drill up to 53 wells from two pads in Battlement Mesa, an unincorporated residential development near Parachute.

But the draft letter Garfield commissioners are considering sending says, “In general, Garfield County believes these proposed set of rules to be largely unnecessary as the scope and the purpose of the proposed regulations can be easily implemented at a local level by local government engaging in real effective dialogue with their citizens, operators, adjacent local governments and the (COGCC).”

Nevertheless, commissioners are working on suggestions for improving upon the draft proposal. One recommendation commissioners tentatively settled on Monday addresses a draft proposal that lets the COGCC director place a time limit on drilling and fracturing operations on large operations in urban areas.

As proposed, the rule would let the director permit a one-time exception to a time limit at a location when circumstances such as an unexpected technical difficulty arise. Garfield commissioners are recommending that there should be no limit to the number of extensions the director can provide.

However, commissioners also tentatively agreed to recommend that when consultation with a local government is required, adjacent local governments also be given the chance to meet with the energy company if they have land-use authority within 1,500 feet of the proposed site. That’s higher than a proposed 1,000-foot trigger in the COGCC draft rule.


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