Garfield County’s criticism off base on new oil, gas rules, industry says

A trade group for western Colorado energy companies says Garfield County’s criticisms of the state’s new oil and gas rules are unwarranted and economically jeopardize the region.

The West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association raises the concerns in a letter to the Garfield County commissioners in connection with the county’s opposition to Antero Resources’ request for 10-acre well spacing for parts of the Silt Mesa and Peach Valley areas.

The county has told the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in a recent legal filing that its new rules “fail entirely” to address the cumulative health and other impacts of increasing the density of natural gas development.

“Colorado’s second-largest natural gas producing county calling for another wholesale revision of state rules places the Piceance Basin in a most precarious position, when in a hyper-competitive energy sector, each basin must compete intensely for capital investment,” said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association,  in the letter.

A state hearing on Antero’s spacing requests is scheduled for Feb. 22.

But the company plans to ask the oil and gas commission to postpone it until April 4 to allow continued negotiations with area residents that might lead the county to drop its intervention.

On Monday, Garfield County commissioners agreed not to oppose a delay in the hearing, after Silt Mesa resident Fiona Lloyd said negotiations are going well and more time would be helpful.

In his letter, Ludlam said the county has made use of conjecture and inflammatory language, including by citing three local deaths that some blame on health impacts from drilling.

He said the implication that gas companies are responsible for those deaths is “a very serious allegation not substantiated by fact and or evidence.”

Ludlam also took issue with several specific concerns the county raised about the adequacy of air and water quality protections and other state rules.

Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said commissioners will be considering Ludlam’s concerns and other aspects of its intervention with the state Feb. 7, in the context of the changed county commission makeup.

New Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who ousted incumbent Tresi Houpt after promising to be more supportive of the energy industry, said he won’t ask commissioners to drop their intervention.

Leslie Robinson of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance said the concerns the county raised in its filing with the state are factual.

“I hope the county doesn’t back away from their strong case,” she said.


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