A ‘fine’ resolution to premature work

Delta Petroleum, the company that earlier this year jumped the gun on construction of a compressor station near Vega Reservoir, is expected to pay $47,200 in fines for its premature work.

What’s more, that money will go to the town of Collbran, whose finances are already strained trying to meet the impacts of energy development in the area.

One can argue whether the fine is steep enough for the inappropriate activity involved — beginning construction of the compressor station before Mesa County had approved a conditional use permit for the work. But we think it is a reasonable solution to a controversial incident.

First, according to county officials, Delta Petroleum has voluntarily agreed to pay the fine. That avoids the cost and time that would be involved if Mesa County were forced to go to court to impose fines or other sanctions against the company.

Additionally, the agreement provides needed funding to one of the small communities in this county that is enduring some of the greatest impacts from the energy industry. The county, on the other hand, has many more resources available and does not need the fine money as much.

Delta’s premature work on its compressor station became a political issue this summer because County Commissioner Craig Meis’ company has performed work for Delta. Meis’ challenger in his re-election bid, Dan Robinson, has said Meis should have recused himself when he voted on the conditional use permit for Delta.

Voters can decide for themselves whether Meis’ vote was egregious or not. But, as we noted earlier, Meis was upfront about his relationship with Delta, and he voted only after checking with the county attorney to make sure his voting was legally appropriate.

Other people, including members of the Mesa County Planning Commission, argued the conditional use permit for Delta’s compressor station should have been denied because the company started construction too soon. But we think the county commissioners were right. That permit had to be considered based solely on whether it met the requirements in the county development regulations.

However, we also argued when this situation first came to light that Delta Petroleum should not go unpunished for a clear violation of the county’s development rules — that it deserved to be fined for ignoring those rules, just as any average citizen would face fines for starting construction on a new home without first obtaining the required building permits.

That’s exactly what’s going to happen under the agreement announced last week.


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