Energy rules need teeth, county told

Master plan process subject of De Beque meeting

De BEQUE — Regulation of energy development is only as good as its enforcement, residents of the De Beque area have told Mesa County officials working on an energy master plan.

Eight area residents attended a meeting the county held in De Beque this week about its planning effort. The meeting is one of several that have been held around the county.

One of the goals of the plan is to identify gaps that need to be filled in regulations. But residents said enforcement of county rules in general already is a problem in the De Beque area, near the county’s eastern border.

“The east end of the county is historically not as well and closely regulated as the western half of the county,” said Meg Latham.

De Beque Mayor Dale Rickstrew said there’s a lesson to be learned from the recent release of millions of cubic yards of ash from a holding pond at a Tennessee coal plant.

“How can this happen to this magnitude? Because there wasn’t inspection or enforcement,” Rickstrew said.

Mesa County planning director Kurt Larsen told De Beque residents there’s no doubt enforcement is a big issue related to energy development, with a lack of inspectors at many regulatory levels.

“So a lot of it is complaint-driven,” he said of enforcement.

The De Beque area is seeing heavy natural gas development, and Rickstrew said he wants to make sure his grandchildren can drink water as clean as what he drinks now. But he wondered how much it would cost to ensure energy companies keep water clean, and what that would mean for the energy consumer.

“If you regulate them too much, then what’s it going to cost you to heat your house?” he asked.

Daniel Padilla, regulatory coordinator for Oxy USA WTP LP, which is drilling in the De Beque area, said it would help if the county got rid of obsolete rules applying to the industry.

“I guess I’d like to see a leaner, cleaner, sensible plan that we could all use, whether it’s Joe Citizen or X company,” he said.

Latham said it’s important for the county’s planning effort to continue despite the fact energy development in the region is starting to slow down.

Keith Fife, of the county’s planning department, said sometimes the best time to plan for future development is during such a slowdown.


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