GarCo cool to more controls on gas drilling

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County commissioners appear to remain unreceptive to some Battlement Mesa residents’ calls for the county to impose greater local control over proposed natural gas development in that community.

Commissioners on Tuesday revisited the subject of what are called 1041 powers, hearing once again from parties including the Battlement Concerned Citizens group. Group members say the powers could let the county better minimize impacts of Antero Resources’ proposal to drill up to 200 wells within the unincorporated community of more than 5,000 people.

However, county legal and planning staff continue to recommend against the idea. And while commissioners took no formal action on it Tuesday, none spoke in favor of it.

House Bill 1041, passed in 1974, lets local governments regulate certain areas and activities involving a state interest. The county attorney’s office and G. Moss Driscoll, an attorney for Battlement Concerned Citizens, disagree on whether 1041’s language allows for the provision to be used to regulate energy development in a decades-old rather than new community. Driscoll contends it’s allowed because Battlement Mesa still is developing.

Driscoll says some of the 1041 powers would include being able to address cumulative impacts of drilling and revoke county permits issued to Antero if gas development has unforeseen consequences.

Antero is proposing to address cumulative impacts voluntarily, through a community development plan to be submitted to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

As it stands, Battlement Mesa’s zoning also will require Antero to go through a county special-use-permit review in order to drill.

Battlement Mesa resident Bob Arrington said the county ideally would extend 1041 powers to a one-mile zone surrounding the community, so they also cover nearby drilling that causes impacts to residents such as increased air contamination.

In a letter to county commissioners, David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association, said for the county to make an “end run” around the state oil and gas commission through the 1041 process would be legally questionable.

County Commissioner John Martin said he generally favors voluntary measures by industry over more rules and regulations. Commissioner Tresi Houpt said the 1041 provision “may not be the tool,” but the county should consider other options for closing gaps in oil and gas regulation.

Tom Jankovsky, who defeated Houpt in November’s election and takes office in January, said in an interview he considers the 1041 approach to be unnecessary overregulation.


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