GarCo board plays drilling-rules roulette; Houpt weighs run for Curry seat

Colorado oil and gas industry officials continue to fall back on new state drilling regulations to fend off more county or federal scrutiny, even as their trade association challenges the Colorado rules in court. The irony appears lost on the Garfield County commissioners.

Trési Houpt
Trési Houpt

That board Monday, according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, declined to regulate certain types of hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells despite a county planning staff recommendation that the commissioners might want to consider it.

“The significant volume of water and chemicals may result in traffic, air and water quality impacts, as well as impacts to adjacent properties through noise, vibration and odors,” county planner Kathy Eastley wrote in a memo to the county commissioners, the Sentinel reports. Fracturing gas wells involves high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals to free up more gas.

Commissioner Mike Samson reportedly said the county should leave it up to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) – the state board that regulates the industry. County Commissioner Trési Houpt, who also serves on the COGCC, said the industry needs to realize the county wants to weigh in on oil and gas issues as they relate to land use, but then said she was fine deferring to the state on the fracking issue.

Houpt, a Democrat and COGCC appointee of Gov. Bill Ritter, was mentioned later Monday at the annual Garfield County Democratic Party Martin Luther King Memorial Dinner as a possible candidate to run for the state House seat now in flux with former Democrat Kathleen Curry switching her party affiliation to Democrat. Curry said her decision in December was in part based on the contentious two-year debate over the new drilling regs.

Colorado Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent “she is a candidate that we like” when asked about Houpt running for House District 61. Curry will have to run as a write-in candidate.

In other Garfield County energy news, the commissioners may seek an audience before the COGCC if the state agency approves drilling near Prather Springs, where a nearby landowner was sickened by chugging a glass of benzene-laced water from his well.

And drilling in the entire Roan Plateau is something the feds may want to reconsider under tougher new Bureau of Land Management standards announced by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar earlier this month, according to environmentalists suing to block some proposed drilling in the biologically diverse area of the state.

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