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Commissioners approve drilling permits for Shell

by Larry Patrick
WALSENBURG — It was standing room only at the Huerfano County Commissioners meeting Wednesday as decisions were made on whether to approve conditional use drilling permits for four wells near Gardner.
Phillippe Heer and Michael Bergstrom of Shell Energy outlined their filing with the county and State of Colorado for four permits as fall back options in case there are site issues with the first site. Heer said if Shell has success with the first well drilled, they want to be able to proceed without a lot of delays.
Shell expects to decide and make public next month which of the proposed they will attempt first. Shell Energy expects to start site construction in mid-August, set up a rig component in October and begin drilling in November.
The first well will be drilled vertically to 8,000 feet to explore the hole to pinpoint the location of oil. Once they determine the correct depth needed, they will drill laterally for 4,000 feet. Casings will be used to prevent leakage, and no fracking is planned. Drilling will be done for 40 days. Water consumption use will be low compared to what is used with fracking.
Shell has been approved for twelve permits with the Colorado Oil Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). Shell has applied for a substitute water supply plan to use water from the Thorn Ranch which Shell purchased earlier this year. County road access permits are also in the works.
Discussion centered on the eleven recommendations made by the Huerfano County Planning and Zoning Committee dealing with the drilling issues. Shell had no problems with five of the proposals. The commissioners threw one out because it is already included in the county’s land use guide.
Other concerns were discussed and both sides came to agreements on minor restructuring of the recommendations. A few boos were heard from the audience when the commissioners said they don’t have the authority to prevent fracking. That is controlled by the COGCC.
The commissioners approved the four drilling permits and the amended recommendations from the P&Z committee. The crowd quickly dispersed and the commissioners meeting continued with other items on the agenda.
Huerfano County Administrator John Galusha asked the Commissioners for approval to apply for a Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant for improvements at Fiesta Park. He wants to get better lighting, do painting, put in a T-ball field, a dog park and other amenities. He is interested in moving the playground equipment from Washington School to the park but needs to discuss that with school officials for their approval. The commissioners gave the go ahead for Galusha to proceed with the grant application.
Several other routine items were handled and the commissioners then went into executive session to discuss a personnel matter.