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County approves Shell permit

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- Huerfano County Commissioners voted 3-0 to approve the conditional use permit for Shell Oil’s exploratory well to be two miles west of La Veta.
Some conditions recommended by the Planning Commission were either altered or dropped. Conditions for permit 11-023 include road and bridge work, dust mitigation, weed control, cattle protection and culvert work. Funding for the work will be paid for by the county with Shell reimbursing.
A change was made to the condition addressing baseline surface water testing. The Planning Commission had recommended a shared baseline sample with tests to be conducted on surface water within a two mile radius of the well site. But the county commissioners changed it to allow for tests of surface water prior to well production, with a test one year and then three years later.
Commissioner Cain said it’s what the state requires and the county can’t go beyond that. Shell will use a third party consultant who will provide all testing data.
A condition requiring Shell to hire locallyl was also approved, even though Shell indicated that it can only use businesses vetted by Shell and couldn’t guarantee use of local labor.
A condition requiring a communication board that would interface Shell with local communities was given back to the Planning Commission to be “fleshed out.” The board would exist in order to answer any community concerns about Shell operations. The county is calling for public input during the July 12 planning commission meeting. Shell communications officer, Carolyn Tucker will be present at the meeting.
Community concerns about hydraulic fracturing and how the county’s special geology of vertical line fractures will play into any possible contamination of local and town water sources still remains unaddressed. Activity at the well site is several months away.