by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG— Most parties were less than satisfied with a series of votes on Tuesday, June 28 by the Huerfano County Planning Commission placing recommended conditions on a conditional use permit application filed by Shell Oil (SWEPI). Around 125 people attended the meeting. Road and Bridge did get most of their conditions placed into the conditional use permit.
On a 4-0 vote, the P and Z commission is asking that Shell draw from the local labor pool, giving the county a guarantee of some level of local employment. Shell officials either couldn’t or wouldn’t respond to this condition.
A 3-1 vote by the commission, asks that Shell help establish some type of community-company dialogue. Another vote of 3-1 asks that the company conduct baseline water testing of local and town water sources within a two-mile radius of the well site and test at least once a month during operations of the Klikus 2-19 well.
A 4-0 vote asks that Shell do certain types of roadwork: upgrade a bridge over Middle Creek and a bridge over a cattle crossing, replace a culvert, and enact dust mitigation. When company operations are at an end, the improvements are to become property of Huerfano County.
Dissent has been growing in Huerfano County over the past two months. It is aimed at a system perceived as tilted towards an industry that cares more for profits then the people and environments in which it works. Members of the Citizens for Huerfano County (CHC) have charged the Huerfano County Commission and the county’s administrator with violating open meeting laws by holding closed door and unscheduled meetings with representatives of Shell Oil during the run up to approving a conditional use permit (CUP).
They allege the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) representative in Huerfano County failed to notify the public about the COGCC pre-permit review according to COGCC rule 305. Also they state that after the approval of the COGCC permit allowing Shell Oil to drill for natural gas, the county failed to correctly file the requested appeal on behalf of concerned citizens.
CHC also alleges that Shell Oil failed to file required public, on-site and adjacent landowner notices. The group states further that a moratorium is necessary until a recently mandated governmental study by the EPA looking at the potential impacts of hydraulic-fracturing on local drinking water supplies is completed. An independent review of COGCC “fracking” rules, which is still in review, should also be completed before Shell is given the go ahead.
The Planning Commission took nearly three hours of comments from the audience. The comments also included seven conditions drafted by the CHC and handed over to the Planning Commission before the meeting.
They group suggests the following safeguards. First, a bond should be posted to cover remediation plus costs of any health problems that occur as a result of Shell Oil’s operations in the area which should be in place before Shell Oil begins operations at the Klikus 2-19 site. Second, a 3-D seismic survey of the proposed well bore should be completed prior to starting work to establish vertical and horizontal fractures and stress fields.
CHC also requested full disclosure of drilling chemicals and fracking chemicals in advance of drilling with all data to be released to the Citizens for Huerfano County