by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- About 30 people attended a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on June 14 concerning a conditional use permit (CUP) for Shell Energy. The commission set a hearing date to allow public comment before recommending action on the CUP for Shell Energy’s natural gas test well. The well will be located a few miles west of La Veta and has generated controversy since May 3 when Shell Energy approached the city of Walsenburg requesting to lease five acre feet of water for operations.
Residents in La Veta have been seeking a time to allow public comment on the process of permitting the natural gas test well. The Planning Commission had initially proposed a hearing date in July, but at the commissioners meeting, it was scheduled for Tuesday, June 28, at 1:30 pm at the Huerfano County Community Center.
Shell Energy’s test well will be located in an area where there is natural gas drilling activity by Manzano. Shell officials twice have questioned the necessity of a public comment meeting as a part of the process for their CUP when Manzano never underwent public comment during their permitting process.
In an email, Shell Energy’s Community Relations Representative Carolyn Tucker asked, “… why didn’t anyone make a sound when the well was drilled outside of La Veta last winter?” And after the Planning Commission meeting Tuesday, Shell Energy’s Land Representative, Michelle Phillips brought up the same point.
Representing Shell Energy as spokesperson during the planning meeting was Shell’s Senior Regulatory Advisor Michael Bergstrom. He walked through the CUP application with the planning commission.
“This is a natural gas exploration well we’ve designated as Klikus 2-19,” Bergstrom said. He then brought to the attention of the commission the three documents filed in April with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). One document is a permit to drill, the second addresses location issues such as surface issues and roads, and the third form looks at the construction of a single lined pit to be installed on the drilling pad.
The pit will be lined with a 30 millimeter liner and will receive produced water and fluids from Shell’s drilling operations and waste production.
Also included in the application packet is a COGCC form dealing with the disposal of produced water. The fluids will be transported off site to a commercial facility where they will be stored. Bergstrom said those plans aren’t final yet.
“All of the waste solids that are generated also will be contained. We have a closed loop drilling system so when the well is being drilled, all of the fluids will go through shakers and sieves. The mud gets recirculated and goes back down the hole. The solids will go into roll off trailers and those are disposed of at a properly licensed landfill.” Bergstrom said. Shell will use diesel powered generators to produce all of their power onsite.
In other business the Planning Commission voted to recommend approval that property west of the Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center be rezoned and given a subdivision exemption.
The Chae Organics cosmetic manufacturing company facility will be built on the 10.25 acre site. The county must rezone the area from agricultural to industrial to allow the less then 35-acre tract to be utilized.
Frank Maggio with Chae says the new facility was courted by the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation (PEDCO). “PEDCO was courting us really hard but we knew we wanted to stay in Huerfano County.” The business will employ around 100 workers and will be a green enterprise, relying on solar energy to supply some of its energy needs. “We are seeking grants right now that will fund the building of renewable energy sources for the company,” Maggio said.