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Shell makes pitch

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- A County, City, Town (CCT) meeting with Shell Energy at the Huerfano Community Center on Wednesday, June 1 drew a crowd from across the county as well as from Las Animas County.
The item on the CCT agenda concerned the request by Shell Energy to lease five acre feet of water from the city of Walsenburg during the May 17 council meeting. The CCT meeting was for informational purposes to allow each governmental entity to acquire the same data.
Nevertheless the meeting drew a large crowd estimated to be around 85 from across the county, including a contingent of protesters from La Veta and Gardner. Others had driven in from Las Animas County.
Huerfano County Commission Chair Scott King, who chaired the meeting, began by stating that the meeting was for informational purposes only and that no public comments or questions would be taken.
Several individuals attempted to ask questions or make a comment such as Johanna Major, one of the siblings raised on Majors Ranch, who attempted to discuss leases on mineral rights and was shut down by King during a back and forth argument concerning whether or not she had called county offices.
The discussion between Major and King finally ended when retired Sheriff’s Deputy Hank Martin, acting as security, explained to the crowd that the county had called the meeting and it was illegal to interfere with a government operation in the state of Colorado.
About two minutes into Shell’s presentation, Dale Lyons from Gardner approached the front of the room and held up a sign that read “No sale to Shell,” in reference to the lease of water by the city of Walsenburg to Shell Energy. King told her to get out of the meeting. Lyons said, “It’s my constitutional right.” King replied, “Well, sue us then.”
Martin again interdicted and approached Lyons who lowered the sign and stepped away from Martin. Lyons said she would sit down. Martin didn’t touch Lyons who took a chair.
Carolyn Tucker, the community relations representative with Shell Energy, was able to make the power point presentation over the next 30 minutes of the meeting and then took questions from Walsenburg city council members and La Veta town board trustees.
Erin Jerant, a Walsenburg city council member, asked about spills and containment of hydro-fracturing fluids and was informed that the fluids were to move though a closed system. They would end up in a containment tank where the solids would be separated from liquids and then be collected and trucked to a disposal well. Jerant was less then satisfied with the answers given but said that she had to accept the answers, “Because a lot of this is proprietary information and you won’t tell us.”
“Proprietary information is competitive information and is expensive to acquire and analyze. It is something our competitors would like to have,” Tucker answered back.
Walsenburg city mayor Bruce Quintana asked about sampling and sharing of the samples so that each entity had access to baseline information. Shell indicated they did not do that.
The issue of natural resource extraction is being framed as an economic question. Some see it as a boon to the county. To those who oppose it, it is seen as detracting from the natural beauty and clean environment, which they regard as drivers of the area’s economy.