by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- A condition placed on the conditional use permit (CUP) governing Shell Western Exploration and Production (SWEPI) surface use at the Klikus 2-19 well site began gaining traction during the regular Huerfano County Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, July 12.
The condition placed on the CUP calls for Shell to establish a communications committee that will facilitate the exchange of information and answer questions that will arise as SWEPI continues to work in Huerfano County. The county commissioners approved the conditional use permit during the June 29 county commission meeting.
Shell’s proposal calls for a core group of three to four county residents who will be selected by the Planning Commissioners to work with an outside facilitator from the Keystone Center to recruit additional members up to a total of 12 for the committee.
The Keystone Center is a non-profit organization hired by Shell which looks at environmental, energy, and public health problems. Keystone is headquartered in Keystone, Colorado with offices in Denver.
The Citizens for Huerfano County (CHC) representatives who were present at the Planning Commission meeting July 12 voiced a concern that both Shell and the county were moving too fast on forming the committee. They reminded the Planning Commission that SWEPI’s drilling permit had been suspended on procedural grounds by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). Those procedural grounds involve the failure of the local government designee (LGD) to notify the citizens of Huerfano County of a 20-day comment period on the drilling permit filed by Shell with the COGCC. The LGD for the COGCC is county administrator John Galusha.
CHC spokesperson Anne Wilkinson made the following remarks. “That process allows us as citizens to have some comment, and the COGCC will have to reply to our comments. Those may have a significant bearing on the discussion that goes forward. And we certainly want to have a discussion with Shell. But I think it’s [forming the consulting committee] a little bit premature because we’re not sure how the COGCC is going to handle the public hearing we’re requesting and what the outcome of that public hearing will be.”
Max Vezzani responded to Wilkinson, asking if it would make sense to move forward on formulating the membership of the (consulting) committee. “It would seem to me that if we could get some of our citizens together … we could be at least 30 days into the process … if that seems to be the right road to take. But it seems to me we could form the group and get ready. That way if their [Shell’s] permit moves forward, then at least we’ve taken that step, we’re 30 days into it. I don’t see where that would conflict with any public hearing the COGCC would hold.”
Commissioner Myrna Falk made the motion to form the Community Consultation group with a second by Larry Mapes. The motion passed 4-0.
The Planning Commission will now start accepting letters of interest from county residents. From the initial letters, the commission hopes to select the three to four people who will comprise the core of the consultation group.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward