It shows real commitment of those interested about potential oil and gas development in the North Fork Valley, to spend an entire Saturday in educational sessions. But a large number of people did just that by attending the Oil and Gas Public Information Meeting sponsored by the Delta County Commissioners.
The meetings started at 9 a.m. and went until 4:30 p.m. and some longer than that. People continued to talk with various experts in the hallways at Paonia Junior and Senior High Schools before, during and after the sessions.
Delta County put together a list of speakers who have many years experience on the regulations, the initial nomination of parcels, the public's roles throughout and what the agencies can and cannot do. In the afternoon break out sessions, citizens had the opportunity to ask questions that have been nagging them and were not settled during the morning presentations.
Olen Lund, chair of the Board of County Commissioners, moderated and introduced each speaker.
Dr. David Noe, senior geologist with the Colorado Geological Survey, began on the very important subject of the geology of the North Fork Valley where oil and gas exploration is being proposed. Dr. Noe has been mapping the geology from Montrose up to Rogers Mesa, and has not completed his work on the rest of the North Fork Valley.
After his presentation, he made clear that just mapping the geology of the area will not answer the question everyone is seeking — How viable is oil and gas production in the valley?
"It's hard to evaluate that," he said. "Just as I showed with the maps this morning, the way to understand the geology is to look at it systematically. You just take that general idea and you go into great depth with it," Dr. Noe said. "The level of detail that we have with the geology mapped out right now doesn't answer those questions at that general level. You have to dig in a little bit and look into the old oil and gas records. It's hard to say. I can't answer that question for you. The proof is really in doing it."
Kristian Lee, BLM land law examiner, Jim Rhett, BLM natural resource specialist, Ryan Taylor, geologist and mineral examiner for the U.S. Forest Service, Susan Hansen, county administrator and Bruce Bertram, Delta County local government designee, gave an overview of the leasing and permitting processes for oil and gas exploration and drilling.
They explained each step of the process from the initial Expression of Interest to nominate parcels for sale, the public comment periods, the 30-day protest period following the sale notice from the BLM field office. Protests are reviewed by the field office and a decision is made to defer or go ahead with the sale. Sale notices are posted for 90 days. Bound booklets about the parcels in the auction are distributed to industry and individuals on the BLM's mailing list, field offices, surface management agencies and county commissioners.
This panel explained how protests of sale parcels are resolved.
In a breakout session with members of the BLM, they explained that the Environmental Assessment (EA) must have "No Finding of Significant Impact" while the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) can state that there will be an impact. That is why the BLM experts say that the EA is best for the leasing process.
Ryan Taylor of the USFS stated that current gas development on the GMUG is approximately 160,000 acres leased. For the Paonia area that amounts to 84,000 acres leased. Currently there are 21 gas wells on forest lands. Sixteen of those are in the Paonia District and five are on the Grand Valley District. There is one compressor station, the Ragged Mountain Compressor. Thirty-five miles of pipeline has been laid for gathering and transmission.
The presentations on regulations of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) was handled by Dave Andrews, west region engineering supervisor, Linda Spry O'Rourke, north west region environmental protection, David Kubeczko, oil and gas local assessment specialist, Bruce Bertram, local government designee and Ken Nordstrom, Delta County Environmental Health Director. Among the topics discussed, was the role of the COGCC in each step of the process from drilling, hydraulic fracturing, water and air quality.
Teresa Pfifer, BLM land and minerals staff supervisor and Eric Sanford of SG Interests addressed land issues. Pfifer explained the various homestead and other acts which govern mineral rights.
Sanford discussed the complexity of surface and mineral rights being owned by different parties. This information can be found at the county assessor.blog comments powered by Disqus