The recent announcement by BLM to auction some 30,000 acres of public and private mineral rights for the exploration and development of oil and gas ignited a tsunami of community activists to wager a campaign to achieve nothing less than the 100 percent removal of the proposed 30,000 acres from the August 2012 BLM sale. Leading this formidable and commendable campaign are Citizens for a Healthy Community (CHC) and NFRIA/WESERC.
Their strategy, call it Plan A, simply stated, is to mobilize all the like-minded, well meaning, "anti-occupy," outraged citizens of Delta County to keep this industry, at best, from expanding inside Delta County, or, at worse, contained and delayed for a few years.
And, as typical of all community issues, it is an oversight to not recognize that many Delta County residents do not share this outrage, do not align with the "anti-Occupy" movement, do not fear the oil and gas conglomerate in their back yards, and, not surprising, invite this industry for the jobs and revenues they may provide in the valley. This potential silent majority are content to let the cards play out without vocal, organized and representative opposition.
Yet, even with this dichotomy of perspectives there appears to be at least one common denominator transgressing every position — water and protecting our water from anything that hinders its current and future use. And with this common denominator comes a recurring dilemma. Namely, which citizens will our elected officials hear during this debate? And, more important, what strategy can be employed that protects our "precious" water quality and simultaneously represents our community as a whole?
Plan A is one such approach to this issue. Another approach, call it Plan B, should be considered to run in tandem with Plan A. Specifically, Plan B should allocate time and resources to construct a set of rules and regulations permitting the oil and gas industry to operate in our back yards under conditions the community at large support.
These rules and regulations should address many concerns, such as:
• Restrict the number of well permits issued every year;
• Limit the number of wells per given parcel;
• Require post drilling holding periods to further test ground and water contamination;
• Regulate the use of certain hydraulic fracking fluids; more specifically ban the use of certain chemical fracking fluids and approve the use of other non-toxic fracking fluids;
• Address potential air pollution issues;
• Address light pollution;
• Include provisions for visual pollution;
• Restrict flaring techniques;
• Limit hours of operation for vehicle ingress and egress;
• Require monetary bonding for potential errors and omissions associated with this industry;
• Incorporate set-back standards from known drinking and irrigation water sources, established residential areas, schools, businesses, etc.;
• Maintain grazing rights, recreation rights and access over public lands;
• Require minimum well depths below known aquifers, faults, etc.;
• Address traffic issues impacting surrounding neighborhoods, farms and ranches;
• Regulate waste products produced in the process of drilling;
• And many more issues our community at large supports.
Whether you sit on the bench of the Plan A proponents or believe Plan B warrants consideration, or believe neither option is worthy of anyone's time and energy, water quality is of primary importance, remains the common denominator and cannot go ignored. By allocating time and energy to Plan B, in conjunction with Plan A, there is no reason this community cannot have a broadly supported, legally defensible set of rules and regulations nominated and approved by the Delta County Commissioners permitting the oil and gas industry to operate, offer jobs to our citizens, produce royalties for the operation of Delta County and, most important, protect our "precious" water quality, before one drill bit enters the land, before one Delta County acre is auctioned by the BLM, before one once of hydraulic fracking fluid is poured down a hole.
Clearly, a great deal remains to be accomplished in this campaign. And, as one of many farmers whose entire life blood is the water used to raise food for people and animals, I am not content to sit on the sidelines and merely spectate while this issue unfolds in a manner that can be more inclusive. It is my hope the leaders waging this battle define achievable objectives and winnable goals that are supported by the community at large.
Tom Kay (TK)
North Fork Organics
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