Nothing creates controversy like oil and gas exploration. Capitalists vs environmentalists, Left vs Right — label it as you wish, but it’s emotional, no doubt.
Spending the last three years in Alaska, I covered the controversial Alaska liquid natural gas pipeline that former Gov. Bill Walker believed the state could sell the product of to various Asian markets. New Governor Mike Dunleavy has all but ended the pipe dream. Whether it ever comes to fruition is yet to be seen.
Now in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis and the Democratic lead legislature fast-tracked new oil and gas regulations via Senate Bill 181. The goal is to set tighter regulations but more importantly give more control to local government.
It’s that local control in which Delta County is grappling with as pressure continues to come from various groups in the North Fork area. But it’s time to move forward. What that looks like will be decided at the next Delta County Commissioners meeting Sept. 17.
Everyone agrees that the current Delta County regulations are convoluted and even confusing. Before the new regulations can be put into place, that are in line with SB181, the county commissioners have to decide to either place a moratorium on new permits or repeal the current regs and create new ones. That process for the latter could take an estimated 18-24 months. Allowing the permitting process to be subject to state regulations.
Delta County has two active natural gas pads: Gunnison Energy owns one; and SG Interests owns the other. Gunnison Energy also has a permit in process to add two wellbores. This permit is unaffected by either decision the commissioners make.
Unlike the statement made by Commissioner Mike Lane that a final decision has not been made, it doesn’t take a clairvoyant to see which direction the commissioners will go. Staff is now tasked with preparing a resolution that would repeal the current regulations so they can prepare to craft new regulations for the county. Again, a vote on this resolution is set for the Sept. 17 meeting.
Now comes the real work.
Delta County has next to nothing to lose by writing regulations that are grounded in quality of life for the North Fork area and the rest of Delta County.
According to drilling
edge.com, production of natural gas in Delta County has dropped from 909,459 MCF in 2016 to 202,457 so far in 2019. That’s a gnat on an elephant in the world of natural gas production.
The commissioners should direct Elyse Casselberry and staff to ratchet up the regulations that are now in control of the county. Expand on whatever the state lands on for its regs. After all, that is the spirit of SB181. Don’t settle for the state being our steward when it comes to subsurface production and its impacts. No one will be a better watchdog than our own people.
Lane’s comments at the Sept. 3 commissioner’s meeting addressing those who spoke publicly for a moratorium lends me to think that he thinks what’s good enough for the production grounds of Texas and North Dakota or wherever he spent his nine years in the oil and gas industry is good enough for Delta County.
But this isn’t those places. In Texas and North Dakota oil companies can go from planning to permitting to production in a matter of months. The residents of North Fork and Delta County deserve well thought out regulations that equates to the quality of life that re-enforces why we all live in Delta County. And where these pads are located is one of, if not the most beautiful areas of our county. This isn’t the Bakken or Midland.
In Lane’s closing statement he mentioned heavier road traffic if more organic vegetables were produced in the North Fork valley.
Sure, what if organic vegetables becomes a boon industry in the North Fork valley. I’m sure that county leadership will expect a partnership with the agricultural industry to build a safer, low impact on the environment land management plan for the increased traffic that would come.
Yes, there needs to be compromise between extremely stringent regulations putting a closed for business sign on Delta County for oil and gas extraction and rules that would still be viable for the industry to work.
We don’t need dialogue from county leadership on how the world works when it comes to how extraction of subsurface minerals makes the world go-round in the modern era.
“We talk about a standard of living, nobody in this room would be here unless oil and gas were present. You can drive your electric vehicle but it still takes petrol chemicals to make those electric vehicles and batteries. Solar panels, a lot of petrol chemicals used in there. When you do that ... that’s helium right there it’s used in our computers,” Lane explained to the audience.
What we need and are looking for, is leadership that demonstrates that the people of Delta County as a whole will come before outside multi-million dollar companies which will cap the wells and move to the next great geological find to add to their production portfolio. I’m all for capitalism and a successful partnership with these companies, but I’m rooting for those downstream of the production area that the new regulations will bring what we all desire, a quality of life in Delta County for generations to come.
Dennis Anderson is group publisher for Wick Communications, Alaska and Colorado. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.