Residents hear about oil, gas boom

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More than 30 concerned residents gathered Monday night in Meeker to learn more about the projected oil and gas boom in Rio Blanco County.

Participants heard information presented by county planner Mike Neumann, county planner and Bureau of Land Management field manager Ken Walters, as well as several members from the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance.

Neumann presented his top 10 list, in David Letterman style, to let the public know what county officials are doing to address the issues that come with the kind of growth associated with oil and gas production.

"The first thing or No. 10 on this list is the county hired someone full time in the Planning Department with 20 years' experience in energy development and environmental engineering, including oil and gas operations," Neumann said.

No. 9 on Neumann's list was to plan to hire a Geographic Imaging Systems coordinator to continue mapping work and enhance compliance tracking ability.

"We also started meeting with all affected department heads on a regular basis to discuss problems, possible solutions, and plan ahead," he said. "Communication is our best asset."

He said county officials are meeting with a consortium of 12 oil and gas counties to exchange information and compare notes.

"The first meeting was two-weeks ago in Glenwood Springs," he said. "I was impressed by the interaction and feel good about what the group may be able to accomplish."

Other items on the list include coordinating and cooperating with the Bureau of Land Management, working with town boards and mayors and requiring registration of all contractors.

"We want to discourage any and all fly-by-nighters," he said.

No. 1 on Neumann's list was proposed changes to the Special Use Permit rules and regulations.

Walters said his office has oversight on 2,172 active wells.

"Most of the land in the Piceance Basin is public lands," he said.

Walters spoke about the BLM process and the pipeline that is proposed from the Piceance to Wamsutter, Wyo.

"Once it is completed, the infrastructure will be permanent," he said.

Members of the Grand Valley Citizen Alliance gave a presentation about the goals and objectives of their organization.

Peggy Utesh, of the GVCA, said the group was made up of 225 Garfield County landowners and that she hoped what they had to share with Rio Blanco County would be useful.

"GVCA feels it is important to work hand and hand with industry to protect landowners and the environment," Utesh said.

Utesh said much more of the land is owned privately and some of the mineral rights are separate, as well.

"This leaves surface land owners in a quandary and with few rights," she said.

Ultesh said on a whole, the group was not pleased with how their public officials had done concerning oil and gas development, and she commended the Rio Blanco County commissioners for addressing issues concerning oil and gas development.

"It sounds like your county officials are not sitting back and waiting," Utesh said.

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