Hayden Discussions about energy exploration in Northwest Colorado continue to fill large rooms in Routt County.
Speaking in front of more than 200 people in the Hayden Secondary Schools auditorium Wednesday night, Steamboat Energy Consultants President John Lamb briefly discussed the mechanics of hydraulic fracturing and what happens after sand, water and chemicals are injected deep into the earth.
Environmental scientist Bill Stearns told the same audience that a phonebook is not a good place to find a qualified baseline water testing consultant.
And Michael Warren, the energy liaison for Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife’s Northwest Region, outlined the ways in which energy companies are reducing their impact on Western Slope wildlife.
The three speakers were among six who spoke during the second Northwest Colorado Oil & Gas Symposium, hosted by Yampa Valley Data Partners and the Community Agriculture Alliance. Despite their knowledge and familiarity with oil and gas issues, none of the speakers was able to answer the question many in the audience had: Is there going to be a major play for oil in Routt County?
“I get asked that all the time,” Routt County Planning Department Director Chad Phillips said as he addressed the crowd. “I don’t know. I do know that we need to prepare for it just in case we do have one.”
Phillips said the Planning Department has been busy since November considering drilling applications and updating the county’s conditions of approval for oil permits.
He talked about how local governments and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the energy industry, interact as they oversee drilling operations. He said one of the Planning Department’s ultimate responsibilities is to maintain Routt County’s rural and Western character.
During a Q-and-A session at the end of the symposium, Phillips was asked what a baseline water testing program in Routt County would look like and who would pay for it.
“I’m just guessing that if a program like that was put in place, we don’t have the budget for it, so presently (the cost) would be put on the applicants,” he responded. “The (baseline water testing program) is something we will look into, but we haven’t gotten there yet.”
Organizers of the symposium said Wednesday’s speeches were intended to continue educating the public about energy exploration and its potential impact on Northwest Colorado municipalities. Moderator Greg Dixson said he would like the community to ask more questions and continue thinking about the issue.
“The fear (of oil and gas) and being nervous about it is going to subside” as we get more answers, he said.
Wednesday’s forum was attended by government officials from Routt and Moffat counties, oil and gas operators and interested residents. As he left the high school, Sam Haslem said he was encouraged by the ongoing dialogue surrounding energy exploration in Northwest Colorado.
“We’ve been wrestling with a lot of oil and gas issues for years,” said Haslem, a longtime Hayden resident. “People came here tonight to learn, and they are concerned. I enjoyed listening to what everyone had to say.”
Steamboat resident Dan Bell, who serves on the Community Agriculture Alliance’s board of directors, said he appreciated the diversity of the symposium’s panel.
“I think we need to get ahead of the game and get as much information as we can while we still have a chance to think about it,” he said. “Answering a few questions leads to more questions, but it’s all part of the process.”
Other members of the audience included landowners from Hayden and Craig who are eager to have drilling commence on their properties.
“We’re looking forward to the drilling,” said Craig resident Betty Cozzens, who is expecting Quicksilver Resources to drill on land she owns near Hayden. “We’re kind of new to this process. We wanted to hear a little more about what we can expect.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com