Antero pulls application – for now

November 2, 2011

Garfield County, gas wells, Silt

Read Antero’s CDP
. This 11-page pdf includes a map of the 8,500 acres to be developed south of Silt.

At the Silt P&Z meeting on November 1, Town Administrator Pamela Woods said that Antero pulled their application from the COGCC website. Woods and Community Development Director Janet Aluise explained that Antero said the application will be reviewed and re-submitted at a later date. Woods left it up to the P&Z commissioners whether they wanted to take it off the agenda. Fiona Lloyd, Sandy Pickard, Tod Tibbetts and I let them know we were there to comment about the Antero application. Aluise suggested if the commissioners wanted to discuss it they move it to the beginning of the meeting.

Chairman Mark Rinehart opened up the discussion by allowing me to speak. I said I thought it was appropriate at this time, even though the application had been pulled to urge the P&Z, as well as the town board and the staff to hold a series of public meetings to ensure everyone is involved in the process as the town addresses increased gas well drilling so close to our community. “The process thus far concerns me. The prospect of increased drilling activity so close to town is disturbing,” I said.

Fiona Lloyd spoke next with a “public rebuke to Mayor Moore” (Moore was present in the audience but did not speak) for his handling of the letter about the application, as described in this recent article in The Paper.

Antero plans increased drilling activity south of Silt
Company seeks approval for up to 850 new wells

Director Aluise posted on the overhead projector and read from the letter she sent to Antero on behalf of the town on October 24. In the letter, along with the town’s concerns about air and water quality, and truck traffic, etc., she stated that the town is applying for a DoLA grant to drill two new water wells north of the Colorado River. The town is asking Antero for matching funds.

From then on the commissioners commented with their concerns about air quality, water quality, and quality of life in general. Commissioner Shivley expressed concerns about Silt’s watershed – the Colorado River – and the close proximity of increased drilling to that. “It’s good that the town is moving forward with new water wells, but what if those become contaminated from this new drilling?” he asked. Shivley added that if the gas companies were required to use chemical markers we would be able to trace contamination, should it occur.

Commissioner Bobby Hays mentioned there have been gas wells on Stillwater land with no problems or complaints.

Tod Tibbetts asked to speak. He reminded the commissioners that Silt has a set of ordinances related to oil and gas development (Silt Municipal Code: Chapter 17.75). At the time the gas wells were drilled at Stillwater it was still annexed into the town (Stillwater was de-annexed in 2008), therefore Antero was required to put in a closed system to mitigate impacts.

Even though the 8,500 acres to be developed are not in the town of Silt, and therefore not subject to the ordinances, Tibbetts recommended that the commissioners review the oil & gas ordinances and use them as guidelines as they move forward in the application process. He said the town can start taking actions now beginning with public hearings. In addition, he said the town should move forward with annexation of the Silt Nature Preserve as quickly as possible. Antero owns the mineral rights and if they decide to drill on the land the town will have more leverage. Director Aluise said the annexation is in the works. She reported back on Wednesday (11/2) that she is waiting for the annexation map and hopes to begin the process in a few more weeks.

Tibbetts urged the town to establish baseline air quality monitoring as soon as possible. A discussion followed where Commissioners Hays and Meredith Robinson said they thought the county was monitoring air quality in Silt. Tibbetts, Lloyd, Pickard, and I assured them Garfield County does not monitor air quality in Silt. Director Aluise said she will talk to Jim Rada (GarCo’s environmental health director) about air quality monitoring in Silt.

Fiona Lloyd provided additional comments in the way of warning the commissioners that the Silt Mesa residents’ experiences with Antero have shown that they prefer to control the message during the public hearing process and they can shut it down very quickly as they did in March this year. She recommended they consider getting the COGCC involved in public hearings. “However,” she said. “You should know that the COGCC does not take into consideration cumulative impacts of gas drilling. They look at the impacts of one well at a time.” She added that with over 700 new wells proposed over the next few years the town must consider the cumulative impacts.

The majority of commissioners and the town staff were receptive to our concerns and suggestions. I’m convinced they understand the importance of public hearings.

I am pleased with the progress the four of us made on Tuesday night. With our presence at the P&Z meeting we started the conversation. I believe part of the reason Antero pulled their application this week was because of the publicity. They prefer to keep the application process under the radar, with as little public comment as possible. We know this about them. That’s why we showed up at the meeting – to start the discussion, with or without them. In this case, without them. Antero did not send a rep to the meeting, evidently because they had pulled the application.

Let the public comments begin. Feel free to contact the town of Silt, send a letter to the editor. Make your feelings known about the proposed increased drilling activity so close to Silt and the Colorado River (see the map in the pdf link).

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