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RG County tables oil and gas permit

Posted: Thursday, Jan 17th, 2013

Rio Grande County attorney William Dunn; George Monisson, Rio Grande County’s oil and gas legal consultant; Rio Grande County Chairperson Karla Shriver; Rio Grande County Commissioner Pam Bricker; and Rio Grande County Commissioner Doug Davie discuss the motion to table the First Liberty Energy conditional use permit application on Wednesday afternoon in Del Norte. Courier photo by Lauren Krizansky

Courier staff writer

DEL NORTE — Too much information in too little time is keeping First Liberty Energy’s Rio Grande County oil and gas conditional use permit application on the table until next month.

The Rio Grande County Commissioners unanimously decided take advantage of the 30-day post public hearing grace period to make a decision on the permit application on Wednesday after listening to First Liberty Energy representatives and public comments both for and against the project.

The board is scheduled to deny or grant the permit application Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 2 p.m. in the Rio Grande County Annex in Del Norte after taking appropriate time to review recently submitted material without hearing any additional public comments.

Over the past few weeks, the board and the Rio Grande County Land Use Department have received several documents relevant to the decision, according to Rio Grande County Land Use Administrator Rose Vanderpool. The documents include several First Liberty Energy responses, supplemental information and an updated emergency response plan; comments from the Colorado Department of Transportation; Rio Grande County Road and Bridge documentation; Rio Grande County Landfill documentation; and the 126 page Rio Grande Hydrogeologic Study.

“I understand your eagerness, and the state, I’m sure, understands that one size doesn’t fit all,” said Rio Grande County Commissioner Pam Bricker before the board made its motion to table the decision. “This is a big thing and an issue that takes a great deal of consideration. Eagerness is secondary to the soundness of the San Luis Valley.”

Rio Grande County Commissioner Doug Davie agreed, and expressed concern over the appropriate well casing depth and the aquifer’s uniqueness.

“We don’t have much to say about what goes on down below,” Davie said.

Rio Grande County Chairperson Karla Shriver added, “I’m not opposed to oil and gas drilling. We just have to do it right... I think there could be an economic benefit to the county.”

She also said that although it could be a benefit, it could not negatively affect the Valley’s agriculture, which depends on a quality water resource.

“We don’t want to jeopardize what we already have,” Shriver said. “We want to be very cautious.”

In December, the Rio Grande County Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of First Liberty Energy’s well in Rio Grande County with two conditions: 1) finalize emergency response plans with the local emergency response team; and 2) meet with Rio Grande County Road/Bridge Supervisor Patrick Sullivan to determine how First Liberty Energy will mitigate road impacts.

In addition, the board passed a motion directing George Monisson, the county’s oil and gas legal consultant, to write a letter to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to recognize the Rio Grande Hydrogeologic Study and reconsider First Liberty Energy’s drilling permit approved in October 2012. If COGCC amends the drilling permit, it would be the first, according to First Liberty Energy’s attorney Karen Spaulding.

See a future Valley Courier edition for a full recap of Wednesday’s First Liberty Energy public hearing.

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