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Saguache County Gears for Drilling

June 26, 2008

By Matt Hildner, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

Jun. 26–SAGUACHE — There are no drilling rigs in Saguache County, but should they ever dot the horizon, county officials are prepared.

The commissioners held their first public hearing on oil and gas regulations Tuesday and will continue to take comments on the draft until July 8, when they’re expected to finalize the rules.

Recent activity, including a proposal to drill on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge and the leasing of oil and gas development rights in the county by the federal government, spurred residents and county officials to devise the regulations.

The county may be forced to tweak its regulations once the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission finalizes its new statewide rules.

Saguache worked from existing regulations for Gunnison, Garfield and La Plata counties — all places where energy companies are on the ground. But Saguache’s regulations go further than those of their counterparts in many regards, said Kathryn Van Note, a county resident who was hired by the commissioners to serve as a consultant. The regulations covering air quality state that future drilling operators shall not cause a reduction in solar radiation that could limit solar energy output. The San Luis Valley has been rated as the best spot in the state for the development of solar energy.

Van Note said one provision calls for drillers to use the most environmentally benign drilling fluids available.

She said that would help protect domestic and agricultural water not only for the valley, but for downstream states on the Rio Grande as well.

“We have a resource which is more essential and more valuable,” she said, comparing natural gas and groundwater.

The county’s regulations will also refer to a landowners’ bill of rights.

That document, introduced by Commissioner Mike Spearman, would inform landowners what rights they have when a company seeks to drill beneath their property.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.

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