Crestone Eagle, August 2008:
Saguache County passes comprehensive
new oil & gas regs—including Landowners’ Bill of Rights
by Lisa Cyriacks
Saguache County Board of County Commissioners
approved the final draft of the Saguache County oil and gas
regulations on July 8. The final regulations were the result
of many months of combined work by the Saguache County and
Crestone/Baca planning commissions, citizens’ action
groups, concerned individuals and the county commissioners.
The regulations are formulated to be protective of water resources,
the natural environment, public health and safety, and to
maintain property values.
The regulations, as written, used a hybrid of performance
and prescriptive regulations. Performance based regulations
place the burden on how to fulfill the requirement on the
applicant. Throughout the process, the challenge was to consider
the diversity of geographic attributes and resources found
within the County. Overall the regulations take a site-specific
approach to defining operational parameters for the industry.
Key elements represent more stringent measures to regulating
the oil and gas industry than state requirements—especially
related to protecting surface water and groundwater resources
and ensuring financial responsibility for damage and in the
event of accidents falls on the industry rather than county
residents. The county is relying on state statutes that allow
counties to impose higher or greater requirements than provided
for under any other statute for its ability to enforce these
A Landowner Bill of Rights, appended to the regulations,
identifies impacts landowners may want to consider when negotiating
a land use agreement including financial compensation for
damages or inconvenience that may occur during exploration
or production. The Landowner Bill of Rights includes a negotiated
agreement that is included in the application process. This
agreement recognizes that oil and gas activities can alter
a piece of property and its use in the future and provides
an opportunity to the landowner to make decisions regarding
impacts of oil and gas exploration on his property.
Another unique tool authorized in these regulations is the
potential use of an independent monitoring team to ensure
compliance with the performance measures outlined. The creation
of this regulation stemmed from concerns raised by citizens
concerned about the inadequacy or lack of oversight provided
by the State of Colorado. This team may be composed of individuals
with specific expertise such as biology, archeology, soil
conservation, hazardous materials and storm-water management,
as some examples. The regulations also provide the opportunity
for each monitoring team to include a community representative.
The composition of each independent monitoring team will be
established on a site-specific basis.
Copies of the completed regulations are available on the
Saguache County website at: www.saguachecounty.net or from
the Land Use office 719-655-2321.
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