The 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 measures.

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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