Gas pad image by Kirby Wynn

Increased local drilling activity expected

Three drilling rigs are active in the area and two more are planned in 2023

June 8, 2023

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – An increase in oil and gas activity is expected later this year in and around Garfield County. Garfield County Oil and Gas Liaison Kirby Wynn told the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) that increased permitting activity and subsequent drilling is expected by oil and gas operators in the county this year, adding that there are three rigs currently drilling with two more expected.

“We’re seeing increased permitting activity by Terra Energy Partners, Caerus, Laramie (Energy), and Chevron,” Wynn said. “Each permit could be a single well pad or several well pads as part of an overall development plan for our area. We’re seeing numerous oil and gas development plans in the works.”

He added that some permits would be approved at the state level, while others may come before the BOCC prior to being considered by the state.

“We expect to see Chevron coming before the board for a permit and they are planning to drill a well this year,” Wynn told the board. “Laramie Energy is also looking to do some additional drilling in the third quarter and they’re looking for a rig to do that.”

County taking part in state regulation development

The county actively participates in the development of regulations by the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC). Wynn noted that the COGCC is changing its name in July to the Energy and Carbon Management Commission (ECMC) with expanded oversight to include deep geothermal operations (2,500 feet and below) and underground natural gas storage.

He said that the county recently provided written and oral testimony in the AQCC’s Environmental Justice Disproportionately Impacted Community (DIC) rulemaking, which increased required air monitoring and modelling requirements for oil and gas and other industrial facilities in communities where higher proportions of residents may be low-income, identify as minorities, or more than 40 percent of residents spend more than one-third of their income on housing. The state utilizes the EnviroScreen mapping tool, which uses U.S. Census data, to make its determinations on which communities are at risk of disproportionate environmental impacts and are in need of enhanced environmental protections.

“I was really disappointed to see that all of the Western Slope is considered a disproportionally impacted community,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “That is really disingenuous. That means Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, and the whole Roaring Fork Valley is a DIC, as well as Steamboat or Telluride.”

Wynn noted that Garfield County has very good air quality and the county recommended that EnviroScreen not be used to determine regulatory requirements, and instead be used as a first-level screening tool for further analysis of whether enhanced DIC regulatory requirements are necessary.

“Sometimes the tool indicates there’s an issue, and the reality on the ground is there are no significant environmental stressors causing problems or needing advanced mitigation,” he said. “This creates an excess regulatory burden on operators in these areas and by relation leaves communities in need of enhanced protections untended to. We know we have good air quality because the county has funded air monitoring and reporting since 2008, and it is clear emission controls that have been implemented are already working in our area.”

This year, the county is participating in AQCC’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Intensity Verification rulemaking, Ozone State Implementation Plan rulemaking, and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Energy Management for Manufacturing phase 2 (GEMM2) rulemaking, the latter of which could affect facilities like the Natural Soda plant in Rio Blanco County and the American Gypsum plant in Eagle County.

“We support cost-effective rules that account for the characteristics of natural gas and oil operations in western and rural areas of Colorado,” Wynn said. “Rather than supporting ‘one size fits all’ statewide rules that may not be appropriate or effective for our area.”

The county is also participating as a cooperating agency in numerous Bureau of Land Management resource management update processes, including the Big Game Corridors/Habitat Resource Management Plan amendment. The county consults with and provides substantial formal written comments during project scoping and development of the resource management alternatives that will control how local federal lands and resources are managed in the coming decades.

“The reason we spend so much time and effort on these issues is they directly affect the revenue we receive as a county and our ability to operate,” Jankovsky added. “This is also important to our citizens because it creates jobs and helps pay for our infrastructure.”

Energy symposium a success

Garfield County’s annual Energy and Environment Symposium took place in New Castle this past April, bringing together more than 260 local government officials, state regulators, oil and gas industry representatives, and other stakeholders to discuss oil and gas issues affecting Colorado. The two-day event featured numerous presentations by state officials, industry experts, university researchers, and local officials.

Next year’s event, the tenth annual, is tentatively slated for April 17-18, again in New Castle.

“People enjoy coming out here for the event from across Colorado,” Wynn added. “They come here, have a good time, get an education, and they look forward to coming back for the next symposium.”