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Boulder County Builds Case Against Crestone’s Drilling Plans in ‘Protest’ Filing

August 25, 2018 GMT

The Boulder County Attorney’s Office took aim Friday at the unparalleled density of Crestone Peak Resources’ east county drilling plans and accused the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission of catering to “industry needs” in its handling of the regulatory process.

Those are among the arguments laid out in a Protest and Intervention to Crestone’s final Comprehensive Drilling Plan submitted Friday, the pillars of a case county officials are expected to lay out at a series of October meetings on the Denver driller’s large-scale extraction plans.

The filing ensures “that the county will be a full party to the CDP hearing scheduled for Oct. 29-30,” allowing them to present evidence and provide legal arguments, attorneys said Friday .

In Friday’s submittal, the county addresses issues spanning “legal challenges to the process and the information Crestone provided in its final CDP, to site-specific concerns including impacts to residents, agricultural lands, ecological resources and flood risks in the CDP area,” officials wrote in an email blast.

The arguments draw first on the “unknown” impacts drilling of such scale and density may have on the region — the company wants to develop two plats south of Colo. 52 on either side of North 115th Street and a third plat north of Colo. 52 near Panama Reservoir No. 1.

“The development proposed in the CDP — which includes a 28-well site and two 56-well sites, plus an alternative site that would place 84 wells in close proximity — would create the largest complex of dense well pads in the state,” Boulder County attorneys argue.

“The impacts on health, safety and the environment of development at this scale are unprecedented and unknown,” they state.

Crestone spokesman Jason Oates on Friday said the county’s arguments regarding the plan’s scale and density “are very similar to everything they’ve said throughout the process from the beginning,” adding, “we obviously don’t agree with them, but we respect their willingness to be part of the process.

“Whether or not their protests and all the different filings are valid will be sorted out in the hearings,” he said.

Latter arguments in the filing address the process surrounding the months-long CDP evaluation, which county attorneys allege “has been flawed” and has catered to and been shaped by the interpretations of the company itself, “leading to an inadequate ‘final’ proposal.”

County attorneys argue that commission Rule 216, which deals with the creation of Comprehensive Development Plans and discussions on drilling’s potential impacts, “does not contain a defined process by which a CDP is to be developed and analyzed, so it is COGCC’s responsibility to create such a process. However, instead of controlling its own process, COGCC staff allowed Crestone to impose its own interpretation of Rule 216 and shape the process to its own convenience,” attorneys state.

“The outcome is a CDP that grows out of industry needs while not fully evaluating public health and safety or exploring development options comprehensively as a CDP is intended to do. One clear demonstration of the flawed process is a ‘final’ CDP with two sites proposed as alternatives to one another.”

The last arguments laid out in Friday’s filing suggest county attorneys will focus on the often murky process behind mineral right ownership.

“The county disputes significant aspects of certain oil and gas leases and county-owned conservation easements, aspects which implicate Crestone’s rights to carry out the development at the locations and in the manner proposed in the CDP,” attorneys write.

“Crestone Peak asserts that it owns certain percentages of the minerals in the CDP area and that it has the right to use the surface at its proposed sites,” county attorneys add, “but it has provided no competent evidence of those fundamental facts.”

In closing, attorneys cite the COGCC v. Martinez case, suggesting the application fails to meet the standards set by the Court of Appeals in siding with the plaintiff earlier this year.

The case, which could decide whether or not state oil and gas regulators must consider public health and the environment when issuing new drilling permits, has the potential for lasting precedent. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed in January to hear the case.

Anthony Hahn: 303-473-1422, hahna@dailycamera.com