Last summer, Colorado’s Delta County Commission made history when it denied state-approved drilling permits for four out of five coalbed methane wells (HCN, 9/2/02: One Colorado County Takes a Stand). The commissioners cited concerns about drilling’s impacts on water quality. But in May, they backed down.
County Attorney Brad Kolman says they didn’t
have much of a choice. In March, the Denver District Court ruled
that the county commission lacks the authority to trump the
state’s earlier decision to grant leases to the Gunnison
Energy Corporation. The judge said mining-related water-quality
problems are a matter of state, not county, jurisdiction.
The commission conceded, but Kolman says the county is developing
new regulations to increase information-sharing between county and
state agencies about potential mining impacts. It also hired the
Colorado School of Mines to perform a regional impact study to
compare with Gunnison Energy’s study.
just caved,” says Jeremy Puckett, assistant director of the
Paonia-based Western Slope Environmental Resource Council.
“We were disappointed that the county didn’t appeal the
district court’s decision.”
Drilling may start
as soon as this summer, says Tony Gale, vice president of the
Denver-based Gunnison Energy Corporation.
already has a mineral rights lease on 90,000 acres in Delta County
and, if test wells yield coalbed methane, the area could see up to
600 new wells.