In late April 2011 Shell Oil filed an incomplete application for a permit to drill the 14,500’ deep Klikus exploratory well 2 miles west of the Town of La Veta. The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission quickly granted a permit without properly notifying the official contact for Huerfano County, John Galusha, who is charged with notifying the general public. This lack of notice effectively preempted a public hearing as required by COGCC rules.
The public became aware of Shell’s drilling plan when the County Commissioners approved a water sale between Walsenburg and Shell for roughly 1.5 million gallons to be used for the first fracking of the Klikus well.
On June 28th the Huerfano County Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) held a joint public hearing with the Commissioners to ostensibly discuss conditions to be placed on the county’s conditional use permit (CUP) for the well. Several hundred people attended the hearing.
Many expressed concerns and asked the P&Z to recommend a moratorium until pending fracking studies are complete and adequate regulations adopted, including the Seven Safeguards proposed by Citizens for Huerfano County. They are: a sufficient bond relative to the risks, 3-D seismic and geochemical surveys prior to drilling, full disclosure and use of non-toxic fracking chemicals, no pit, no flaring, and air and water baseline testing and monitoring.
The P&Z rejected these reasonable appeals from citizens and hurriedly forwarded its recommendation for approval to the Commissioners, who approved the CUP the next day. On July 12th, the P&Z approved a Shell proposal for a so-called 'communications' committee giving themselves the sole power to appoint citizen representatives and using Shell’s preferred professional facilitators. The committee is to meet behind closed doors and not disclose its activities without Shell’s approval.
At every turn the public has been denied a voice in perhaps the most serious issue Huerfano County has ever faced -- drilling and fracking deep formation wells like those that have degraded the air, water and health of people in Silt and Rifle, Colorado, Pinedale Wyoming, Pennsylvania, New York and many other places around the world.
A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT
If Shell makes a significant new discovery, the Klikus well could mark the beginning of a much larger oil and gas rush that could quickly transform Huerfano County.
The rush to approve the Klikus well without informing or involving the public, and without adequate safeguards for our health, safety and environment, sets a dangerous precedent.
Without adequate protections in place, Huerfano County could become another oil and gas sacrifice zone like so many other communities in Colorado.
It’s up to us to protect our health and safety and that is what Citizens for Huerfano County is all about.
To this end, CHC has filed a lawsuit against the COGCC and Shell, demanding a full public hearing and review of the Klikus well application as required by law.
We are asking for a more thorough review of important details hitherto ignored by COGCC, including: the area’s unstable soils, the proximity of the drilling site to sensitive riparian and wetland habitats and gas seeps, and the risks associated with drilling in the poorly understood, unique and complex geology of the area. CHC is also developing plans for citizen monitoring of air, water and community health impacts.