oil and gas

Welcome to Valley Roundup, a review of the top news stories in the valley in the past week.

Aspen lost another longtime local in avalanche. And this week marks the first anniversary of the murder of Aspen native Nancy Pfister.

Municipal elections are coming up in Glenwood Springs and Aspen. This year, it’s all mail-in. But in Aspen, you can still vote in a traditional way at two polling places.

Meanwhile, Aspen City Council is countering a citizen ballot measure on development limitations. Will it just confuse voters more?

Your Evening News - January 27th, 2015

Jan 27, 2015

Customer Airs Concerns About Glenwood Hot Springs

Garfield County officials are not asking the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and Lodge to change sanitary measures after a bacteria complaint.

Last summer, the therapy pool at the hot springs tested positive for a bacteria that isn’t regulated by the state or federal government. It’s one of the causes of hot tub rash, but is dangerous only for people with weaker immune systems, like cancer patients. Josh Williams is Garfield County environmental health manager and explains his review of the hot springs’ regular efforts to keep facilities clean.

“I mean their monitoring and tracking of that is above and beyond the required testing is for bacterial contamination. Which is a good indicator that they take it very seriously,” says Josh Williams.

The possible issue of bacteria recently came to light after a local resident this past fall complained of ongoing severe intestinal sickness. She publicly complained this week, saying government officials aren’t doing enough to prevent it from happening again. Garfield County says the bacteria is naturally occurring, though also the leading cause of hospital infections. Aspen Public Radio is waiting for comment from the Glenwood Hot Springs.

Elise Thatcher

Oil and gas companies were responsible for over seven hundred spills in Colorado last year.  There were 128 in Garfield County-- making up nearly twenty percent of accidents statewide.  That’s according to a review of public data by the Denver nonprofit, Center for Western Priorities.   A spokesman for the agency that oversees oil and gas development in Colorado, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, is "neither endorsing nor challenging" the report.  APR’s Elise Thatcher talks with CWP's Policy Director Greg Zimmerman, who points out the spills released more than a million gallons of oil and other chemicals into the environment.

Your Morning News - January 27th, 2015

Jan 27, 2015

Aspen Approves Molly Gibson Lodge Plans

Aspen City Council approved a proposal to redevelop the Molly Gibson Lodge, last night. That includes building two single-family homes on a vacant lot next door. The plan is to demolish the existing lodge and replace it with a new three-story structure. City Council member Art Daily echoed a general sentiment among officials.

“I think it’s really very important to our community, this reconstruction of the lodge. I like the balance. And the single family homes, I think that they actually fit the context of the neighborhood in which they’re being placed.”

The new lodge will have 68 rooms and one affordable housing unit.

Council members decided to wait until the coming months to review lodging proposals from downtown developer Mark Hunt. Hunt is proposing two affordable hotels, but some council members and residents have raised questions about whether they’re a good idea.

Those decisions Monday night came after a heated debate about how City Concil should respond to a proposed ballot initiative. The locally organized effort would strip power from Council and put it in the hands of voters for development that wouldn’t follow land use code. In response, council members decided to consider making some changes this Spring to Aspen’s land use code.

While oil and gas development is a hot topic, state legislators are waiting for a report from the Governor's Oil and Gas Task Force, mostly holding off on introducing energy related bills. The task force is charged with crafting recommendations to help mitigate the impacts of drilling to communities, and harmonize local and state regulations.

"I have told some members of the task force, you don't have to send something if there's not a problem," said Senator Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling). "I want to know before you send me a solution, the problem we're trying to fix. And if you can't agree on a problem, don't send me legislation just because you're a task force."

Your Morning News - December 11th, 2014

Dec 11, 2014

RFSD Keeps Sirko & Stein Under New Contact Plan

The Roaring Fork School District will have the same Superintendent for the next few years. The Board of Education decided to extend the contract for Diana Sirko as well as current Assistant Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer Rob Stein. But there’s a twist. Once Sirko is done, Stein will take the reins as Superintendent for three years. Board President Daniel Biggs explains the reason for the unusual arrangement.

“We wanted to have this strong leadership team continue the great work that they’ve begun. We have so much ahead of us.”

Superintendent Diana Sirko echoed that description of keeping together an All-Star team.

“It was an atypical situation from the beginning, and I think the forward thinking of the board allows us to move forward and to assure Dr. Stein that he won’t be waiting forever in the wings, so to speak.”

Stein had been hired as Superintendent in 2012 but stepped down because of a family emergency. Sirko filled the position in Stein’s absence and has continued on following his return. 

White River National Forest

The White River National Forest released a “conservation-minded” plan Tuesday for future oil and gas drilling. Conservation groups are cheering the plan, saying it proposes closing nearly all of the Thompson Divide to future leasing. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

Your Evening News - December 9th, 2014

Dec 9, 2014

Environmentalists Praise White River National Forest Drilling Plan

The White River National Forest released a “conservation-minded” plan Tuesday for future oil and gas drilling. Conservation groups are cheering the plan, saying it protects much of the contested Thompson Divide. The long-awaited plan maps out where future oil and gas leasing can happen on the 2.2 million acre White River National Forest. It calls for closing more than 1.2 million acres to oil and gas leasing including much of the contested Thompson Divide area near Carbondale. The Thompson Divide Coalition is working to protect that area. Executive Director Zane Kessler calls the plan “a good step.”

“We’re excited that the Forest Service has taken a very strong, conservation minded lead on this.”

More work needs to be done, he says, because 100,000 acres already leased on the Divide won’t be affected by the Forest Service plan. The plan only applies to future leasing.

Your Morning News - November 24th, 2014

Nov 24, 2014

Drilling to Begin on the Roan Plateau 

The Bureau of Land Management, environmentalists, and the energy industry reached an agreement on Friday regarding a proposal to drill for oil and gas on the Roan Plateau near Rifle.

The Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop was one of the ten conservation and sportsmens’ groups involved in the lawsuit. On Friday they released a statement saying they’re extremely pleased with the outcome.

Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District Money Matters

The Bureau of Land Management, environmentalists, and the energy industry have reached an agreement on a proposal to drill for oil and gas on the Roan Plateau. The new plan cancels 17 out of 19 oil and gas leases that were issued in 2008. Two previous leases at the top of the plateau, and a dozen at the base will remain in place.

"These measures allow us to protect the plateau but harness some of the energy resources," said Governor John Hickenlooper.

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