Signed MOU with the state
Gunnison County is ready to assume its place in the oil and gas inspection process. The Board of County Commissioners and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that allows the county to hire its own inspector.
The intent, says county manager Matthew Birnie, is not to replace the state’s inspection obligations but to hire an expert who can simultaneously evaluate state and county conditions.
“We want to fill in any gaps in the inspections,” Birnie said.
He reiterated that the intent of county inspections was not to harass oil and gas companies, but to have more flexibility responding to spills and conduct inspections at stages the state might not have the resources to address.
Birnie said that Margaret Ash, head of the Commission’s inspection division, “admittedly said there are other benchmarks, if you will, where it would be good to inspect. We’re going to try to identify that and plug in those gaps.”
Now that the MOU has been signed by both parties—on May 1 by the county commissioners and last month by the Oil and Gas Commission—can issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) and begin the selection process. Ultimately, whatever inspector the county hires will go through the commission’s training process. Birnie believes that will be a positive thing—county inspectors will have the same level of expertise as state inspectors, and won’t be perceived as a second tier.
Matt Reed, public lands director for the High Country Citizens’ Alliance, thanked the commissioners and the county attorney for the work they put into negotiating and signing the MOU.
“I think there will be significant benefits for Gunnison County, and people around the state and even the country are looking at this as a model or a template moving forward, so thanks,” Reed said.
Commissioner Paula Swenson acknowledged that the tone of the conversation between the county and the state had changed since the beginning of their negotiations, as more and more communities focus on oil and gas development.
“It’s been a good year and we’ve made a lot of progress,” said Swenson.
“And you’re right, it is a template,” added Commissioner Phil Chamberland.