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In Huerfano County, the possibility of a fracking boom has been on the minds of residents for a while now. While some have welcomed the oil and gas industry with open arms, others are worried about what this might mean for their communities. For this month’s episode of Western Skies, we told the story of a group of concerned citizens in Huerfano County, called the Citizens for Huerfano County, and the challenges they’ve faced in their attempts to be heard.
As is always the case when putting together a short piece on such a big and complex issue, a lot of interesting material was left on the production room floor. So, we decided to compile some more clips that didn’t make it into the final story, but which help paint a fuller picture of the issue in Huerfano County.
For Jim McCain, Roz McCain, and Jack Yule, residents of Gardner and members of Citizens for Huerfano County, the prospect of oil and gas development in the area is troubling. For these three, Gardner is a refuge, a place perfectly suited for contemplation and quiet living. As Jim McCain explains, the serene setting has attracted people to Gardner from all over the world:
Huerfano County has long appealed to people seeking a simpler life. In the sixties and seventies, the area became an unlikely mecca for beatniks, hippies, poets, and intellectuals either visiting or living at one of several well known local communes. Roberta Price, a former resident at the Libre commune–which is just down the road from the McCains’–talks about the many countercultural experiments that took place in the region at that time:
Jack Yule has been building a house near the McCains’ for over a decade. He fears that oil and gas discoveries nearby could undermine the investment that he and his wife have made in their life out here…
While Yule and the McCains are primarily worried about possible changes in quality of life brought about by oil & gas drilling in the area, Jeff Briggs raises another concern. He’s lived in the county for four decades, and has seen how it’s been transformed by drought. He wonders what might happen if the oil & gas industry is allowed to use substantial quantities of water for drilling operations in the region…
The Citizens for Huerfano County filed a legal complaint against Shell and the COGCC, claiming that they failed to follow the established procedure for public notification when Shell submitted its first drilling application for a well outside of La Veta. A judge ruled generally in favor of Shell and the COGCC in the case. However, even if the rules were followed, many members of Citizens for Huerfano County say that the permit application process is confusing, and that it can be difficult for citizens to figure out how to get involved. COGCC location assessment supervisor, Greg Deranleau, explains the process:
Though each county has a “local government designee” appointed to update the public about new permit activity, members of Citizens for Huerfano County say that the best way to stay informed is to regularly check the COGCC’s website. New permits are listed in the “permit” section of the site, which is searchable by county.