Routt County Commissioners approve Trout Creek oil well |

Routt County Commissioners approve Trout Creek oil well

— The Routt County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a permit for Shell Oil's new Trout Creek well about eight miles southwest of Steamboat Springs.

It would be Shell's third recent well in western Routt County in addition to Dawson Creek and Gnat Hill.

The approval came after only brief public comment, some of it praising Shell for the way it has worked with the community.

However, the commissioners acknowledged the requests of two neighboring property owners in the area of Routt County Road 33B, David Van Winkle and Kim Weber, who asked that the energy company consider testing their water wells in addition to six others closer to the drilling pad.

"If you don't expand (the testing area), is it my responsibility to test it so that if there's (contamination), I can prove it?" Van Winkle asked the commissioners.

Shell executive Matt Holman said his company was willing to do what was necessary to reassure the neighbors.

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"In my view, groundwater protection protocols are all based on community assurance," Holman said. "The point is, the community needs to be assured, and I want to do the right thing by the community."

Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said she would favor requiring testing on the two additional wells, but Commissioner Doug Monger resisted, saying, "I would disagree; we have to have some line here."

Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak found consensus by suggesting that instead of requiring ongoing testing of the Van Winkle and Weber wells, less extensive baseline testing could reassure them that, if needed, they could prove their wells were clear before the oil well was drilled.

Mitsch Bush and Monger agreed, and the requirement was written into the conditions of approval for the well.

Don Hayes stood up from the audience to tell the commissioners that in his view, Shell hasn't done enough to hire area residents on its previous Routt County well sites. A company spokesperson confirmed a contractor from Vernal, Utah, has been building access roads to Shell's new wells here.

"Locals are shut out of construction. I'm pro oil, I'm pro production, but if we're going to count jobs, let's bring in some jobs," Hayes said.

Shell Oil officials confirmed Tuesday night that they would hold a workshop at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion in Craig for people who are interested in doing contract work. The workshop will not be a job fair, nor will there be contracts offered during that time. Instead, it will be a way for interested people to make themselves available and learn more about how independent contractors can work with Shell.

"It doesn't make any sense to me to haul people in and out of Utah for snow removal and construction. I think we've found some methods to facilitate this in the future," Holman said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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