Routt County commissioners ‘energized’ at forum |

Routt County commissioners ‘energized’ at forum

The future of coal and oil

— The candidates for Routt County Commissioner District 1 stressed the importance this week of Northwest Colorado’s coal-fired power plants to the local economy.

Republican Bob Dapper, who lives in the South Valley between Steamboat Springs and Routt County Road 14, is challenging Democratic incumbent Tim Corrigan of Yampa in the district that has most of its population in South Routt, but reaches up to the southernmost neighborhoods in Steamboat Springs.

Corrigan, told the members of the Steamboat Kiwanis Club, who hosted a Sept. 20 candidate forums, that although coal is “on a downward incline regardless of one’s position on the related environmental issues,” he’s intent on working to keep Xcel Energy’s coal-fired power plant near Hayden open as long as possible.

“We need to recognize that reality and do everything we can for the future of the power plant,” Corrigan said. “We need to fight to ensure ours is the last one standing.”

Dapper said he thinks it’s unfortunate that the citizens of Routt County don’t have a greater appreciation for the extent to which they depend on the economic benefits of the coal mine and the nearby power plant. He was critical of Governor John Hickenlooper’s contemplated executive order calling on state agencies to strive to reduce carbon dioxide emission levels by 35 percent by 2030, from where they were in 2012. Dapper’ observed that the power plant “already meets the gold standard on emissions.”

“I think it’s incumbent on us to ask, ‘How did this happen?’” Dapper said. “And, ‘how can we ensure it doesn’t happen again? We need to ensure that we have stability in energy production in Routt County.”

Kiwanis Club President Bud Romberg asked the candidates including incumbent Doug Monger, running unopposed for a new term in District 2, how they foresee energy development proceeding over the next few years, not just in terms of its economic impacts, but also in the context of concerns about impacts on air and water quality.

“The oil and gas industry is new to us,” Dapper said, and “we need to be very mindful of oversight, and what it takes to not have serious problems. But I think we need to be on the front end when we move forward with oil and gas. I think we’ll see much more of that if the county doesn’t pile on with additional regulations.”

Corrigan said he believes the county has in place “a pretty good template” for evaluating new oil drilling permits.

“Since I’ve been commissioner we’ve approved four or five new oil wells. In reality the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) rules are the rules we need to live by, especially in terms of monitoring air and water. We reserve the ability to impose rules (concerning) wildlife, noise and visual impacts, and we’ve been very aggressive in making sure oil and gas developers make sure our roads are up to snuff,” in terms of carrying the associated heavy truck traffic.

In 2011 and 2012 a different board of county commissioners that included Monger, challenged the COGCC’s ultimate authority in deciding the length to which oil companies could be required by local governments to require them to monitor groundwater and domestic wells for signs of contamination related to drilling activity.

“We had a big scare when we though the we’d have a million oil wells in Routt County,” Monger said. “Right now I feel very comfortable with the COGCC. Governor Hickenlooper issued an executive order affirming water quality would be handled at the COGCC level.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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