After an hour-long public hearing, the Elbert County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a special use permit application filed by Mustang Creek LLC for an exploratory well the company wants to drill on Prescott Ranches near Simla.
The permit, approved March 12, was the first to be granted under the county's newly revised oil and gas regulations, passed by the BOCC earlier this year after nearly three years of debate and controversy.
The county's Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed and approved Mustang Creek's application earlier this year.
Mustang Creek is a subsidiary of Greenwood Village-based NexGen Oil and Gas.
Three company representatives attended the March 12 BOCC meeting, making a short presentation and answering a number of questions from commissioners.
Bob Davis, a vice president for Mustang, told commissioners the company is “anxiously waiting for results” from an exploratory well currently being drilled in El Paso County near the proposed Prescott Ranches well site.
Positive results from the El Paso well would bode well for the company's proposed project in Elbert County, Davis told commissioners.
The county's newly revised land-use regulations pertaining to oil and gas development dramatically decrease the time it takes county officials to approve new “minor facility” oil and gas permits.
At the March 12 meeting, County Planner Carolyn Parkinson gave a presentation to commissioners regarding the details of the Mustang Creek project.
The proposed well site, about two miles from the nearest public road, is located on about 4,000 acres of pastureland.
Exploratory activity, which will be conducted 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is expected to last between 30 and 120 days, Parkinson told the BOCC.
Davis told commissioners his company likely will not begin drilling activity until “the late third or early fourth quarter” of this year.
No one from the audience spoke during the public comment part of the hearing.
During her presentation, Parkinson told commissioners, “The applicant proposes to use the most efficient traffic routes through the county and minimally impact surrounding property owners.”
There is no surface water within 1,000 feet of the well site and no encroachment on area wetlands, Parkinson reported.
“Mustang Creek has implemented a number of good housekeeping practices,” Parkinson told commissioners. “The applicant has also agreed to use fresh water only” to mitigate dust created by the exploratory activity.
Water will be trucked into the well site from El Paso County, Parkinson said.
“The well site is very remote so noise mitigation” will not be an issue, she added, while saying that “wildlife permanently or temporarily living in the area will likely relocate” as a result of the well site activity.
Local fire officials met with the developers and identified six “fire protection and safety issues,” Parkinson said. “The applicant is currently in contact with Simla Fire District and a meeting will be scheduled between all parties as soon as possible.”
“When they are drilling the well, is water expected to be produced?” Commissioner Larry Ross asked Parkinson.
“No,” Parkinson answered. “The applicant is not even sure at this point if they will be fracturing the well.”
If fracturing takes place, Davis said the source of water used for the process will be trucked in and then recycled on-site for re-use.
A Storm Water Management Plan filed by the company insures that all storm water runoff “will be contained” within the well site, Davis told Ross when asked about Mustang Creek's plan to protect the surrounding watershed.
“I want to give kudos to the staff,” said Davis. “We've been involved in this process for about six months now and the level of professionalism on the part of the county staff has been wonderful.”