Area residents expressed concerns during a public hearing Tuesday about the amount of regulation Chaffee County’s proposed geothermal 1041 regulations would impose.

The draft 1041 regulations would create a special permit-driven process that gives the county some power to regulate use of geothermal resources for commercial production of electricity, Dennis Giese, Chaffee County commissioner, said.

Some residents feared that too little regulation in parts of the draft would leave the county open to adverse situations. The county should protect itself, Melanie Roth, Buena Vista, said.

One section of the draft regulations requires the applicant to submit “documentation of the applicant’s financial and technical capability to develop and operate the proposed project, including a description of the applicant’s experience developing and operating similar projects.”

The commissioners discussed removing or changing the language. “Why is that our business?” Giese asked.

The consultant the county hired to draft the regulations, Barbra Green, partner at Sullivan Green Seavy LLC, said a company may come in and start geothermal electricity production that it cannot finish. If the business then just leaves the county or goes bankrupt, the county could end up having to clean up the project and restore the land.

“I would rather have a pool (of money) or bond to reclaim the land,” Commissioner Frank Holman said.

Whether the county addresses the issue by requiring the applicant to prove feasibility or with a bond, the commissioners should work up front to protect the county, Roth said.

Commissioners also discussed how the draft language could regulate geothermal exploration drilling. At a May 7 work session commissioners gave direction to explore language that would require, subject to some regulations, an activity notice from the county for exploration drilling, Green said. The state engineer’s office applies regulations to the drilling of exploration holes.

Cheryl Brown-Kovacic, representing the League of Women Voters of Chaffee County, said the county should have regulations for all phases of geothermal development, including exploration.

“I have some concerns with no permitting required for exploration,” Syd Schieren, Salida, said.

The regulations should have clear language defining and separating exploration and exploration drilling from production drilling, Green said.

However, during the public comment period, some speakers expressed concerns that the draft overregulated.

“After having read (the) draft regulations, we don’t need them,” John “Hank” Held, principal of Mt. Princeton Geothermal LLC, said. The regulations proposed in the draft duplicate state and federal regulations and “are overly restrictive,” he said.

Held said he thinks he has already missed the drilling season for this year, so the commissioners should take their time to make sure they get the regulations right.

The commissioners made a motion to hold the next public hearing on the draft geothermal 1041 regulations during their July 2 meeting.

Commissioner Dave Potts said he would like to have the Chaffee County Planning Commission review the draft before the next hearing.

Green said she should have the next version of the draft finished by June 21.

In other business commissioners:

  • Passed a motion to apply for a historical structural assessment grant for Stone Bridge.
  • Waived special-event permit fees and closed CR 162 for the Historic St. Elmo Celebration June 22,
  • Released lot sales restrictions on the Estates at Mount Princeton lots 1 through 15.
  • Approved a request to amend the Estates at Mount Princeton planned unit development agreement.
  • Reviewed a staff reimbursement request from the Nestlé Water Reimbursement Fund.

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