Last updated 12:32PM ET
December 17, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
County To Stay Neutral In Coalbed Water Case
(2008-04-23)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: La Plata County Commissioners have voted to remain neutral in a major water rights case that's headed to the Colorado Supreme Court.
KSUT's Victor Locke reports.

VICTOR: Two La Plata County ranching families, the Vance's and Fitzgeralds, won a local water court decision last July.
They argued successfully that coalbed methane gas producers must obtain state water permits for water they extract in producing coalbed methane if theat water depletes surface streams.
The state water engineer, and BP which intervened in the case appealed to the supreme court, arguing the water they extract from gas wells is not produced water and is eventually returned to the aquifers, and thus no permits are needed.
The Vances and Fitzgeralds asked the county to intervene in their favor before the state's high court.
But County Attorney Jeff Robbins told commissioners that may not be appropriate.
ROBBINS: THE COUNTY REALLY DOES NOT GET INVOLVED IN THE REGULATION OF WATER FROM A WATER RIGHTS PERSPECTIVE, THAT IS THE STATE ENGINEERS POSITION.
The commissioners agreed they shouldn't take sides.
Commissioner Wally White:
WHITE: WE DON'T NECESSARILY HAVE A DOG IN THE FIGHT BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE REGULATORY POWERS OVER WATER, BUT CERTAINLY PERSONALLY I'D LIKE TO SEE THE COURTS RESOLVE THE ISSUE.
The county will file a brief with the court urging the State Supreme Court to act quickly and decisively.
Commissioner Kellie Hotter:
HOTTER: WATER IS OF COURSE, SO CRUCIAL THAT IF THERE'S SOMETHING WE CAN SAY AND INTERJECT THAT WE WANT A CLEAR DECISION ON THE WATER ELEMENT, THAT'S AN OKAY THING.
A BP spokesman, Dave Brown, told commissioners they didn't feel the county would benefit from participating in the court case.
William Vance Jr., one of those who filed the initial case, says he's disappointed the county didn't take a position.
VANCE: IT DOES KIND OF SURPRISE ME THAT THEY DIDN'T BECAUSE BP AND SEVERAL OTHER GAS COMPANIES HAVE INTERVENED ON BEHALF OF THE WATER COMMISSIONER, THE STATE WATER COMMISSION. SO, YOU KNOW, MAYBE THEIR JUST KIND OF WEIGHING IN ALL THE DIFFERENT OPTIONS THAT THEY HAVE.
As for a speedy resolution to the case, Vance says he's been told it could be a year before the Supreme Court renders an opinion.
VANCE: I THINK THE GAS COMPANIES, IT WOULD BE IN THEIR BEST INTERESTS FOR IT NOT TO BE RESOLVED, THEY'D LIKE TO DRAG IT OUT, AND THAT MIGHT BE PART OF THE PROBLEM, BECAUSE AS LONG AS IT'S STILL IN COURT, IT'S JUST BUSINESS AS USUAL.
Vance says their goal is not to stop gas production, but to insure producers obtain permits for the water they use, and don't use water allocated to others.
And he says he's heard some gas operators are already negotiating and buying up water rights.
VANCE: MAYBE THEY FEEL THAT WE MAY WIN THE CASE IF THEY'RE ALREADY BUYING UP WATER RIGHTS.
From KSUT, Four Corner's Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.
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