Pitkin County May Push For More Environmental Accountability

07/18/2011 06:30 pm ET | Updated Sep 17, 2011

Pitkin County Commissioners may seek tougher regulations again in an effort to prevent drilling in the Thompson Divide area, the Aspen Times reports.

Last summer, county commissioners back-pedaled on their stringent regulations after oil and gas companies hinted at their prospects for litigation if Pitkin County didn't adhere to state rules adopted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Houston-based SG Interests is suing nearby Gunnison County--where part of the Thompson Divide also exists--over its regulations, saying they are unreasonably slowing production.

“Pitkin County's proposed ordinance is perhaps the most far-reaching, if not to say over-reaching, example of local oil and gas regulations that I have seen,” Denver attorney Ken Wonstolen, who is representing SG Interests, told the Aspen Times.

A community activist group called the Thompson Divide Coalition has been pushing to see most of the federal lands in the area – more than 220,000 acres – excluded from future oil and gas development.

Pitkin County in the past has tried to get the federal government to sign onto an overall drilling ban in the 2.3 million-acre White River National Forest, arguing the essentially industrial process is incompatible with a tourism and resort-based economy.

Pitkin County endorsed the Thompson Divide Coalition and the City of Aspen is also seeking alternative sources of energy--most recently planning to conduct a test drill for geothermal energy in September and running most of Aspen's water department by solar energy.

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