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County adopts ‘milestone’ geothermal regs

Staff Writer

A year and a half in the making, Archuleta County now has regulations and guidelines in the books governing the use of geothermal resources for the commercial production of electricity.

Drafting of the regulations began about a year and a half ago, when Archuleta County banded together with Chaffee and Ouray counties to hire someone to write draft regulations regarding the issue, which each county could then adjust to be county-specific.

The regulations are also commonly referred to as 1041 regulations.

In introducing the topic to the Board of County Commissioners at Tuesday’s regular meeting, Todd Starr, county attorney, stated that Archuleta County’s regulations will differ more from Ouray and Chaffee counties’ because Archuleta County’s draft regulations were revised following public meetings and public comment.

“This is a significant milestone,” commissioner Michael Whiting said, commending Starr, as well as the staff and citizens who worked on the regulations.

Whiting expounded further on the importance of the regulations, indicating that they will help encourage investor interest in renewable energy projects because they will be able to invest in several similar projects throughout the state, with the projects now facing similar regulations.

“We’re on the forefront here,” commissioner Clifford Lucero added, also thanking Starr and the other staff members who worked on the regulations. “This is new ground, and I think it’s going to be very positive.”

The regulations are now included in section 2.5 of the county’s land use regulations, which is titled “Areas and Activities of State Interest.”

The regulations and guidelines, which span more than 50 pages, include topics such as permitting, exemptions to the regulations, intergovernmental agreements, making designations for activities of state interest and the use of geothermal resources for the commercial production of electricity, exploration activity, environmental impact analysis and approval criteria.

According to the regulations, “Use of Geothermal Resources for the Commercial Production of Electricity or Commercial Use of Geothermal Resources means the siting, drilling, deepening, reworking, closure or abandonment of a geothermal well; power production facilities and operations; and all construction, site preparation, reclamation and related activities associated with the development of geothermal resources for the commercial production of electricity. Transmission lines and related facilities are not included within this definition.”

The regulations were approved via resolution with a 2-0 vote, with commissioner Steve Wadley absent from the meeting.

The next regular meeting of the BoCC is scheduled for May 20 at 1:30 p.m.

randi@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on May 8, 2014.