Nov. 30–Eddy County is taking a harder look at the impact of oil and gas in the area, forming a board to study the recent boom’s impact on the region.
County commissioners voted to approve a $100,000 donation from Chevron at a Nov. 20 meeting, providing funds to hire a consultant that will be tasked with assisting the county in organizing its Energy Advisory Board (EAB).
Director of Community Services Wes Hooper said the main purpose is to open lines of communication between oil and gas companies, local government and anyone in the county hoping to learn more and have a voice about oil and gas in Eddy County.
He said the board will likely discuss local issues such as roads and infrastructure, housing and other effects of the boom, and make recommendations to the Eddy County Board of Commissioners.
“It’s to get the doors open and trying to come up with solutions,” Hooper said. “The county has been talking about this for a while.”
Hooper said the county was recommended to form the board by the recently re-formed Permian Strategic Partnership, a group of oil and gas companies aiming to partner with local communities that host oil and gas operations in the region.
“Chevron thought it was a great idea,” he said. “They wanted to make a donation to help us get this thing together.”
The board has yet to add any members, Hooper said, but membership will be open to the public and any stakeholders.
“The biggest thing is that the more communication we can create, being to plan is huge for the county,” he said. “It’ll help us budget and make future plans.”
He said he encouraged smaller operators to join the board, giving a say to companies often overshadowed by oil giants such as Chevron and XTO Energy.
“We need to make sure the smaller companies are being heard,” Hooper said. “With this, they could have a voice. We want the board to be for the county and of the county.”
The idea for the EAB was inspired by similar efforts in Garfield County, Colorado, Hooper said.
County officials met with those from Garfield County about a year ago he said, to learn from its energy board and consider starting one in Eddy County.
Kirby Lynn, Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison said his board started about 14 years ago, amid increased natural gas production in the Piceance Basin in western Colorado.
He said a recent boom in that industry led to up to 70 active natural gas rigs in Garfield County.
He said the intention was to involve stakeholders and oil and gas companies in the discussion and educate the public about the increased production.
The Garfield County board meets monthly and makes recommendations and reports to the county commission.
Each meeting features an expert speaker, Wynn said, including topics such as the environmental, financial, social and regulatory issues.
“They wanted people that were closer to this to give advice to the commission,” Wynn said. “Our county commission determined that there needed to be a public arena where stakeholders could communicate about concerns related to oil and gas.”
Discussion can be prickly, Wynn said, but the intent is for all concerns to be heard.
“It’s certainly had its ups and downs,” Wynn said of the board. “Issues related to oil and gas can be contentious. It’s not always pretty. My suggestion (to Eddy County) was just to make sure there is good facilitation. Each community is going to come at it differently.
“Well-meaning people with a common goal can accomplish a lot.”
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, firstname.lastname@example.org or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.
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