Chaffee County commissioners continue 1041 hearings for geothermal regulations

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From The Mountain Mail (James Redmond):

Chaffee County commissioners instructed staff Tuesday to incorporate most of the Chaffee County Planning Commission’s recommendations for the county’s draft geothermal 1041 regulations. During their Tuesday regular meeting, county commissioners also voted to continue hearings on the 1041 regulations for “Use of Geothermal Resources for the Commercial Production of Electricity.”

Commissioners continued the hearing so staff could gather more information about existing use of geothermal resources and to allow time for the League of Women Voters of Chaffee County to review the recommendations.

The commissioners did not make a decision on a recommendation to add the words “legal uses” before “geothermal resources” in the environmental impact analysis section of the application process.

With a domestic well, the owner has no legal right to the water’s heat – only the water itself, Fred Henderson, chief scientific officer for Mt. Princeton Geothermal, said. People using the hot water illegally can change their permits to define and allow use of the heat, he said.

Some businesses, such as bed and breakfasts or vacation rentals, may have used the hot water from their wells for years not knowing they need to change their permit to authorize their use, Don Reimer, Chaffee County development director, said.

The original language of the draft 1041 regulations did not specify “legal” geothermal resources because its vagueness could offer more protection to county residents who use a geothermal resource, Jenny Davis, county attorney, said.

In some cases people may have used the resource before a process to define and authorize the use existed, she said. If people who rely on the hot water can change their well permits and make their use legal “without breaking their backs,” Chaffee County Commissioner Frank Holman said he would “like to place some onus” on the users to do so.

He asked staff to get more information, such as what is involved in the process, how much it costs and how long it takes.

Of the Planning Commission’s more than 20 recommended changes, most consisted of small changes such as correcting errors and clarifying language, Reimer said.

The substantial change recommendations the commissioners instructed staff to add to the draft include:

• Making all surface use go through a county land-use change permit, instead of addressing the uses in the 1041 process.
• Making exploration going less than 2,500 feet deep require only a notice to the county and no decision.
• Allowing for the appeal of decisions made by the director on activity notices to the board of commissioners.

County commissioners told staff not to incorporate a recommendation allowing for a discharging system. County commissioners started public hearings on the geothermal 1041 regulations in May. During a July 30 public hearing on the proposed new land-use code, planning commissioners decided to ask county commissioners to hold any decisions on the 1041 regulations until the Planning Commission could review and comment on them. The county commissioners agreed Aug. 6 to hold any decision on the regulations and continued their public hearing. The county commissioners will hold their next hearing on the draft regulations Oct. 1. “We’re really close,” Commissioner Dave Potts said.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

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