Carbon County commissioners have delayed the approval of a proposed expansion to the compressor station in Nine Mile Canyon at the mouth of Dry Canyon.
The proposal came before Carbon lawmakers on Feb. 1 in a public hearing where the county planning board forwarded a favorable recommendation for the proposal to the commission.
The expansion would require an amendment to a conditional use permit issued to Bill Barrett Corporation.
The original permit was issued in October of 2003. Since that time, the permit has been amended once in 2004 to permit the gas extraction company to add a compressor, office and generators at the site.
Currently, four compressors are on the site along with the accompanying equipment. Now Bill Barrett Corporation is asking the county to approve an expansion at the site.
If approved, the conditional use permit would allow the addition of six compressors to the four on site. Three dehydration units could be added to two existing units.
In addition, generators and other electrical equipment would be added to the station so support the expansion.
Don Hamilton, a representative of Bill Barrett Corporation, told commissioners that the company currently operates 30 wells in the region.
"Right now we have more gas coming off of the mountain than we can currently accommodate," said Hamilton .
However, county officials and members of the public raised concerns at the hearing regarding the conditions of the original permit and whether the specifications had been met by the company.
One of the conditions of the permit specifies that the gas extraction company will suppress dust on the road to and from the facility as warranted by construction traffic. Last year, dust suppression was a difficult task. That may have been due in part to the timing of applications of magnesium chloride. In order for magnesium chloride to be effective as a dust suppressant, it must be applied at a specific time early in the year and then reapplied as necessary throughout the year.
Questions were raised as to whether the first application was applied at the appropriate time and county officials urged the company to maintain the appropriate schedule for dust suppression applications.
Other concerns arose that related directly to the facility.
Steve Tanner, a local resident and activist for protecting Nine Mile Canyon said that the noise generated by the compressor station echoes through the canyon and can be heard a great distance away from the facility.
"You can hear the sound of those compressors in Cottonwood Canyon," he said. Cottonwood canyon is a canyon that runs parallel to Dry Canyon approximately two miles east of the compressor station.
Tanner suggested the company be required to install devices that would channel noise upward and out of the canyon. He also said the wording of the original conditional use permit was ambiguous and said he felt numbers should be added to the permit to that noise, visual and odor pollution could be measured and regulated.
Tanner said he recognized the need for the company to expand its operations as production increases, but said he wanted officials to deal with the issues that have already been noticed before permitting the expansion of the operation.
Pam Miller, a local archaeologist, voiced her concern for the protection of archaeological artifacts located near the site.
"Dry Canyon is right across from one of our tourism stops," said Miller. An interpretive site across the road from the compressor station is one of the most complete stops showing ancient cultural and historical artifacts.
Further, Miller pointed out that Questar Gas is exploring adding a 25-inch pipeline to the region. Currently there are two options for the location of the pipeline. One is to run it in the bottom of Nine Mile Canyon. The other is to run it in a more direct route on top of the Tavaputs Plateau. Miller said the current favorite is the direct route above the rim of the canyon. She wondered why Bill Barrett Corporation was adding more to an area that is so unique and fragile when that pipeline is likely to take a different route.
Miller said the current compressor station has noise and other issues that need to be dealt with before the facility is expanded.
"I don't think you want to be creating more [issues] before we've dealt with what's already there," Miller told commissioners.
County planning director Dave Levanger explained that the location of Questar's proposed pipeline is still in many respect up in the air. The pipeline could just as easily end up in the canyon as on the plateau. Levanger said he favors the canyon bottom because it disrupts less area and impacts an area where there is already development.
The planning director also said he was not aware of the noise issues and that he would look into the matter.
During the public hearing, other issues also came before the commission. A fence surrounds the compressor facility. While the gas company has made efforts to blend facilities into the colors in the canyon, the fence has not oxidized yet and reflects the sunlight easily.
Another issue presented by Miller related to the types of trees that the company has chosen to use to surround the facility. The chosen tree, Austrian pine, is short and broad and provides a visual screen. however, Miller pointed out that it is not native to the canyon bottom.
Hamilton said he would speak with the planners of the expansion to determine why they had chosen Austrian pine. Commissioners assigned the county planning staff to look into other matters, particularly dust control, noise pollution and options for masking the fence.
Commissioners did not approve the conditional use permit and agreed to revisit the matter at the next meeting so that the issues presented can be researched and possible solutions can be reviewed.