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Proposed massive natural gas compressor station near Bayfield faces major setback

Company missed deadline to submit plans; project considered ‘expired’
An application for a proposed natural gas compressor station near the HD Mountains is considered “expired” after the company missed a deadline to submit project plans.

The Texas company proposing a massive natural gas compressor station southeast of Bayfield on the edge of the HD Mountains missed a deadline for a submitting completed plans, throwing the future of the project into uncertainty.

In the past year, the company, Harvest Midstream, which operates natural gas transportation facilities throughout the United States and has an office in Bloomfield, proposed what was to be called the El Toro Compressor Station.

A local representative with Harvest Midstream declined to comment and directed all media inquires to the Houston headquarters. Questions submitted by email to a spokesman there were not immediately answered Tuesday.

According to county records, the compressor station would have been located about a half-mile north of County Road 525, a little more than 1 mile west of the end of the county road and the Ute Creek trailhead.

The compressor station was expected to contain 10 large 1,500-horsepower engines, along with other oil and gas infrastructure, on a 5-acre site on private land, adjacent to the Saul’s Creek area of the San Juan National Forest.

“When fully operational,” the company wrote, “the facility will include inlet and outlet pipelines, metering, natural gas fired engines driving compressors, tri-ethylene glycol dehydrators with condensers, facility storage tanks and a workshop.”

In natural gas fields, compressor stations are typically located along pipelines every 50 to 100 miles as a means of compressing natural gas to make sure flows are at safe volumes to keep the gas moving through the line.

The El Toro station, according to county records, was expected to process natural gas produced by Catamount Energy Partners, which has permits in the HD Mountains, before being sent to Harvest Midstream’s plant in Ignacio.

No information, however, was provided to the county about plans to construct the pipelines from natural gas wells to the station, nor how much natural gas was expected to be processed at the site.

“Information on the approximate location of the gathering lines ... as well as the proposed route of the distribution ... are essential for the determination of need, suitability and compatibility,” the county wrote in a report.

A call to Catamount Energy Partners was not returned.

The proposed large-scale compressor station, however, drew intense objection from local residents in the foothills of the HD Mountains, a hard-to-access landscape that’s critical winter habitat for wildlife.

During a public comment period last fall, more than 60 letters of opposition were sent to La Plata County, arguing the El Toro Compressor Station would bring pollution, noise and extreme fire danger to an agricultural, quiet area.

“The world is changing and they (the oil and gas companies) are trying to get by, by not looking at the cumulative impact,” David Honea, who has lived in the area since 1973, said at the time.

Even the Southern Ute Indian Tribe submitted a letter during the public comment period that the station would have “far-reaching impacts that extend well beyond the physical boundaries of the project site.”

“This is our backyard,” Patrick Delaney, a resident of the HD Mountains since 1993, said in a previous interview. “And it just blows my mind they’d consider putting something like that out here.”

Harvest Midstream had spent the last year in the early stages of the La Plata County land-use process. The company had asked for, and was granted, an extension to submit additional plans.

In November, La Plata County officials told Harvest Midstream it had until March 1 to submit additional review materials, such as a complete proposed project plan and a compliance review.

March 1 came and went, and Harvest Midstream did not submit any new project plans or request an extension for the El Toro station, rendering the project “expired,” county records show.

Now, if Harvest Midstream were to pursue the compressor station again, the company would have to restart the La Plata County land-use process.

The HD Mountains are a remote landscape that serves as winter habitat for deer and elk, and is home to a wide array of Native American cultural sites, with Chimney Rock National Monument to the east.

But the 35,000-acre mountain range also sits on top of a vast reserve of coal-bed methane, a form of natural gas, which for years has attracted the attention of oil and gas companies looking to extract the resource.

In the 1990s, during the boom years of the oil and gas industry in La Plata County, residents rallied and waged a significant grassroots effort to push back on development in the HD Mountains.

Though oil and gas activity in recent years has declined, mostly as a result of low natural gas prices and the discovery of other fields where it is cheaper to drill, there has been a renewed interest in the HD Mountains’ reserves.

A previous version of this article had the incorrect name for Patrick Delaney.


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