The Kiowa County Commissioners passed resolution No. 2012-13 during their regular session on Monday. The resolution created a permitting system for the use of county right-of-ways by utilities, effectively aimed at the expected influx of oil and natural gas extraction on land inside of the county.
The commissioners had discussed the resolution at length during their meeting on Sept. 3 (see 'Commissioners close to mineral permit resolution' Kiowa County Signal Sept. 12, 2012), which included a conference call with Sonja Feist from the Harper County Road and Bridge office. Kiowa County borrowed heavily from a similar ordinance first passed by Harper County commissioners in August 2011. Officials asked questions for nearly 20 minutes about what to expect after passing the resolution, increases in county employee time and complaints from oil and natural gas companies.
The resolution creates fees and permitting costs for common utility practices, including placement of equipment on county roads and running polyethylene pipe along roads, through culverts and under bridges.
The resolution also addresses the permit application process and fines for non-compliance.
First District Commissioner John W. Unruh was the dissenting vote, citing a lack of need.
"I'm not sure I feel ready to [pass] this right now," said Unruh of the resolution. "We don't have a whole lot of exploration in the county right now. What are we really accomplishing beside more paperwork and trading dollars back and forth?"
The resolution appears to be a preparatory measure, assuming that as companies begin oil and natural gas extraction, county coffers would bear additional burdens of costs for road repairs and maintenance.
"They are not there today, but they could be tomorrow," added 2nd District commissioner Don Richards.
Kiowa County has yet to see as much of an increase in planned extraction as other counties in southwest Kansas but intent to drill notices compiled by the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC), a state-run resource and utilities oversight office, showed a significant number of notices filed for Kiowa County over the past year.
Sub-contractors for oil and natural gas companies have filed 28 intent to drill notices on land inside Kiowa County.
There have been significant numbers of notices filed for surrounding counties as well.
Ford County (106); Comanche (101); Edwards County (16); Stafford County (64); and Pratt County (25) have all seen an uptick in notices filed over the previous 365 days, according to the KCC website.
Road and Bridge Supervisor Gunnar Stauth spoke about a phone conversation he had with an individual connected to oil companies. "He was told that the majority of the rigs in North Dakota are pulling out and headed to Ford County and Kiowa County," said Stauth, although he admitted that it might have been hearsay. "They've got deep enough pockets; I don't think they are going to shy away at all [because of permits]."
Page 2 of 2 - Ford, Stafford and Edwards counties have some form on permitting. Comanche and Pratt counties do not. Ford County commissioners passed a resolution very similar to the Kiowa County resolution in August.
"I think we should have something in place even if one company comes here," said 3rd District Commissioner Ron Freeman. "To be truthful I think these oil companies expect [permits]. I don't see [oil companies] spending a lot of money on these, and we need something to be in place when they do come."