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Huasna Valley residents express concerns over oil drilling plans

Asked for their thoughts, Huasna area residents Thursday told the county Planning Commission that they had, at a minimum, strong reservations about a plan to extract oil from the scenic South County valley.

Excelaron, an oil company, is seeking as many as 12 wells on property south of Huasna Road owned by former county Supervisor Howard Mankins.

Oil produced by the project would be trucked to a refinery.

The project would include exploration and testing, production and cleanup, and abandonment of a previous oil exploration effort on the site.

The commission sought to glean public opinion on the proposal, and 20 members of the public testified during a so-called scoping meeting Thursday.

Their comments are to be incorporated into an environmental-impact report, which is intended to measure the potential consequences of drilling, should it be approved.

Everyone who spoke either opposed the project or raised serious questions that, as commissioners noted, were carefully researched and thought out.

Among their claims:

  • The drilling would ruin the beauty and character of the bucolic valley. “This isn’t Price Canyon,” said one speaker.
  • It would create fire, water and traffic problems.
  • It would create environmental problems, including possible oil spills and contaminated groundwater.
  • With a southern exit for the oil trucks going south through private land down to Highway 166, some critics claimed that the intersection at 166 could become more dangerous spot, as could the intersection of Highway 166 and 101.
  • There is a history of unsuccessful drilling in the area, and oil equipment from a previous operation in the 1980s has not been cleaned up yet. County officials did not verify whether that claim is true.
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