A Converse County rancher blasted two companies proposing a gas-processing facility in Douglas this week, saying they are not committed to engaging the community where they work.

A Converse County rancher blasted two companies proposing a gas-processing facility in Douglas this week, saying they are not committed to engaging the community where they work.

Art Nicholas' comments came after Crestwood Midstream Partners LP and Access Midstream rejected his proposal to swap the property where the companies have proposed a natural gas plant in west Douglas for 250 acres on the south side of town.

Nicholas proposed the swap as an alternative after the planned Jackalope Gas Gathering System came under heavy criticism from community members. Many people worried during a public meeting in October that emissions from the facility would pollute Douglas' air quality.

The hope, Nicholas said, was to offer a proposal that both companies and the community found acceptable.

"Our point is we donít care where it is, but if it's downwind from the population center and they can hook up to the pipelines they need, that helps," he said.

The companies agreed that the alternative site was suitable, offering a connection to pipelines in the area, Nicholas said. The hangup was over time, he said. Moving the plant would postpone construction several months, a delay he said company representatives told him would leave them at a competitive disadvantage.

"The disappointing part is that Access Midstream is a public company and they state that they engage the communities they work in, but the truth is they donít," he said. "It is kind of a blatant affront to the community when you donít make an effort. "

Access Midstream spokeswoman Debbie Nauser confirmed the companies did agree to look at some alternative sites, but ultimately felt that the original location best fit the facility's operational needs and is already a long way into the permitting process.

"An alternate site would put progress on the facility back some 9-10 months and that isnít beneficial to our customers or the public at large," Nauser said. "Delays in completion of the project will slow down economic growth in the local area and impact service provider support to the business."

She also noted that company representatives attended public meetings in Douglas, met with local land owners and hosted a community town hall with the state Department of Environmental Quality.

"Community engagement and stewardship is one of the key attributes we instill in our employees, and we are proud of their commitment and personal ownership," Nauser said. "All of us at Access look forward to continuing our work with the citizens of Converse County."

The proposed plant would process 120 million cubic feet of gas a day from local drilling operations. The Douglas area lacks the capacity to process natural gas from the nearby oil and gas fields, where production is booming. The result has been frequent flaring at wellheads. Some in Converse County consider flaring a nuisance, while some believe flaring emissions are dangerous. The Jackalope facility aims to rectify all of those issues.

DEQ has issued the plant a preliminary air quality permit. The department is currently reviewing public comments on the proposal.

Nicholas, owner of Wagonhound Land and Livestock Co., said the proposed facility will hinder future development in Douglas. The west side of town is one of the few locations in town able to accommodate future housing. He noted that the land offered in south Douglas is already industrial. Concentrating development there would have reduced the strain on county roads and kept prime housing real estate in west Douglas open, he said.

Nicholas stopped short of calling for zoning, but said communities need some sort of protections to prevent unwanted energy facilities.

"Itís not that people aren't for energy development. I think everyone is. You canít have your cake and eat it too," Nicholas said. "Without any basic planning, it just turns into an industrial pit."