Temporary moratorium on new oil and gas permits

Barb Halpin, Boulder.  At a public hearing on December 13, 2016 county staff requested a time period of just over four months to finalize and implement new oil and gas regulations based on direction given by the Board of County Commissioners.

 
The County Commissioners scheduled a public hearing for 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 to consider a final draft of the regulations. In the meantime, a moratorium on new oil and gas development in Boulder County will remain in place through May 1, 2017.

 
County staff stated on December 13 that they would need time to research and draft many of the additional provisions requested by the Board and to prepare to implement and administer the regulations. In particular, staff must coordinate and hold staff trainings with involved departments and agencies, prepare application materials, handouts, and public information, develop fee and inspection schedules, coordinate with Industry on submission of applications, and coordinate with COGCC before the regulations go into effect.

 
For the purpose of completing the requested research, finalizing the regulations and implementing a plan to administer the new regulations, the Board extended the existing moratorium on new oil and gas development until May 1, 2017.

 
“Our residents, like this Board of County Commissioners, are deeply concerned about the negative impacts that fracking can have on the environment, public health, and the economy of Boulder County,” said Boulder County Board of Commissioners Chair, Elise Jones. “It is absolutely critical that we get this right so that we have the most comprehensive and protective set of regulations in the State in place before anything else happens.”

 
“The vast majority of comments we’ve received over the past few months and years reflect a profound interest by community members in banning fracking or enacting a lengthy moratorium on oil and gas development in Boulder County,” said Boulder County Commissioner Deb Gardner.

 

“Given the Colorado Supreme Court’s rulings on preemption of state law over local law in this area, we do not believe it is feasible to continue to totally prevent oil and gas development in Boulder County. However, we will continue our efforts to rectify this situation at the state level, and, in the meantime, work to make sure that we use all of the authority we do have to ensure that the operations are as safe and environmentally responsible as possible.”

 
“We feel strongly aligned with the community in our desire to make sure that Boulder County has the strongest possible regulatory environment in in place to minimize the impacts from oil and gas development in our county,” said Boulder County Board of Commissioners Vice-Chair Cindy Domenico. “While we need to move ahead on a plan for developing and implementing regulations, we are actively considering studies that address the impacts of fracking on air, water, and public health, and requesting information from staff and other sources on a regular basis to help guide us in calibrating our regulations as we go forward.”

 
The Board initially adopted the current moratorium on May 19, 2016, and set an expiration date of November 18, 2016. That replaced a moratorium initially adopted in 2013 that extended through July 1, 2018.

 

The Board rescinded the longer moratorium after the Colorado Supreme Court announced two decisions overturning efforts by the municipalities of Fort Collins and Longmont to limit oil and gas drilling in the form of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) within city limits, including imposing a lengthy moratorium.

 
The purpose of the current temporary moratorium is to provide the County enough time to review the land use code and adopt updates that address changes in state law and oil and gas drilling practices.

 
For more information about the county’s role in oil and gas development, visit the county’s Oil and Gas Development webpage.