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June 4, 2019

Boulder County Commissioners launch update of county’s oil & gas regulations, per passage of Senate Bill 181

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Boulder County, Colo. - The Boulder County Commissioners have authorized Boulder County staff to work on Docket DC-19-0002 Amendments to Article 12 of the Land Use Code which addresses oil and gas development in unincorporated Boulder County.

Given that there are no pending local applications for new oil and gas development in the unincorporated county, no moratorium has been imposed in Boulder County while staff begins work on drafting changes to the existing regulations. However, if any applications are to be submitted, the county commissioners could then consider adopting a moratorium on oil and gas permits.

Boulder County takes action on SB-181

At a public meeting on June 4, the commissioners heard from Land Use staff who requested authorization to update the county’s oil and gas regulations. The meeting was scheduled after the passage of SB19-181 – which prioritizes the local protection of public safety, health, welfare, and the environment in the regulation of the oil and gas industry and grants additional authority to local governments to regulate oil and gas development.

Boulder County Commissioner Deb Gardner said, “SB 181 gives local governments like ours a great opportunity to review our current regulations and to make changes that will further strengthen our ability to protect our community and the environment from the adverse impacts of oil and gas development.”

The state bill, which modified the oil and gas statute by clarifying, reinforcing, and establishing local governments' regulatory authority over the surface impacts of oil and gas development, gave local governments the land use authority to regulate the siting of oil and gas locations to minimize adverse impacts and to regulate land use and surface impacts.

“As the officials elected to protect the residents of Boulder County, we will use the safeguards afforded us under SB-181 to the fullest extent of the law to ensure the public safety, health, and welfare of our community and the environment,” said Boulder County Commissioner Matt Jones.

Board of County Commissioners Chair Elise Jones asked staff to provide for the public record the current status of oil and gas applications in Boulder County and to outline if the county might consider enacting a moratorium on pending applications. Staff confirmed that to-date no applications for new oil and gas wells in unincorporated Boulder County have been submitted to the county for local review and that if any local applications were to be contemplated by oil and gas operators, there are many preliminary steps that would provide “early warning” and give the commissioners time to enact a moratorium.

Commissioner Elise Jones responded by saying, “It’s clear that we would have ample time to enact a moratorium if we need to, should any operator step forward to apply for a permit while we work to update our rules and regulations aimed at further protecting our residents from oil and gas development, we will set a moratorium hearing for that purpose.”

Staff intends to work on changes to the current set of oil and gas regulations as time and resources allow. Staff is simultaneously working on a number of other amendments to the Land Use Code and it is anticipated that the Article 12 revisions will require significant staff time from multiple departments.

In addition, the timing of updating the county’s regulations will be somewhat dependent on outcomes from the state’s rulemakings through the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, as resulting rules from the COGCC’s proceedings may interrelate with Boulder County’s local review. Also, the same county staff who will lead the Article 12 update and are involved in the county’s on-going litigation over oil and gas proposals, will also be actively participating in the state rulemaking processes, which will occur over the next two years.

No public hearings have yet been scheduled regarding Article 12 amendments and no specific changes have yet been put forward. There will be numerous opportunities for the public to provide input during the revision process. The county’s Oil and Gas website and the DC-19-0002 webpage will be updated with the schedule as the project proceeds and all hearings will be legally noticed. Notices of future meeting and hearings will also be sent to the county’s Oil and Gas News list (signup via email or mobile number).