November 2, 2022
Boulder County Commissioners reject lease offer for open space mineral rights for oil and gas development
At a public hearing on Nov. 1, the commissioners voted unanimously to turn down an offer from Extraction Oil & Gas. Inc.
Boulder County, Colo. -- At a public hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 1, the Boulder County Commissioners voted unanimously to reject a lease offer for county-owned mineral rights on county open space in unincorporated Boulder County near Longmont along the Weld County border.
The public were invited to attend and comment in person, online, or by phone. Of the nearly 100 written comments received prior to the hearing, almost all were opposed to accepting the lease offer.
“Leasing Boulder County open space oil and gas property rights is definitely not in the best interest of Boulder County and its residents,” said Commissioner Matt Jones. “It would expose residents to toxic well gasses, increase ozone pollution and emit supercharged climate change gas. Boulder County taxpayers voted seven times to protect open space for environmental protection, agriculture and trails, the opposite of oil and gas development. In addition, forced pooling by the state - forcing the county to become an oil company’s business partner - violates both constitutional and statutory requirements. Forced pooling is a form of corporate condemnation and should not be used against a government agency.”
“Thank you to the 120 Boulder County residents and folks around the region who took the time to express their opinions, expertise, and suggestions in writing and at the public hearing,” said Board of County Commissioners Chair Marta Loachamin. “The Board of County Commissioners agrees with our residents that leasing Boulder County-owned minerals on county open space is not in the best interests of the county or its residents. Substantial evidence makes it clear that development of oil and gas poses significant threats to public health and the environment, including air quality and wildlife resources.”
“The county has a long-time practice of not voluntarily leasing its mineral rights for development,” said Board of County Commissioners Vice-Chair Claire Levy. “The lease offer considered by the commissioners is not in the best interests of the county, our residents, or our open space. In addition to the detrimental health and environmental impacts, accepting this lease offer would require Boulder County to be in business with a private corporation on oil and gas development – something the county cannot and will not do. If the result of our decision is an application to force Boulder County to allow Extraction Oil & Gas to develop our mineral interests, we will fight that. Boulder County should not be required to participate in something that we find so detrimental to the public interest.”
Boulder County received a letter from Extraction Oil & Gas, Inc., on July 5, 2022, offering to lease county-owned mineral rights in connection with Extraction’s “Blue Paintbrush” well pad planned in Weld County. According to Extraction’s offer letter, if the county does not agree to lease 552 acres of mineral rights or to accept a working interest in the Blue Paintbrush wells, Extraction will seek a statutory (or “forced”) pooling order from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). Extraction filed an application with the COGCC to force pool the county’s minerals on July 7, which is currently set for a hearing on Jan. 25, 2023.
The Blue Paintbrush pad is located approximately 1,000 feet east of the Boulder County line in Weld County on land over which Boulder County owns a conservation easement. Extraction has permits from the COGCC and Weld County to drill up to 32 wells on the pad. The Blue Paintbrush wells are designed to drill horizontally from the Weld County site to produce oil and gas under four square miles of Boulder County, where the county is the majority mineral owner. Boulder County filed a lawsuit in 2019 arguing that its conservation easement and several existing leases do not allow for the approved drilling, but that suit was unsuccessful.
Considering the threat of forced pooling and the significant amounts of land, minerals, and money at stake in this lease offer, the county completed a full public process before the commissioners reached a decision.
On Aug. 25, 2022, the Parks & Open Space Advisory Committee (POSAC) considered the lease offer at a public hearing. After a presentation by staff and comments from the public, POSAC voted unanimously to recommend that the Board of County Commissioners decline the offer to lease.
The staff report for the Nov. 1 public hearing is available to view on the Boulder County website.