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May 19, 2016

Boulder County Commissioners Take Action in Response to Colorado Supreme Court Decisions on Oil and Gas Drilling

Statement from the Boulder County
Board of County Commissioners

Boulder County Commissioners Take Action in Response to Colorado Supreme Court Decisions on Oil and Gas Drilling

(2016 CO 28 and 2016 CO 29 – May 2, 2016)
City of Fort Collins v. Colorado Oil and Gas Association
City of Longmont v. Colorado Oil and Gas Association


Earlier this month, 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. We strongly believe that
local governments should have sufficient regulatory authority to address local
impacts of oil and gas development,
and we continue to be disappointed by
judicial, legislative, and regulatory decisions that do not adequately protect
our residents from industrial activities like fracking.

Our county attorneys have thoroughly reviewed the two municipal cases and
the recent decisions by the Colorado Supreme Court. Despite the excellent
efforts made by the city attorneys in these cases to defend the critical role
local jurisdictions should play when it comes to regulating oil and gas
development, the Colorado Supreme Court decisions generally favored the oil and
gas industry over local interests.

According to our County Attorney, if our existing moratorium on new oil
and gas applications was to be challenged, a court would most likely
view our moratorium as no different from Fort Collins’ moratorium.

When our land use regulations around oil and gas drilling were adopted in
2013, drilling operations were significantly different than they are today. For
example, t
rends towards consolidation of drilling
operations and increased intensity of operations are insufficiently addressed in
our current regulations.
When we last updated our regulations, the current
practice was one to four wells per pad. More recently, industry has moved
towards much larger well pads with 12, 16, 20, or more wells per pad.

Additionally, at least two state agencies, Colorado Oil & Gas
Conservation Commission (COGCC) and Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC), have
changed their regulations since we adopted our current land use regulations.

As a result of these changes, the county’s current oil and gas regulations
are not adequate and need to be updated to ensure our local regulations do not
conflict with new state laws, to better reflect more recent industry practices,
and to best protect public health, safety, welfare, and the environment in
Boulder County

Our county Land Use Department staff
anticipates the time needed to analyze necessary amendments to our regulations,
as well as develop a plan to administer the new regulations including reviewing
appropriate permit and impact fees, is approximately six months in total.

This timeframe assumes approximately
one month for hiring technical expertise and internal staff meetings; two
months for drafting, referral to interested third parties, and public review of
those drafts; one month to notice and conduct Planning Commission hearings; one
month for a Board of County Commissioners hearing; and one month to train staff
to implement the new regulations

With our County Attorney’s
guidance and input from our Land Use Department staff, we have rescinded our existing
moratorium, which was set to expire in July 2018, and adopted a new moratorium
of a shorter duration
- six months - that will provide us with just enough time
to review our current land use code and adopt changes that fit with the current
status of oil and gas drilling operations.

Specifically, we have asked staff to analyze and recommend necessary
updates to the following areas of our regulations:

  • County air regulations that match or exceed the new AQCC
    regulations (for example, requiring tankless drilling and production);
  • adequate protection of the floodplain from oil and gas
  • mitigation options for multi-well pads and similarly
    intensively developed ancillary facilities;
  • changes necessary to conform county regulations with the
    most recent state rules from COGCC and AQCC;
  • pipelines;
  • adequate water supply for drilling, completion, and
    operations phases;
  • fees applicable to oil and gas development; and
  • county land use and zoning powers and comprehensive planning

We have further directed staff to return with a draft set of regulations for our review within the timeframe of the new moratorium.


Boulder County Board of Commissioners

Cindy Domenico, Deb Gardner, Elise Jones
Boulder, Colorado

Note: In addition to a copy of the official adopted resolution, a video of our public discussion on this important action will be available for viewing by the end of the day.