May 4, 2023
Extraction Oil & Gas, Inc. Suspends Blue Paintbrush Drilling Plans
Boulder County Declares Victory on Highly Contested Application to Drill County-Owned Minerals
Boulder County, Colo. -- Boulder County has welcomed the news that, after a five-year fight, Extraction Oil & Gas, Inc. announced late Monday (May 1) that it will indefinitely pause its plans to drill county-owned minerals.
Extraction proposed the Blue Paintbrush project in 2018, which included up to 32 new wells on a property over which the county owns a conservation easement in Weld County. The oil and gas company obtained drilling permits from Weld County and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to extract oil and gas from four square miles in unincorporated Boulder County, south of Longmont along County Line Road (see map of the proposed drilling area).
The county aggressively resisted the project in order to protect public health, the environment, and county open space property that was purchased with Open Space Sales Tax funds. The county owns the majority of the land and mineral rights in the Blue Paintbrush drilling area, purchased with Open Space monies, although some of those mineral rights had already been leased to operators for development at the time the county first acquired them.
Despite county objections in the COGCC, with Weld County and in court, Extraction announced in early 2022 its intent to begin drilling imminently. In October 2022, the Board of County Commissioners rejected a lease offer from Extraction, determining that leasing county minerals was not in the county’s or its residents’ best interests. Extraction then pursued a “forced pooling” application at the COGCC, in which the operator attempted to gain access to the county’s minerals over the county’s objections. The county has vigorously opposed the forced pooling action since last fall, and on Monday (May 1), just weeks before a highly-contested COGCC hearing on the issue was scheduled, Extraction stated that it would withdraw its forced pooling application for the Blue Paintbrush project.
“Extraction’s drilling proposal has been extremely concerning to Boulder County and our residents from the day it was filed,” said Commissioner Marta Loachamin. “Our staff has spent countless hours fighting this project on behalf of the citizens and environment of Boulder County, and especially Extraction’s attempt to force development of the county’s minerals, and this result is an important win for the county.”
“This week’s news is particularly significant for Boulder County’s Open Space program,” said Commissioner Ashley Stolzmann. “These oil and gas rights were purchased with taxpayer funds that require us to protect them from development. We are very pleased that we have succeeded in doing that.”
The Blue Paintbrush project came on the heels of another project proposed in 2017 by operator Crestone Peak Resources: a massive drilling plan consisting of 140 wells on several sites along the Highway 52 corridor in eastern Boulder County. Due to vigorous county opposition at both the COGCC level and in court, that project was abandoned.
“The county will continue to take the lead in challenging the ways in which oil and gas development in Colorado has been done,” said Commissioner Claire Levy. “We are dedicated to protecting the property our taxpayers have purchased for conservation and to protecting the public health and safety and the environment from the impacts of oil and gas development and fossil fuel combustion.”
“There are many details yet to be worked out,” said Senior Assistant County Attorney Kate Burke. “Extraction has stopped its effort to forcibly develop the county’s property for now, but it’s not clear what will become of the Blue Paintbrush project overall. We will continue our efforts to protect county property and enforce our lease rights.”