Jan. 13–If you go
What: SuperiorBoard of Trustees meeting
When: 5:30 p.m., Monday
Where: 124 E. Coal Creek Drive
More info: superiorcolorado.gov
Superior trustees are poised to approve a nearly six month drilling moratorium on Monday, just weeks after leaders initially hesitated on the option, opting instead to consult with its newly appointed oil and gas legal counsel before wading further into the Front Range’s familiar fracking debate.
With no immediate drilling applications on the horizon, Superior Mayor Clint Folsom said Wednesday that the stay would be meant as a preemptive measure. In the meantime, he said, leaders are likely to explore language aimed at new oil and gas regulations in response to last fall’s Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge fracking proposals.
The United Kingdom-based Highlands Natural Resources applied in October to the state for a spacing permit for wells on a 2,560-acre site with plans to horizontally drill underneath the Rocky Flats. That application, one that was decried by residents and environmentalists across several communities, would have allowed for drilling up to 31 wells on a small undeveloped portion of Superior at the intersection of McCaslin Boulevard and Colo. 128.
The proposal was dropped almost as abruptly as it was introduced days after the initial public outcry.
If approved, the 4-square-mile town would be the latest east Boulder County community to halt drilling within its borders. While Erie’s is likely to expire in the coming weeks, Lafayette leaders are mulling an extension to its nearly 15 month embargo.
The Superior site initially slated for drilling sits next to a town-owned 500,000-gallon water tank, just up the road from the town’s largest residential development, Rock Creek. CenturyLink currently owns the property. The site is potentially vulnerable to future applications, officials say, suggesting that necessary preemptive actions should come before another company turns its eye toward the parcel.
It’s unclear what specifically will go into the town’s new oil and gas approach, though attorneys suggest several options are at its disposal. Among them is a turn toward home rule: Article XX of the Colorado Constitution allows municipalities to transition to home rule, a power, simply defined, that gives cities and towns leverage to localize legislation while limiting state intervention.
Its effectiveness in matters of oil and gas, however, is often up for debate. In the case of a dispute, higher courts determine whether an issue constitutes “local concern,” and certain state laws often prevail.
Officials also have tossed around the idea of purchasing the CenturyLink property, though it’s unclear where that currently stands.
In its quest for stricter drilling regulations — or more precisely, any drilling regulations — Superior could go the path of neighboring Lafayette, which is sitting on a draft of new rules that mirror Boulder County’s — or Erie, which has chosen to negotiate agreements with local companies rather than sanction broad regulations.
Local rules can only go so far, officials say and past instances have also confirmed, with Colorado courts often favoring industry in cases ranging from outright bans to strict regulations.
And in the case of communities exploring temporary halts, the industry has often responded warily and in most cases threatened litigation.
“Regulatory processes at the local and state level can be complicated and filled with important technical nuances that require a good amount of conversation,” Colorado Oil and Gas Association spokesman Scott Prestidge said in a statement last fall when Superior first explored a moratorium.
“Whether it’s the town of Superior or any jurisdiction for that matter, we ask that industry be included in those conversations,” he continued. “Moratoria are generally unnecessary, as a healthy dialogue can take place, and local rules can be adjusted, without enacting a moratorium.”
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