Oct. 30–The Adams County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday will consider a moratorium on new applications for oil and gas drilling permits through November as Colorado voters decide whether to impose stricter setbacks for new wells.
The proposed resolution says a temporary moratorium on new applications would help the county ensure “fair and reasonable regulation of oil and gas” until the fate of Proposition 112 is clear following next week’s election.
The ballot measure, if adopted by voters, would require wells on private lands be at least 2,500 feet from homes, schools, waterways and other areas considered vulnerable, such as public parks and open spaces and irrigation canals.
The current required setback is 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from densely occupied buildings, like hospitals and schools.
Adams County spokesman Jim Siedlecki said the county staff recommended the commissioners consider a moratorium on new oil and gas applications until after the vote on Proposition 112. He said the county has consulted with its outside oil and gas attorney.
The county resolution refers to “real potential” for a rush of applications before the election and, if the ballot proposal passes, before the law takes effect following an official declaration by the governor. The county would need time to evaluate the changes to the law and any changes needed to county regulations as a result, the resolution says.
If approved, the moratorium would be in place until Nov. 30 “or until further action of the board.”
Siedlecki said he didn’t know if the county has seen an increase in oil and gas applications leading up to the election.
Statewide, the number of applications for new drilling permits is up dramatically from last year. As of Sept. 18, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was considering 5,536 permits, compared with 1,887 at the same point a year ago.
While the state decides whether to approve drilling permits and plans, it requires companies to negotiate with communities and other landowners to try to reach an agreement on how above-ground activities are handled.
As drilling has increased in more populated areas in the Denver metro and farther north, complaints about noise and traffic and concerns about health and safety have shot up. Fears intensified after two men died in a home explosion in Firestone in 2017 when a flow line attached to an oil well 170 feet from the house was cut. Investigators say an odorless mix of propane and methane seeped into the home through drains and a sump pump and ignited.
Opponents of Proposition 112 say Colorado already has some of the strongest oil and gas regulations on the books. Up to 147,800 jobs and up to $1.1 billion in tax revenue for state and local governments would be lost in the next 12 years if the tougher setback passes, according to a study by a consortium of business groups led by the Common Sense Policy Roundtable, with numbers checked by faculty at the Colorado School of Mines.
More than four out of every five non-federal acres in Colorado would be off-limits to new drilling under the stricter setback, the state oil and gas commission estimates.
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