June 18–If you go
What: Lafayette City Council
When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: 1290 S. Public Road
More info: cityoflafayette.com
Lafayette officials on Tuesday will consider a measure to overhaul the city’s decades-old oil and gas rules, the latest in a spate of regulatory efforts following last year’s fatal Firestone home explosion that are likely to draw a reaction from both the industry and the city’s own grassroot activists.
Some of the requirements illustrated in the final draft language include a mapping of flow lines throughout the city, setback requirements, community engagement and ground and air mitigation, among others.
It bars a pipeline from being closer than 150 feet from a residential, commercial or industrial building, “a place of public assembly.” But it’s less stringent then previously expected. When officials first discussed revamped rules last fall, they suggested setback distances as far back as 750 feet.
Lafayette’s eastern neighbor, Erie, recently approved setbacks at 350 feet for new residential development.
Some of the proposal’s other focuses: mapping requirements that include existing well sites, mineral interests, producing, closed, abandoned and shut-in wells, and any other oil and gas operations within one mile of the site; hazards, floodplains and potential traffic impacts, among others.
Additionally, the revamped code would require fairly comprehensive mitigation efforts for oil and gas development on air and nearby water quality.
The new drilling rules are fashioned almost identically to those administered by Boulder County.
“The so-called fracking risk zone is where the city ends and the county begins,” Lafayette City Administrator Gary Klaphake wrote in a staff report. “Often this space is jointly owned open space. We think that working together to regulate oil and gas operations will be the best hand to play.”
It’s unlikely to appease some of the city’s hardline anti-fracking activist groups, such as East Boulder County United, whose members argue that any efforts by the city to regulate oil and gas would conflict with the city Climate Bill’s effective ban on any new drilling.
The activist-born measure that called for the sanctioning of civil disobedience and direct-action protest in the face of drilling plans was gutted of its enforcement clause prior to approval last year, though its supporters say the bill still prohibits any fracking operations, even with its neutered language.
“I still oppose legalizing the burning of cancer-causing chemicals in my town and I have not been convinced that fires and spills are any more appealing than they were last week,” said Cliff Willmeng, a founding member of East Boulder County United.
“This is actually what we’ve come to expect (from Lafayette) for the past six years,” he added. “They talk a very popular game, but in reality they are the ones moving the process forward, and we will be there to oppose that. We have to.”
A news release from East Boulder County United suggests they will come out in force against the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Community members consider the regulations deeply irresponsible and a politicized effort to accommodate drilling at the expense of public health, the local environment, the global climate, and the fundamental rights of people living in Lafayette,” the group wrote in a statement. “Knowing the risks of oil and gas extraction and allowing it anyway constitutes reckless disregard for Lafayette’s families and children.”
Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, warned Lafayette last fall against approving a moratorium on new drilling while the city weighed new regulations, saying, “we’ve seen Colorado courts strike down bans and moratoria time and again, and we would urge city officials to instead begin a dialogue to find reasonable solutions that are entirely possible.”
The board extended the moratorium for another three months in May.
In a statement on Monday, Haley said some of Lafayette’s proposed regulations “are in, or are likely to be in, operational conflict with state regulations,” adding that those conflicts “are significant and troubling because local regulations in operational conflict with state law are preempted and thus void.”
He cited language contained in the proposal that would give the city authority to mandate siting of oil and gas locations, “which is within the sole jurisdiction of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.”
“If a local government chooses to propose new regulations, we would appreciate the opportunity to work with council and staff to ensure the rules do not conflict with state statute or regulations,” he said. “Colorado courts have been very clear in this area. It’s a shame to see local governments wasting their taxpayer dollars on regs that won’t pass legal muster.”
Anthony Hahn: 303-473-1422, email@example.com or twitter.com/_anthonyhahn
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