Adams County oil and gas rules advance

County planners unanimous in favor of stricter drilling rules

Posted 9/3/19

With the unanimous support from the Adams County Planning Commission, a suite of new oil and gas rules was scheduled to go to County Commissioners. The Planning Commission voted to support the new …

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Adams County oil and gas rules advance

County planners unanimous in favor of stricter drilling rules

Posted

With the unanimous support from the Adams County Planning Commission, a suite of new oil and gas rules was scheduled to go to County Commissioners.

The Planning Commission voted to support the new rules at their Aug. 22 meeting, after a two-and-a-half hour review that included an hour and 20 minutes worth of public testimony.

The new regulations create a special permit for oil and gas drilling and piping operations, and ban the work from certain zones and while creating stricter setbacks.

County Commissioners were scheduled to host a public hearing on the rules at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 3, followed by a possible vote.

The new regulations were enabled by state rules signed into law this spring that gives county and municipal officials control to limit oil and gas drilling and pipelines within their jurisdiction. Previously, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission had almost total say in approving and limiting oil and gas operations.

Legislators approved the new authority for Colorado counties and municipalities April 3 and Gov. Jared Polis signed it April 16.

Commissioners adopted a moratorium on new oil and gas facilities in the unincorporated parts of the county in March that is due to expire September 20. That moratorium was meant to stop new applications while legislators debated giving local jurisdictions more say.

“This is just a ginormous amount of work,” Planning Commissioner Rosie Garner said. “It’s a lot to go through and I tried to read as much as I could.”

The county’s proposed rules would limit where the drilling operations and pipelines would be allowed to go in Adams County. The operations would be allowed with the approval of an oil and gas permit in the Commercial and Industrial zones and the A-2 and A-3 Agriculture zones. Those are designed to allow larger farming, ranching and nurseries.

Oil and gas operations would not be allowed in the Residential, Mobile Home, Conservation or Public Lands zones nor in the A-1 Agriculture zone. That zone is set aside for home sites with limited farming operations. Currently, the county has five well pads in operation in the A-1 zone and one in the Residential zone.

It would also create 1,000 foot setbacks between homes, schools, licensed daycare centers and other developments — less than the 2,500 feet setback that voters rejected in Nov. 2018.

Industry representatives told the planning commission that the stricter rules are not reasonable and would make oil and gas development unnecessarily expensive.

“The regulations as drafted will severely restrict property owners of their rights to have oil and gas development on their land and to insure mineral rights owners have access to their minerals,” said Ryan Seastrom, of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

He also said it could lead to “takings claims,” when a government regulation deprives a property owner of the economic value of their property without paying for it.

He urged the planners and the County Commissioners to reject the changes.

Wendy Englemann, of Thornton, also opposed the rule changes but said they do not go far enough.

“At the last input hearing, I was told by the County Attorney that Adams County is working to balance the concerns of citizens and needs of land use,” she said. “Make no mistake: Senate bill 181 does not require you to balance those needs. It requires you to prioritize public health and safety and that is clear and intentional. If Adams County adopts this proposed draft without increasing restrictions, at least charge these companies enough money to compensate individuals and communities who will be damaged by these assaults.”

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