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Boulder County commissioners extend oil and gas moratorium through year's end

With the COVID-19 pandemic “slowing everything down, we simply need more time to ensure we get our regulations right."
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Boulder County commissioners on Tuesday extended the moratorium on accepting and processing new oil and gas development applications and seismic testing through Dec. 31.

The moratorium, which was set to expire July 31, is in place to give staff time to review and update oil and gas regulations in light of the changes made to local authority by Senate Bill 19-181, according to a news release. The bill expands local governments’ control over oil and gas operations. 

The moratorium was previously extended from its March 28 expiration. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic “slowing everything down, we simply need more time to ensure we get our regulations right. Extending our moratorium on new oil and gas development to the year’s end is both responsible and necessary in order to fulfill our duty to our constituents,” Commissioner Elise Jones stated in comments included with the news release. “They deserve the strongest possible protections and a pause on any applications until those are in place.”

The county’s update process will include public comment and hearings before the Boulder County Planning Commission and commissioners, according to the release. 

At a virtual public hearing on Tuesday, staff announced a new schedule for public review of revisions to land use code addressing oil and gas development in unincorporated Boulder County.

The new timeline allows staff and the public to focus on important “Mission Change” rulemakings at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission occurring through October, according to the news release. COGCC rulemaking hearings are scheduled Aug. 24 through Sept. 10 and Sept. 28 through Oct. 9. 

“With too much still unknown about what the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will do this fall with its new rules and how those might affect our local regulations, it doesn’t make sense to rush finalization of our regulations or lift the moratorium until we know we have the best possible regulations we can put in place,” Commissioner Deb Gardner stated.

In an email statement, Lynn Granger, executive director of the American Petroleum Institute Colorado, criticized the extension: “We are disappointed with Boulder County’s decision to once again extend its seemingly interminable on new energy production. While local governments have the authority to regulate natural gas and oil development, they do not have the authority to completely prohibit it. By chaining together a seemingly endless series of moratoriums, Boulder County appears to have no serious intent to reopen the county to our industry.”

Public comments received by the commissioners in advance of Tuesday’s hearing widely supported extending the moratorium, according to the release.

An initial draft of the updated regulations was posted to the county oil and gas website on March 6 and is available for review and comment. A second draft will be published prior to the first Planning Commission hearing, according to the news release.

The anticipated schedule for review of the updated oil and gas regulations includes drafting new regulations through October. 

The Planning Commission is slated to hold a public hearing at 4 p.m. Oct.13, and a public meeting at 4 p.m. Oct. 15. If needed, the public meeting will be continued until 4 p.m. Oct. 27 and 29, according to the release. 

Commissioners are slated to hear public testimony at 4 p.m. Nov. 17 and hold a public meeting at 5 p.m. Nov. 19. If additional dates are needed, the public meeting would be continued to 4 p.m. Dec. 3, 10 and 15. 

All meetings are open to the public and will be held virtually. Comments also can be emailed to oilgascomment@bouldercounty.org.

Updates to the schedule will be posted on the county’s oil and gas website.