Broomfield City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the first reading of a six-month oil and gas moratorium aimed at allowing the city time to update local ordinances in light of the newly passed state law that gives municipalities more control.
The moratorium will halt until Nov. 14 the processing or approval of applications for use by special review or operator agreements to allow oil and gas operations in Broomfield.
Ward 1 Councilwoman Elizabeth Law-Evans was one of several members in favor of the time frame, despite multiple residents and at least one council member pushing for a 10-month moratorium. She agreed with Ward 4 Councilman Kevin Kreeger’s comments that if Broomfield needed more time, council could vote to extend the moratorium.
“The point is to allow us to make good, solid decisions,” Law-Evans said. “I don’t feel the point of this is to penalize the industry. This has nothing to do with ‘not being open for business’ or penalizing the industry. It’s more about us taking the time to consider how the state laws changed and how we need to deal with it as a community.”
Members of council brought up the idea of a moratorium at previous meetings as a way to give city officials time to react to the passage of Senate Bill 181, which changes the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and authorizes local governments to exercise additional regulatory authority over oil and gas operations without being preempted by state law. Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law on April 16.
Chris McGowne, who identified himself as the associate director with the Colorado Petroleum Council, said the organization has taken a “pragmatic and proactive problem-solving approach” in Broomfield and hopes to continue, but finds itself at a crossroads.
When conversations were underway, proponents of the bill assured oil and gas industry industry members it would not impede development, that they would be welcome and that it wouldn’t result in bans at the local level, McGowne said.
This moratorium “sends a message that we are not welcome,” he said.
Broomfield, Erie and unincorporated Adams County residents attended the meeting to comment on the moratorium, some grateful for the six-month timeline and others wanting 10 months.
Christopher Cleary, who is running for the Ward 3 Broomfield City Council seat in November, was one resident who believed the moratorium should go beyond six months since there could be up to five new faces on council and a new mayor when the moratorium expires. Mayor Randy Ahrens is term limited.
“(Senate Bill) 181 is going to give you a whole new set of tools to be able to act on,” he said, adding that time is needed for the “new blood” on council to influence new regulations.
Extraction Oil & Gas Inc. in October 2017 signed an operator agreement with Broomfield to drill up to 84 new wells on six sites, which is not impacted by the new state law. Crews are currently drilling on the Interchange B Pad south of the Northwest Parkway and between Interstate 25 and Huron Street.
“They have to complete eight wells there first before they can move onto Livingston Pad,” Broomfield Director of Strategic Initiatives Tami Yellico said.
Extraction has to give Broomfield notice before that happens, she said.
The Denver-based oil and gas company has drilled five wells and is expected to move onto the sixth well this week.
Broomfield amended its oil and gas land use regulations in July and again in March, when the city increased setbacks of residential and “sensitive use developments” to oil and gas well sites.
“In order to develop new regulations to implement SB19-181 in a thoughtful manner that provides more clarity and certainty to oil and gas operators about Broomfield’s requirements without trying to simultaneously review and process applications to develop oil and gas wells, facilities and projects, a temporary moratorium on processing such applications is necessary,” the city stated in a memo for Tuesday’s meeting.
The new law grants local governments more authority to regulate surface operations and nuisance impacts of oil and gas operations without being preempted by state law, according to the memo.
At an April 9 meeting, council members asked staff to review and begin drafting amendments to the Broomfield oil and gas ordinance to implement the broader authority granted by the law.
“A six-month moratorium would provide the time to develop appropriate amendments that provide clarity and certainty to operators as to Broomfield’s requirements to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Broomfield’s residents in their workplaces, their homes, their schools, and public parks in order to protect the public’s health, safety, and welfare and to safeguard the environment and wildlife resources,” the memo states.
Other communities in the area also are enacting moratoriums.
In late March, Adams County commissioners passed a moratorium, which can extend up to six months, to new applications for oil and gas drilling permits. Last month Lafayette extended a moratorium that the council initially approved in November 2017.
A second reading on the moratorium will take place at 6 p.m. May 28.
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