Adams County halts oil, gas applications until after election
Despite pleas from industry representatives to let the process play out, the Adams County commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday that will put new oil and gas applications on hold until voters decide whether to impose stricter setbacks on wells.
The commissioners voted 4-1 for a moratorium on new oil and gas applications in unincorporated Adams County through November. The staff proposed freezing new applications until the fate of Proposition 112 is known. The concern is if the measure on the Nov. 6 statewide ballot passes, there will be an influx of new permits from companies trying to get approval before the setbacks take effect.
Passage of the initiative would dramatically change the state oil and gas law and would affect Adams County’s oil and gas regulations, county attorney Heidi Miller said. That would give an unfair advantage to companies that manage to gain approval after the election results come in but before the new law is in place, she added.
The election results have to be certified by the state and the new law would have to be signed by the governor.
“This is leveling the playing field,” Miller said.
But oil and gas industry representatives called the moratorium unprecedented and said it would hurt oil and gas employees, many of whom live in and around Adams County.
“I would ask the county to not close its doors to business,” said Dan Haley, CEO and president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.
Proposition 112, 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.
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.
Permits are pending with the state for 248 new wells in unincorporated Adams County. The county is currently processing six applications for a total of 89 new wells.
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.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state regulatory body, estimates that more than four out of every five non-federal acres in Colorado would be off-limits to new drilling under the stricter setback.