On Tuesday, Adams County, Colorado, commissioners lifted a six-week moratorium on new oil and gas drilling operations in urban areas. The moratorium, previously approved by the county commissioners in early February following contentious public debate about a proposed 10-month moratorium, applied to new permits for wells or well pads within 1,500 feet of homes, schools or public buildings.
In addition to ending the six-week moratorium, the commissioners approved an increase in new permit application fees and enhanced regulations that include a site-specific review process. Modeling the new regulations on the procedures utilized in Arapahoe County, Adams County now requires an operator that has previously entered into a memorandum of understanding with the county to apply for a Use by Special Review permit for each new oil and gas facility location. The application, which can take up to 42 days to review, may be approved, conditionally approved, denied or referred to the county commissioners. Applications that are denied can be appealed to the county commissioners.
Recognizing the growing importance of the oil and gas industry to the local economy, the chairman of the county commission, Steve O’Dorisio, stated that the commission’s objective during the moratorium “was to develop a process that will address the land and surface issues and the concerns of our community members while not creating unreasonable obstructions for oil and gas development.” According to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, there are nearly 1,600 workers in the oil and gas industry in Adams County. In 2015, 96 drilling permits were approved by the state, the sixth most for any county in Colorado, and there are roughly 1,000 active wells in the county.
To assist the county in addressing ongoing oil and gas issues, the commissioners also approved hiring two new full-time employees. One position is a full-time, dedicated local government designee to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, a job created in an effort to provide improved service to residents and operators. The second new position is a full-time oil and gas inspector to ensure regulatory compliance in Adams County.