Boulder County Considering New Oil And Gas Regulations, Moratorium

By Cathy Proctor, Denver Business Journal |

Boulder County commissioners will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a new set of oil and gas regulations, just days before the county’s existing moratorium on accepting permit applications expires on Friday.

As of Monday evening, staff and individual comments were expected to last about 90 minutes, starting at noon on Tuesday at the Boulder County Courthouse, 1325 Pearl St.

The county’s objective, according to its announcement about the public hearing, is to have regulations that “protect public health, safety, welfare, and the environment to the maximum extent permitted by law.”

Among the worries raised by Boulder County residents are “health problems, air pollution, water contamination, noise, odor, vibration, property damage, and other impacts that may be caused by oil and gas development, particularly the extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking.”

Fracking uses water, sand and chemicals under high pressure to crack underground rock formations to allow molecules of oil and natural gas to flow through the rock and into wells.

The technique has been credited with boosting U.S. production of oil and gas to record levels in recent years. But it’s also been the target of people and groups worried about health and environmental impacts related the industry and the use of fossil fuels in general.

Boulder County’s goal is to have regulations that allow for scrutiny, public input, and the ability to mitigate impacts on a site-by-site basis, according to the hearing announcement.

The county initially imposed a moratorium in February 2012. The latest version was set previous set to expire on July 1, 2018, but in May the county commissioners announced it would be shortened to Nov. 18.

The May announcement followed a decision by the Colorado Supreme Court that struck down a similar five-year, voter-approved moratorium in Fort Collins and a ban on fracking in Longmont. The court ruled that the bans were illegal under state law, which gives the state greater authority to regulate oil and gas operations than local governments.