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Colorado County Stalemated on Local Oil/Gas Agreements

Elected officials in one of Colorado's most prolific oil and natural gas-producing counties were recently divided on how to proceed with rules for oil/gas development near residential areas in the county, resulting in a six-week suspension of action.

The five-member Adams County board of commissioners' stalemate arose in response to local officials attempting to implement new local control powers adopted earlier this year by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) as a result of recommendations from a statewide governor-appointed task force (see Shale DailyJan. 26).

Following a public hearing, the commissioners met but failed to act on memoranda of understanding (MOU) with operators, pipe fitters and other stakeholders that would restrict new oil/gas development agreements within the county. Because of a lack of majority support, the commissioners agreed to a six-week "timeout," as proposed by Commission Chairman Steve O'Dorisio and Commissioner Eva Henry.

As a result, the county elected officials effectively suspended all non-vested MOUs and permits for oil/gas development within urban growth areas in the county, which is near Denver, and within 1,500-foot setbacks from homes and public buildings. The county commissioners were unable to reach a long-term agreement on residential-area oil/gas development and production.

Industry representatives complained that the county had agreed to the MOU process, allowing the local officials to supersede the state's already stringent regulations, but now it is refusing to sign the agreements. "The MOUs must be given a chance to work and do what they were designed to do," said Dan Haley, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA).

Commissioner Erik Hansen and COGA were critical of the action, criticizing Henry's references to the action as a "moratorium" or in one instance to a "ban" on oil/gas development in the county. Haley pointed out that in other Colorado counties temporary bans and moratoriums have stayed in effect for years.

"It was extremely disheartening that the Adams County commissioners made a rash and behind-closed-doors decision to hold an unnoticed public hearing on oil/gas development and then, on a 3-2 partisan vote, declare a six-week moratorium regardless of scope," Haley said, urging the commissioners to reconsider what he thinks is an uncompromising position. All the past months of hard work between the county and operators should not he "tossed aside," he said.

"We think bans are a lazy way to address a complex issue," Haley told local news media, following the commission's emergency meeting Tuesday night. Haley said the city attorney in Boulder put a temporary moratorium in place that is still in effect after four years. "Is Adams County open for [oil/gas] business?"

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