City council members in Lafayette, CO, agreed Tuesday to consider a temporary ban on oil and natural gas drilling while they revise regulations that have not been updated since 1994.

Elected officials in the Boulder County city in the north-central portion of the state have asked city staff to draft an emergency ordinance that would place a moratorium on drilling in the city, which has 14 active wells, all dating back to the 1981-1994 period.

In August Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the state hoped to avoid a lengthy court battle with the City of Longmont over newly enacted drilling regulations, which challenge the state’s authority to regulate energy operations (see Shale Daily, Aug. 17). Longmont’s city council on July 17 approved by a 5-2 vote a ban on drilling operations in residential areas. Included in the rules is a ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking), groundwater monitoring rules and stream setback regulations. Wildlife protections also are included.

Three days after the city council affirmed the rules, the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission voted to pursue a lawsuit to get a “clearer sense” of whether the state or local officials had authority over energy operations, according to Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director John King.

Several Colorado towns, concerned about fracking, are attempting to eliminate or closely regulate drilling.

One option being examined is what Erie, CO, officials announced in late August regarding negotiated agreements with two operators (see Shale Daily, Aug. 30). At the same time, Erie’s city commission ended a six-month moratorium on drilling that had been imposed on the operators. Separately, Colorado Springs, CO, city council members are scheduled to discuss the possibility of imposing local drilling regulations during an informal meeting of the council scheduled for Monday.

In Lafayette, the city attorney told council members that they could impose a moratorium, but he cautioned that past court rulings have been clear in upholding the state’s exclusive right to oversee natural resource extraction — as opposed to having local governments get involved.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association has argued that its members are already heavily regulated by the state and there has been no “scientific proof” that drilling causes health problems.