After more than a year of stakeholder discussions, the Weld County Board of Commissioners has unanimously approved a new administrative process for oil and natural gas pipelines in the heart of Colorado's Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin.
The changes, which take effect Feb. 1, apply to pipelines that are 12-inch diameter or larger and have received mixed reviews from the industry, landowners, and government officials.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) supports the changes. A landowner told local news media that he’s concerned the changes don’t go far enough because they don’t cover smaller pipelines.
County officials emphasized that the commissioners' action was limited to switching to an administrative process after years of using a "special review" process. The administrative approach would find planning staff interacting more with pipeline officials, but critics said that leaves little room for more public participation.
County planning officials said that the new requirements include a location assessment for pipelines (LAP) in response to landowner concerns. Under the new approach, operators are required to provide information on how they would mitigate conflicts with irrigation ditch companies or ditch easement owners who have land that is crossed by pipelines. The former special review process did not include such a requirement.
"Over the past year, COGA has worked closely with its membership and with Weld County to advance the newest portion of the county code -- the location assessment, or LAP," said COGA CEO Dan Haley.
"We are grateful to Weld County leadership for giving us the opportunity to participate as a stakeholder," Haley said. "It can be lengthy and at times a difficult process, but Weld County serves as a model of how local governments can create win-win scenarios through strong stakeholder discussions when drafting new regulations."
Landowners contend that their concerns have always been about getting early notification from pipelines and an attempt by them to get agreements with the private property owners before they start the public process of getting local governmental permits.
Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer told local news media that the changes are in the permitting process, not the local regulations. She said the intent was to create a better process, and the commissioners feel the administrative approach is the way to go.