Colorado regulators on Monday notified Weld County that legislation giving local jurisdictions more authority over energy projects did not preempt the state’s authority to oversee oil and gas development.
The Weld County Commission earlier this month established an energy department to give it more control over unincorporated areas of the county under its jurisdiction. The move was in reaction in part to voters approving state Senate Bill (SB) 181 last November, which gave municipalities additional authority.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGCC) is responsible for implementing energy rules.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Kyle Davenport, representing the COGCC, notified Weld County Attorney Bruce Barker that SB 181 “does not diminish the COGCC's authority to regulate the orderly development of oil and gas throughout the state."
Under the law, “local governments may impose regulations that are ‘more protective or stricter than state requirements,’ but they are not authorized to bypass the COGCC’s regulations.”
Davenport said if Weld County’s regulations were to conflict with state oversight, COGCC would continue to require state regulations be followed. A notice also was sent to operators that work in Weld County.
"COGCC encourages local government and operators to continue to work with our commission and staff as SB 181 guidance and rulemakings are further developed over the coming months," the notice to operators said.
Weld County leaders took offense with the notification, according to spokesperson Jennifer Finch. She told NGI's Shale Daily the state's action is "disappointing and irresponsible." The county intends to "exercise the authority the state has granted us to develop and implement our regulations as they work best for our county.
"SB 181 gave local governments expanded local authority regarding land use,” and the legislation “was very clear that the state cannot preempt local land use authority or interfere with the siting of oil and gas location and facilities."
With more than 21,180 wells, oil production in Weld County, in the heart of the Denver-Julesburg Basin, represents 88% of the state’s total output, while natural gas production represents 34%. Nearly 59% of the county’s total assessed value is estimated to come from oil and gas production.
Colorado Oil and Gas Association CEO Dan Haley said county leaders “have witnessed firsthand the many benefits of a healthy oil and gas industry. We know the state rulemaking process is just beginning and that issues around location and siting analysis, as well as processes between local and state authorities, are part of the overall rulemaking timeline.”