Commerce City, CO, has invoked a 30-day “time out” on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to give city officials time to further discuss their concerns with the oil and gas industry. City officials took the action late Monday in lieu of a proposed six-month ban on fracking.

On Nov. 30 the nine-member city council in Colorado’s second largest city, Colorado Springs (pop. 416,000), voted unanimously to invoke a 60-day moratorium on oil and gas drilling within the city limits (see Shale Daily, Dec. 2). The action was taken in an emergency meeting scheduled to look at exploration and production (E&P) activity.

Commerce City’s elected council may still decide to invoke the six-month ban after the time out period, a council spokesperson told the Associated Press.

Located northeast of Denver in Adams County, Commerce City residents and council members have raised concerns about not being notified in advance of a fracking operation that began in November within their city limits, near the municipal border.

In Colorado Springs, the city council’s fracking ordinance stops any land use applications, permit applications or any other applications requesting approval to conduct oil and gas E&P activity within the city. The moratorium includes Banning Lewis Ranch, for which there have been plans for a housing development and more recently in which Houston-based Ultra Petroleum Corp. bought 18,000 acres and in October gained approval to drill three exploratory wells and use hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to stimulate them.

Commerce City’s ordinance was passed by an 8-0 vote following testimony by residents, environmental groups, businesses and the oil/gas industry.

“City Council’s decision allows Commerce City assess how best to balance necessary oil and gas development with the growth of our city,” said Mayor Pro Tem Dominick Moreno, who noted that city officials will work with “all interested parties to provide thoughtful discussion and increase awareness and education on this important topic.”

City officials said the ordinance covers any surface or subsurface use tied to any oil and gas operations that include hydraulic fracturing or drilling activities within the city limits. “The moratorium would allow the city to complete a comprehensive study of the impacts of oil and gas development, acknowledging the city’s regulatory limitations on the topic,” the council spokesperson said.

City Council also directed the city to create an oil and gas land use review committee, comprised of council members, industry, residents, interest groups and staff. The purpose of the committee will be to assess risks, study impacts of uses described and determine what, if any, changes to the city’s land use development code are needed.