Saying they needed more time to implement new oil and natural gas drilling regulations, elected officials in Boulder County, CO, have extended for four months a drilling permit moratorium to June 10.

County planning commissioners asked for more time to implement the new rules, and the Board of County Commissioners granted the request last Thursday. The three-member panel limited the extension, even though some have asked for a permanent drilling ban and operators have asked for the moratorium to be lifted.

Last fall the county planning commission drafted regulations to create two procedures for drilling operations in unincorporated parts of the county: a standard process and an expedited process. The procedures would require operators to comply with stricter air and water quality rules (see Shale Daily, Nov. 2, 2012). The new regulations would replace a 20-year-old set of county land use code rules governing drilling.

As it currently stands, oil and gas production from Boulder County makes up only a small fraction of the state’s overall production, according to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission data and NGI’s Shale Daily calculations. During 2012, 176,000 bbl of oil were produced in Boulder County, which accounts for less than half of a percent of the 41.11 million bbl the state produced. On the natural gas side, Boulder County produced 2.25 Bcf during the year, or 0.12% of the 1,811 Bcf the state produced.

Concern about the new regulations has been voiced by some Colorado operators, including Encana Oil and Gas USA and Noble Energy Inc. Encana urged the board not to extend the moratorium.

Encana considers the moratorium a “denial” of its right “to access and develop valuable mineral interests” in the county. “The denial and any extension of the moratorium likely gives rise to an actionable taking of property rights,” said Encana Vice President Darrin Henke, who is in charge of the South Rockies business unit.

Boulder and cities within the county have been among a number of Colorado jurisdictions attempting to place tighter restrictions on oil and gas development (see Shale Daily, Sept. 7, 2012).

Boulder County officials previously had reiterated their concerns about expanded drilling and supported tighter restrictions and increased local control to mitigate the impact.