On a 6-3 vote after dozens of citizens and business representatives spoke, the Colorado Springs, CO, City Council late Tuesday night approved rules to allow the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in oil and natural gas drilling, mirroring similar statewide rules.

Within the new guidelines, drilling can move forward within Colorado Springs. Council member Tim Leigh, who voted in favor of the rules, told NGI’sShale Daily it is unlikely there will ever be much drilling around the city of nearly a half-million people south of Denver.

Leigh did not share any of the concerns of this three colleagues who voted against the measure. It cannot become law until it undergoes a second reading Dec. 11.

“We set up the infrastructure and the ordinances to allow [drilling and fracking],” said Leigh, who noted that one of the issues debated Tuesday was whether the city was going to stick closely to the state rules or go beyond them. In the end, “we’re in alignment with what the state rules are. At the end of the day, I didn’t think it was anything earth-shattering.”

Leigh said in Colorado Springs if the drilling is “managed properly, it isn’t a big deal in our locale because I am not sure anybody has much of an idea on how much oil and gas potential we have anyway.”

Noting that there is little or no drilling ongoing in the Colorado Springs area, Leigh said the city is on the edge of the geologic basin where oil and gas is considered a potential. “The real supplies are about 100 miles north of us,” he said.

The subject of drilling generally and fracking in particular had stirred emotions in Colorado Springs as it has in smaller towns more directly involved in drilling. A protest rally had been scheduled earlier on Tuesday in advance of the much-anticipated council meeting.

Earlier this year, agreements between two oil and gas producers and the small Front Range Colorado town of Erie added to the state’s already detailed rules covering hydraulic fracturing. The Erie agreements depend solely on the state for enforcement (see Shale Daily, Sept. 4). Memoranda of understanding (MOU) inked separately by Encana Oil & Gas Co. and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. with the city of Erie include several best management practices mutually agreed to with city officials and incorporated into state permitting requirements for new wells.

At the time, a Denver-based spokesperson with Encana called the MOUs a “first of its kind in Colorado.” Encana and Anadarko executed almost identical agreements outlining a series of best practices that in some cases go beyond the state’s requirements for our industry.

Tuesday’s action in Colorado Springs comes three weeks after voters in Longmont, CO, approved a hotly contested ban on the use of fracking within its jurisdiction, passing a ballot measure (Question 300) by a comfortable margin (see Shale Daily, Nov. 8).

Question 300 bans the use of fracking by oil and gas drillers within the city limits, along with banning fracking waste storage in the city confines. Supporters of a ban argued that fracking is environmentally risky; opponents — supported by more than $500,000 from industry — argued that the risks were exaggerated.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association has supported the state’s fracking rules as a national model and urged collaboration with local governments (see Shale Daily, Oct. 1). In late September, Hickenlooper responded to criticism from state elected officials upset over his administration taking Longmont to court over its oil and natural gas drilling rules. Legal action was what Hickenlooper called a “last resort” in a letter he sent to various local officials considering similar local drilling rules (see Shale Daily, Sept. 11).