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

The ordinance will stop 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.

Council members said they want to address health and safety concerns related to drilling and fracking. Six months of no new E&P development is thought to be needed to allow for the city to study the impacts of E&P and whether added land use and zoning regulations are needed.

Ultra, which emphasized its E&P activity in the Pinedale play in Wyoming and the Marcellus in Pennsylvania during the Jefferies Global Energy Conference Wednesday, has said it needs to use fracking at three exploratory wells to determine if viable oil and gas production is available in the Banning Lewis area.

Elsewhere in Colorado, state and industry officials are keeping an eye on the water use tied to stepped-up drilling and fracking, particularly in the state’s portion of the Niobrara formation, which it shares with parts of southeast Wyoming. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) estimated recently that it would take 6.5 billion gallons of water a year to drill the state’s share of the Niobrara. COGA said the state overall used 100 times more water than that annually.

A recent voluntary review of oil and gas regulations recommended a few changes to the state’s developing fracking regulations but concluded that regulation is well managed (see Shale Daily, Nov. 23). In August COGA launched a voluntary groundwater sampling program to address concerns associated with drilling and fracking (see Shale Daily, Aug. 30).