The Adams County Board of Commissioners held a special public hearing on March 20, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. Denver time. The objective was to gather public comment to determine whether to approve a temporary moratorium on local oil and gas permit applications in unincorporated areas of the county.

Colorado Oil: Adams County Commissioners Vote to Put in a Temporary Moratorium on Oil & Gas Permit Applications - Oil & Gas 360

RIch Frommer, President and CEO of Great Western Oil & Gas, testifies to the Adams County Board of Commissioners at the special meeting to discuss a proposed drill permit moratorium, March 20, 2019.

As with the recent public testimony for and against Senate Bill 19-181 and in recent COGCC hearings, people on both sides of the issue testified to the county commissioners for hours, each person getting a three-minute uninterrupted block of time to speak. One speaker noted that when the room was asked earlier for everyone against the moratorium to stand, it was 90% of the room by his calculation. Judging from the applause from the audience following one oilfield worker’s testimony, the room was predominantly represented by oil and gas industry attendees compared to people in favor of the moratorium, even though those who publicly testified seemed almost evenly divided.

Colorado Oil: Adams County Commissioners Vote to Put in a Temporary Moratorium on Oil & Gas Permit Applications- Oil & Gas 360

The oil and gas industry was well represented by oilfield workers who spoke against the moratorium and against Senate Bill 19-181 during the afternoon special session.

Following the afternoon’s final individual’s testimony—and anyone wishing to speak was allowed to do so without registering in advance—Commissioner Charles “Chaz” Tedesco said that he has approved energy pipelines and numerous oil and gas operations in the past. He said that the decisions of the commission are not based on politics. He said regarding his decision, whether for or against, his goal, and that of the commission, is to “do proper due diligence and put effort behind every decision the commission makes.”

Colorado Oil: Adams County Commissioners Vote to Put in a Temporary Moratorium on Oil & Gas Permit Applications- Oil & Gas 360

Adams County Board of Commissioners just prior to instituting the temporary drill permit moratorium in Adams County, March 20, 2019.

Commissioner Emma Pinter spoke next: “All of us really are committed to this process and all of us are committed to doing this right … We’re trying to be thoughtful and measured and calm in our approach.”

Pinter referenced Adams County being one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, “which requires the commission to be diligent.” She said this includes “working with you to make sure we have an opportunity to take a pause and integrate all the feedback we are getting from you as well as industry and the activities down at the State House,” a reference to Senate Bill 19-181 that is making its way through the legislation process at a record pace. SB 181 is the energy permitting overhaul bill introduced in the new legislature.

She said the COGCC has said there are about 661 new wells with dozens of sites across Adams County, “and these are no longer rural; they’re in neighborhoods, they’re next to schools, they’re in communities.”

Colorado Oil: Adams County Commissioners Vote to Put in a Temporary Moratorium on Oil & Gas Permit Applications- Oil & Gas 360

Source: Adams County Commission Hearing Mar. 20, 2019

Pinter said, “I believe that for all of us to make the best decision we need to take our time and be thoughtful and ask for input.”

Three takeaways

“There are three things that I know from all the conversations that have come up today,” Pinter said.

“One: operations will continue with all their vested rights. We currently work with industry, we’re going to continue to work with industry to make sure we’re supporting this operation and those workers.

“The second thing that we know is that all these new applications including over a hundred new wells with 2As right now, they’re in the process of being heard through the COGCC and through our process.

“And three: the last thing that we know is that for weeks the Senate has been working on 181, and that’s been moving through the legislature really fast, and it would empower local communities to zone our spaces as we see fit, just like we zone any other business or any other industry.”

Pinter said she took notes during each person’s three-minute comment period, to be sure all the voices are heard, including residents and the industry.

Colorado Oil: Adams County Commissioners Vote to Put in a Temporary Moratorium on Oil & Gas Permit Applications- Oil & Gas 360

Adams County Commissioners

Commissioner Mary Hodge said, “Believe me, my email has blown up.”

Commissioner Steve O’Dorisio said, “it’s our job to work with all sides and all stakeholders.” He referenced 225 issued permits they have already approved in 2019. But he said he believes that there is a need to have a pause to see what the new rules will be if Senate Bill 19-181 passes the state legislature and is signed into law, which thus far appears fairly certain.

Moratorium passes with a 5-0 vote

Commissioner Hodge then moved that the commission approve a temporary moratorium on local oil and gas permit applications and the motion was seconded. The commissioners voted in favor of the temporary moratorium with a vote of 5-0.

Listening to the statements of the commissioners following the public testimony period, it became clear that this special public hearing was called in the interest of pausing issuing permits until SB 19-181 is resolved and any new rules that come out of that bill, if it becomes law, are clear. Adams County government is not negative to oil and gas operations the way Boulder County, Boulder and certain other municipalities have been in recent years.


BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS FOR
ADAMS COUNTY, STATE OF COLORADO

RESOLUTION ADOPTING A TEMPORARY MORATORIUM FOR APPLICATIONS FOR OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT IN UNINCORPORATED ADAMS COUNTY

WHEREAS, the Adams County Development Standards and Regulations, which are enacted to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Adams County, contain provisions for the regulation of oil and gas development in the unincorporated areas of Adams County; and,

WHEREAS, the County’s current oil and gas regulations were developed in accordance with the County’s understanding of the scope of local regulatory authority under current Colorado law; and,

WHEREAS, it is anticipated that Senate Bill 19-181 may be passed by the Colorado General Assembly in the next few days. Given prior statements made by Governor Polis, it is anticipated that the Governor will sign the legislation; and,

WHEREAS, if it becomes law, Senate Bill 19-181 changes the authority of local governments to regulate oil and gas development within their jurisdictions; and,

WHEREAS, while Senate Bill 19-181 authorizes the State regulatory agency to refuse to issue permits while regulations are developed, the County is not assured that applications will not continue to be processed if the bill becomes law; and,

WHEREAS, the County is likely to continue to receive applications for new oil and gas facilities between now and such time as final changes are made to state law and/or regulations resulting from Senate Bill 19-181; and,

WHEREAS, Adams County is committed to protecting the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens and wants to ensure that Adams County residents are afforded the benefits of the application of the changes resulting from Senate Bill 19-181 if it becomes law; and,

WHEREAS, there is real potential for oil and gas developers to rush to submit local government applications between now and the implementation of Senate Bill 19-181; and,

WHEREAS, with the likelihood that the law regarding oil and gas development and the authority of local governments to regulate oil and gas will change, the County will need to re-evaluate its oil and gas development regulations and develop regulations that are consistent with the new law in Colorado; and,

WHEREAS, if applications requesting approval of oil and gas development are submitted prior to the County having adequate time to evaluate and revise its oil and gas development regulations, the Board of County Commissioners believes irreparable harm may be done to the public health, safety, and welfare; and,

WHEREAS, the County estimates that it will take approximately six months for County staff to evaluate the implementation of Senate Bill 19-181 and develop oil and gas regulations that meet the needs of the Adams County community under the applicable law.

WHEREAS, the Board of County Commissioners believe that a temporary moratorium of six months will accomplish the goal of ensuring fair and reasonable regulation of oil and gas regulation while ensuring compliance with changes in the law; and,

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of County Commissioners of Adams County, that a temporary moratorium for new Oil and Gas Facilities in unincorporated Adams County, as that term is defined in Chapter 4 of the Adams County Development Standards and Regulations, shall be immediately effective and shall continue for six months or until further action of the Board.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that County staff is directed to immediately stop accepting new applications for Oil and Gas Facilities in Adams County, regardless of the form of application, and to inform developers of the passage of this temporary moratorium.


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