Boulder County Commissioners Take Action in Response to Colorado Supreme Court Decisions on Oil and Gas Drilling

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May 19, 2016

Media Contact: 

Barb Halpin, 303-441-1622

Statement from the Boulder County
Board of County Commissioners

Boulder County Commissioners Take Action in Response to Colorado Supreme Court Decisions on Oil and Gas Drilling

(2016 CO 28 and 2016 CO 29 – May 2, 2016) 
City of Fort Collins v. Colorado Oil and Gas Association
City of Longmont v. Colorado Oil and Gas Association


Earlier this month, the Colorado Supreme Court announced two decisions overturning efforts by the municipalities of Fort Collins and Longmont to limit oil and gas drilling in the form of hydraulic fracturing (or, fracking) within city limits. We strongly believe that local governments should have sufficient regulatory authority to address local impacts of oil and gas development, and we continue to be disappointed by judicial, legislative, and regulatory decisions that do not adequately protect our residents from industrial activities like fracking.

Our county attorneys have thoroughly reviewed the two municipal cases and the recent decisions by the Colorado Supreme Court. Despite the excellent efforts made by the city attorneys in these cases to defend the critical role local jurisdictions should play when it comes to regulating oil and gas development, the Colorado Supreme Court decisions generally favored the oil and gas industry over local interests. 

According to our County Attorney, if our existing moratorium on new oil and gas applications was to be challenged, a court would most likely view our moratorium as no different from Fort Collins’ moratorium.

When our land use regulations around oil and gas drilling were adopted in 2013, drilling operations were significantly different than they are today. For example, trends towards consolidation of drilling operations and increased intensity of operations are insufficiently addressed in our current regulations. When we last updated our regulations, the current practice was one to four wells per pad. More recently, industry has moved towards much larger well pads with 12, 16, 20, or more wells per pad.

Additionally, at least two state agencies, Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC), have changed their regulations since we adopted our current land use regulations.

As a result of these changes, the county’s current oil and gas regulations are not adequate and need to be updated to ensure our local regulations do not conflict with new state laws, to better reflect more recent industry practices, and to best protect public health, safety, welfare, and the environment in Boulder County.

Our county Land Use Department staff anticipates the time needed to analyze necessary amendments to our regulations, as well as develop a plan to administer the new regulations including reviewing appropriate permit and impact fees, is approximately six months in total.

This timeframe assumes approximately one month for hiring technical expertise and internal staff meetings; two months for drafting, referral to interested third parties, and public review of those drafts; one month to notice and conduct Planning Commission hearings; one month for a Board of County Commissioners hearing; and one month to train staff to implement the new regulations

With our County Attorney’s guidance and input from our Land Use Department staff, we have rescinded our existing moratorium, which was set to expire in July 2018, and adopted a new moratorium of a shorter duration - six months - that will provide us with just enough time to review our current land use code and adopt changes that fit with the current status of oil and gas drilling operations.

Specifically, we have asked staff to analyze and recommend necessary updates to the following areas of our regulations:

  • County air regulations that match or exceed the new AQCC regulations (for example, requiring tankless drilling and production);
  • adequate protection of the floodplain from oil and gas operations;
  • mitigation options for multi-well pads and similarly intensively developed ancillary facilities;
  • changes necessary to conform county regulations with the most recent state rules from COGCC and AQCC;
  • pipelines;
  • adequate water supply for drilling, completion, and operations phases;
  • fees applicable to oil and gas development; and
  • county land use and zoning powers and comprehensive planning techniques.

We have further directed staff to return with a draft set of regulations for our review within the timeframe of the new moratorium.



Boulder County Board of Commissioners
Cindy Domenico, Deb Gardner, Elise Jones
Boulder, Colorado


Note:  In addition to a copy of the official adopted resolution (adopting a moratorium from May 19 through Nov. 18, 2016), a video of our public discussion on this important action will be available for viewing by the end of the day.