The Weld County commissioners hope to avoid implementing new rules just approved by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) by making their own regulations. The COGCC rules are the result of changes suggested by Governor Hickenlooper’s task force in 2015. The task force was created in a compromise brokered by the Governor that persuaded anti-fracking activists to pull ballot initiatives in 2014.
The proposed rules require more local government input in siting decisions prior to the state signing off on drilling permits. They also require operators to register their long-term drilling plans with local governments. Activists want local governments within a mile of a proposed well to have a say in the locations, while the oil and gas industry’s position is that the rules would infringe on their abilities to operate efficiently.
The Weld commissioners oppose the proposed regulations because the rules would allow other local governments standing in decisions over which they have no authority. The Commissioners also believe the COGCC is usurping its authority by taking over Weld’s jurisdiction of surface uses.
The Commissioners have launched a new rule of their own to take away oil and gas drilling as a use by right on agricultural land, thus requiring all drilling applications to obtain a “use by special review” permit. The USR permit, according to the Commissioners, will allow the County to reclaiming their land-use authority from the COGCC. They argue surface owners have the right to decide where the wells should be located and oppose COGCC’s rules, which they say would weaken those rights.
Note: So far, at least 11 gas and oil initiatives have been proposed activists for the 2016 election. Many of them mandate greater setbacks from wells that could severely limit the gas and oil industry. The truce orchestrated by the Governor has fallen apart.