July 25, 2019
Power Struggle Brewing Between County and State
On July 23 the Weld County Board of Commissioners passed an ordinance designating the County as an “oil and gas resource of state interest and affirmed Weld’s 1041 land use powers. The ordinance also creates a County oil and gas department. The ordinance is intended to give Weld County full discretion over land use matters related to oil and gas, such as siting and setbacks in the wake of SB-181 which was passed by the legislature earlier this year.
An hour before the Board’s vote, the Commissioners received a letter from the State Attorney General’s office warning that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) “continues to have regulatory authority over oil and gas locations in unincorporated Weld County. The letter signed by Assistant Attorney General Kyle Davenport, stated, “The COGCC does not intend to interfere with the County’s promulgation of its own regulations regarding the siting of oil and gas locations. At the same time, the COGCC recognizes its obligation to regulate the oil and gas development to ensure the protection of health, safety welfare the environment and wildlife resources.”
The COGCC also sent a copy of the letter to oil and gas operators, effectively warning against following Weld County’s interpretation of the law. A copy was also sent to the media.
This sets up an interesting scenario, in which Weld County and the State will debate the full scope and power of SB-181. Unfortunately, it will also create more uncertainty for the oil and gas industry until the dust settles.