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Lafayette Again Extends Drilling Moratorium As Legislature Mulls New Rules

January 16, 2019
A cyclist rides past a storage tank east of Lafayette's Flagg Park Trailhead in December.

Lafayette’s City Council on Tuesday approved another extension to its nearly 15-month-long oil and gas moratorium, delaying the stay’s expiration until May.

The extension was approved unanimously on first reading, and officials say that the freeze’s continuation comes with the expectation that lawmakers at the Capitol will do some legwork on statewide regulation changes.

Rumors have abounded since November — when Democrats won a multitude of state races — that the new Legislature will move toward imposing increased setbacks — after Proposition 112′s defeat — and for stricter rules around air and sound quality. And some activists have called on the newly-minted Governor Jared Polis to place an indefinite moratorium on new drilling while a study is conducted to gauge its health impacts.

Those efforts took a bit of a stumble on Monday, as the Colorado Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling that said the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission should give more weight to the public health, safety and the environment when considering new drilling.

Though Lafayette City Attorney Dave Williamson said Tuesday he believed the Martinez decision would “increase the chances” of new legislation at the state level.

Lafayette originally enacted the current moratorium in November 2017 on the eve of an election that installed a particularly anti-drilling leadership of its own. And in the time since, officials have stared down a massive drilling application by 8 North LLC, a subsidiary of Denver’s Extraction Oil and Gas, Inc., that would have tapped minerals within city limits for decades.

Those early applications spurred officials to draft an update to Lafayette’s nearly 25-year-old oil and gas codes. Summer protests delayed votes on those regulations, though officials are expected to reconvene on the rules sometime this year.

The version last available to the public indicated the new rules would include the mapping of flow lines throughout the city, setback requirements, community engagement, and ground- and air-pollution mitigation.

Additionally, the revamped stipulations would require a bevy of mitigation efforts for oil and gas development on air and water quality, according to the draft language.

Each section would be facilitated through the city’s land use powers. Any regulatory changes at the state level would need to be incorporated into the city’s code overhaul, officials said Tuesday.

Also, Lafayette’s special oil and gas counsel, Jeffery Robbins, was appointed as a senior advisor to Polis on issues of natural resources, and Williamson said Tuesday that they would need time to find a replacement before moving forward on new local regulations.

The urgency surrounding the 2017 drilling proposals has shifted somewhat in the months since those plans migrated to neighboring Erie, and apart from Monday’s “Martinez” stumble, changes already have come at the top in anticipation of the new state order.

The COGCC voted unanimously last month to approve rules requiring new wells be at least 1,000 feet from school buildings and child care centers as well as outdoor areas used by schools, including sports fields and playgrounds.

The old regulation only required a 1,000-foot setback from the building itself.

Anthony Hahn: 303-473-1422, hahna@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/_anthonyhahn

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