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After Election, Future of Lafayette’s Oil and Gas Regulation Remains Unclear

December 25, 2018
A well site along Weld County Road 20.5, east of East County Line Road is pictured last month. Earlier this year, Lafayette officials delayed a decision on revamping oil and gas regulations until after the elections. A date to review them still has not been set.

Lafayette’s proposed oil and gas regulation update took an abrupt halt this summer.

With city council chambers flooded by chanting protesters — many of them East Boulder County United activists, who in the months leading up to the decision denounced the new rules as a “deal with the devil” of sorts — leaders abandoned a vote on the renewed language.

Later, following the revelation that an energy firm would shift its drilling plans outside of Lafayette’s borders, Mayor Christine Berg said a decision on the new rules would be suspended until after the November election, where Colorado voters were poised to decide on a 2,500-foot drilling setback. That measure failed.

Now, a month out from the defeat of Proposition 112, the future of the city’s oil and gas revamp remains unclear.

The item has yet to return on any city council agenda in the weeks since the election, and a glimpse into the near future suggests the overhaul won’t return anytime soon.

City officials say the language is likely to return in front of leaders next year, though the exact date or wording is unknown.

The iteration 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.

It also would bar a pipeline from being closer than 150 feet to a residential, commercial or industrial building, or “a place of public assembly.”

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, a tool that local municipalities across the Front Range have begun to flex more frequently as they review their fracking rules.

The language is by design almost identical to that enforced at the county level, officials say. Boulder County last year approved an update to its own regulations — touted by commissioners as the state’s most stringent — ahead of the expiration of a five-year drilling embargo.

If the update returns, East Boulder County United founder Cliff Willmeng says the group will continue to oppose the effort.

The group earlier this year threatened to sue the city over the update, suggesting any efforts to regulate oil and gas would conflict with the Climate Bill of Rights’ effective ban on any new drilling. The Climate Bill of Rights, passed by city council in March 2017, asserts that Lafayette residents “possess a right to a healthy climate and life-sustaining resources,” according to the measure’s language.

Despite the failure of Proposition 112, its proponents across the Front Range remain hopeful that the state’s slate of newly-elected Democratic majority in the state Legislature, Democratic attorney general and Governor Jared Polis, will usher in reform.

“Even though 112 failed,” Lafayette Mayor Pro-Tem Jamie Harkins wrote in a November email, “it garnered a very substantial amount of votes — and we now have the opportunity we’ve been waiting for at the state level to update the archaic state regulations, majorly reform the (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission), and give local governments control over drilling.

″ I know that I, along with my constituents, will be pressuring our new state legislature extremely hard to take strong and decisive action.”

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

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