Prairie Pumpjack Silhouette

A pumpjack on the prairie.

Boulder County commissioners on Monday voted to extend the moratorium on new oil and gas development applications from its former expiration date on March 28 to a new date of July 31.

“We are not going to be able to do this justice or allow for adequate public review for these updated regulations under the current schedule,” said Commissioner Elise Jones. “So I think this is a great case for extending the moratorium to July 31.”

The county first updated its 1994-era regulations in March 2017, but then the legislature two years later passed Senate Bill 181. The law gave local governments greater authority to regulate oil and gas extraction using their land-use powers. The board enacted a moratorium while staff reworked the county’s guidelines.

Public comment was overwhelmingly in favor of the extension. “People in our community, including my family, are experiencing the harmful effects of fracking firsthand through our F-grade air quality, for which oil and gas operations are 30-50% responsible,” read a form letter that commissioners received via email from multiple constituents. “This limits our ability to participate safely in outdoor activities, due to concerns about negative health impacts. This is unacceptable.”

Calling the process “massive, incredibly complex, and time-consuming” in their presentation, county staff explained that the public desired more time to comment upon proposed regulations. There was also concern about conflicts with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s four required hearings, which began late last year. The Boulder County Planning Commission will meet on April 6 to take public testimony on proposed regulations.

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