Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Commerce City amends oil and gas land development code

new protections and process goes into effect August 1
COMMERCE CITY, COLO. – Starting August 1, new oil and gas rules in Commerce City will provide residents with additional protections, while oil and gas operators will have a specific permit process for future development. City Council members unanimously amended the city’s land use development code to clarify rules first adopted in 2009 for oil and gas development.

“We believe a layered approach to oil and gas development balances community protections with individual rights,” said Commerce City Mayor Sean Ford. “In amending our existing rules, the city sought to remain within the regulatory framework of the state and be consistent with the recommendations of Governor Hickenlooper’s oil and gas taskforce. Our action tonight is consistent with those goals and offers a unique approach for local governments to best address this complex issue.”
Feedback provided by residents, industry, regulators and interest groups informed the approach approved by council, which relies on land development code regulations, a negotiated extraction agreement and participation in the state’s local government designee process. Elements of the approved oil and gas regulation process are similar to requirements placed on other developers within the city. An amendment to consider public appeals was tabled for a future study session.
Amendments to the land development code clarify the city’s 2009 rules in three key areas: process, site requirements and public concerns. The new code amendments include:
Site Requirements
Public Concerns
·        Applies to existing wells that are being recompleted.
·        Administrative approval, with city council hearing appeals.
·        Prohibits wells within floodplains.
·        Prohibits injection or disposal wells.
·        Requires an Extraction Agreement as part of permit.
·        Surface issues such as fencing, approved paint colors, landscaping, lighting, signing.
·        Wildlife mitigation plan.
·        Adherence to drainage and stormwater regulations.
·        Traffic mitigation requirements such as a traffic study and limits on oversized vehicles.
·        General waste management plan.
·        Public notification of operations within a half-mile (2,500 feet) of site.
·        Odor and dust containment.
·        Noise mitigation measures such as haybales or insulated motors and limited hours for maximum noise levels.
·        Required to comply with all state and federal regulations or laws (such as air and water quality).
“The extraction agreement required by the land development code seeks to codify industry best practices in a manner that allows for enforcement,” said Mayor Pro Tem Dominick Moreno. “The goal was to negotiate provisions of local concern with individual operators instead of applying broad brush regulations. This was the preferred approach shared by industry representatives during task force meetings.”
Using a template agreement as a starting point, the city would negotiate extraction agreement provisions such as:
·       Prohibiting drilling within specified distances of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and Barr Lake State Park.
·       Increasing setbacks.
·       Limiting hours of operation.
·       Monitoring air and water quality.
·       Requirements for spill containment and water/wastewater disposal.
The city modeled this approach based on negotiated public improvement agreements with developers.
The city also will actively participate in the state’s local government designee process, providing comments on pending permit applications and discussing desired conditions of approval for operators. More information on the land development code and extraction agreement is available at www.c3gov.com/oilgas.

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