Oil and gas companies eyeing Boulder County open space for drilling operations

Voters paid to protect land from developers

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Boulder County’s moratorium on drilling applications was lifted earlier this year. Crestone Peak and 8 North, LLC didn't waste any time and have targeted open space in the region for drilling operations.

“We aren't going to support a single well in Boulder County, and we're going to act like our lives depend on it because they actually do,” Cliff Willmeng, with East Boulder County United, told Denver7.

He and other Boulder County voters have spent millions of dollars to protect open space from development.

County laws stopped traditional commercial and residential development on open space, but none were planned to protect what lies beneath.

“Unfortunately for us, we don't own the mineral rights of the property. So, we have no control or say about what goes under our house, what goes under the elementary school that's two blocks up, what goes underneath the Rec. Center where hundreds of people visit every single day,” Meredith McTigue said.

She and her husband have moved within Boulder County recently, so she explained how she has always voted yes to protect open space.

“You vote for something. You think, ‘Oh, this is going to be great and we're putting money back into our open spaces.’ Then guess what, everything that you thought was going to happen -- it is not,” McTigue said.

The McTigue family moved into their Lafayette home about a year ago, and the two have a 3-week-old daughter.

“About six months ago, we found out that they’re going to put some fracking wells about a mile away from our house in this open space,” she said.

Now, the McTigue family is considering moving once the proposed drilling begins.

The proposed drilling site sits about a mile from Escuela Bilingue Pioneer Elementary in Lafayette.

“This drilling activity would literally go right underneath the school,” Cliff Willmeng said.

If the state and county approve projects, the activity would reach that and more in just 18 months.

“The idea that this industry would have total domination over communities is -- when you're used to dealing with the issue -- a fact of life,” Willmeng added.

Already, roughly 16,000 acres of open space have been targeted for drilling. The county’s planning department said it’s currently reviewing the COGCC process.

The following was sent to Denver7 from Boulder County’s Land Use Department regarding Oil and Gas Development there:

Boulder County is concerned about the potential for significantly expanded oil and gas development within our county boundaries. We support appropriate tighter restrictions and increased local control to mitigate the impacts of these activities.

The Board of County Commissioners and staff have laid the groundwork for how the county will work to address the potentially hazardous impacts of oil and gas development on local public health, safety, and the environment.

In order to maximize the use of its limited local authority and protect county residents, Boulder County is committed to undertaking a series of legislative, legal, environmental, and public health approaches to help minimize the impacts of oil and gas development on people and the environment.

Dale Case, with the county's land use department, said the state denied the county’s request for a public forum on extraction oil and gas applications.

Boulder County has filed motions to dismiss 8 North’s applications for additional density. The county argued the COGCC cannot grant those applications when the “drilling and spacing units have not yet been established and the authorized well for those units has not yet been drilled and begun producing.”

The motions were filed the same day 8 North filed applications for “additional density” in each proposed unit, requesting 31 additional wells in the northern unit and 19 additional wells in the southern unit, for a total of 32 and 20 wells, respectively.

Per Boulder County, “Colorado statutes say that a drilling and spacing unit can be established for a single well to be drilled and begin producing. Only then can additional wells be authorized to prevent “waste” of the mineral resource.”

Motions to dismiss applications will be heard on January 29 and 30 in front of COGCC.

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