ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — The Adams County Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday to adopt sweeping new rules for oil and gas companies operating in unincorporated areas of the county. Adams County is the first county in Colorado to take such action under a new state local control law.
In April, the Colorado Legislature passed SB19-181, giving municipalities and counties greater authority to limit oil and gas drilling within their boundaries. The county approved a six-month moratorium on new oil and gas development in unincorporated parts of the county in March as they anticipated passage of the measure.
The new Adams County rules adopted Tuesday limit where oil and gas companies can drill, including requiring a minimum 1,000 feet setback between oil and gas drilling and homes, schools and daycare centers.
But if applicants can't meet all the necessary criteria, including the setback, they can also go through a public hearing process that could lead to a waiver of some of the requirements.
"It's a tough line to toe, but we think these regulations balance the interests of all parties involved," said Board Chair Steve O'Dorisio. "We understand every development application is different. And with Adams County having such a diverse geography from urban to rural areas, the hearing process allows us to make exceptions when it makes sense to do so."
At Tuesday's hearing commissioners heard from representatives from the oil and gas industry, including Extraction Oil and Gas and Great Western Petroleum. The industry has been unanimously opposed to the rules, saying they will essentially ban drilling in much of Adams County.
Some citizens also spoke out in support of oil and gas development, saying it has created thousands of jobs and generated money for schools in Adams County.
After the new rules were approved, the Colorado Petroleum Council said it was pleased with some of the changes made to the original proposal but not with the final product.
"One of our primary concerns with Adams County's new code is that it would regulate downhole activity, which is explicitly beyond the scope of the newly-minted state law, which is explicitly beyond the scope of the newly-minted state law," said Executive Director. "We similarly have significant concerns with the county's proposed air emission standards, as they are already quite robust at the state level and fail to acknowledge the proactive steps that industry and state government continue to take on that front."