Election Day has passed, but the fight over drilling rights is far from over

UPDATE (Nov. 8, 3:40 p.m.): The company behind applications to drill new oil and gas wells near and underneath Standley Lake and the Westminster Hills off-leash dog park in Jefferson County pulled both applications Thursday, though an application to drill near Rocky Flats is moving forward.

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Just a few days after voters shot down a proposition that would have severely limited where oil and gas drilling operations can happen in the state, another bitter battle is pitting environmentalists against the energy industry.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is considering two drilling permits in Westminster that have sparked concern. The first is near Standley Lake, which serves as the water supply for 300,000 people in the area. 

The second location is the Westminster Hills dog park, which is a 420-acre plot of open space where people are allowed to bring their dogs to play off-leash. The approval of both of these drilling applications would have been questionable had Proposition 112 passed.

The applications were submitted before the November election. Right now, the applications are in the public comment process and COGCC staff is reviewing them to make sure certain requirements are met.

The public comment period as supposed to wrap up on Nov. 22. However, that deadline was extended until the first week of December at the request of the city of Westminster.

On its website, the city made clear that it is not responsible for reviewing or approving any of the permits and, instead, directed people to the public comment websites for the applications. 

The website has already received dozens of comments about the applications. A few of the comments were in support of the permits. However, the majority were against the applications, with many people expressing concern about how this potential drilling would affect the water supply.

In contrast to that, however, is the fact that, as a whole, Jefferson County sided with the oil and gas industry in voting down Prop 112, with 58 percent of the people voting no on Prop 112 versus 41 percent voting yes. Nearby Adams County was a similar story with the majority of people choosing to not go with the proposed 2,500-foot setbacks.

While all of this is happening, the Colorado Supreme Court is still considering a case that could radically change the way oil and gas drilling permits are granted. Justices heard oral arguments for Martinez v. COGCC in October and has yet to make a decision on that case. That lawsuit was brought forward by a group of teenagers, including Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, that demanded for the COGCC to consider public health, safety and environmental impacts during the approval process of drilling permits. 

There is no word at this point when that ruling could come down. 

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