WELD COUNTY, Colo. -- Colorado's new energy law didn't end the oil and gas wars, it simply shifted them to local governments — and now the state's largest oil and gas producing county is embracing its power.
"The governor was very clear, very clear when we met with him that this is about local control, and nothing will change in Weld County and we're going to help the governor keep his promise," said Weld County Commissioner Mike Freeman.
Weld County recently created its own Oil and Gas Energy Department. Jason Maxey is the new director.
"The economic impact is very large," he said. "Weld County is fully prepared to take on those increased land authority powers."
A proud supporter of oil and gas and where more than 88% of the state's oil is produced, county leaders said they plan to put a dent in the backlog of more than 6,000 pending well permits.
"There's essentially a de facto moratorium on oil and gas permits," said Freeman. "What this will do is allow us to force the state to undo that de facto moratorium."
Under the new law and Senate Bill 181, Freeman said once a local government approves a permit, the state has 60 days to issue the permit and that's exactly what Weld County said it plans to start doing in August.
"We had some input may be, but the state had the final say -- now we do," he said.
While Weld County is trying to encourage more drilling, at least eight other communities are going the opposite direction and have recently passed moratoriums on new drilling. Those cities and towns include Boulder County, Erie, Timnath, Berthoud, Adams County, Lafayette, Superior, and Broomfield.
"The most important thing is the certainty and stability of the oil and gas industry while also protecting surface owners, while also protecting the health and environment," said Freeman.
With more than 21,180 active wells, Weld County believes it can do it better.
"We believe we'll do it better than the state," said Freeman.