No oil & gas moratorium in Commerce City as city council postpones vote

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COMMERCE CITY, Co. -- It was a split public comment session and it ended without a vote as Commerce City City Council decided to postpone any decision on a 180-day permitting moratorium for oil and gas within city limits. 

The council decided Monday evening to postpone the moratorium indefinitely after about two hours of public comment.

Ordinance 2168 would have enacted a “temporary moratorium on the submission, acceptance, processing, and approval of oil and gas permits and other land use applications related to the use of property for exploration for and extraction of oil and gas within the city of Commerce City.” 

Several residents came out to speak against several proposed drilling sites in the northern part of Commerce City, a handful of which have permits in front of the state’s oil and gas commission. 

“This is putting us citizens in a tough situation. Why does this have to happen right under my neighborhood?” one resident asked.

Other members of the oil and gas industry came out to defend the safety of the profession and speak to the potential harm a six-month moratorium would have.

“Having a six-month break will have a negative impact on workers and their families,” a member of the local pipe-fitting union stated. 

Ultimately the city council agreed to have a study session on the issue in July. 

Permanent moratoriums on oil and gas have been challenged and defeated in the courts in places like Longmont and Fort Collins. Even if it was passed, there was a possibility of a legal challenge to the 180-day moratorium.

Mayor Sean Ford brought up the possibility of the state taking legal action against Commerce City over any moratorium. 

“The state will come in and sue us. It’s not if it’s when,” Mayor Ford said.  “Banning or not banning is a state issue, not a local issue.”

The idea of a short moratorium is still a possibility. That will be one of the things discussed on July 9th. At least one of the city council members was absent on Monday night, and others spoke about how they were uncomfortable moving forward without a full council. 

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