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Oil And Gas Company Ready To Take On Boulder County's Tough New Fracking Regulations

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Stephanie Paige Ogburn
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KUNC
Pipes used in the hydraulic fracturing process.

Boulder County will resume issuing oil and gas drilling permits May 1, 2017, after a series of moratoriums halted the practice in 2012. Denver- based energy company Crestone Peak Resources has filed the first application in five years to drill within unincorporated parts of the county. The company is the fifth largest producer in the Denver-Julesburg basin – an oil and gas-rich formation situated under much of Northeastern Colorado and portions of Boulder County.

“We own about 5,000 of our 51,000 total acres in Boulder County, so about 10 percent of our leasehold is in Boulder County,” said Jason Oates, director of environmental, regulatory and community relations for Crestone Peak Resources. He said the company has decided to apply with the state now because they know it will be a multi year project.  

The application proposes up to 216 wells near U.S. 287 and Colo. 52 between Longmont and Lafayette, a roughly 12 square mile area.

“Right now we’re at the agency level, as we start to get to specific siting of locations, then the landowners and the surface owners in those areas will definitely be notified and contacted and asked to participate in this process,” Oates said.

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Credit Photo by Kirk Siegler
An Encana drill rig.

Upon approval from the state, the company would then approach Boulder County for their local land use permits.

Local governments have substantial regulatory authority through their land use code, such as building permits for structures, traffic impact fees, and inspecting for compliance with local codes and standards related to water quality and wildlife impacts.

Boulder County began the new rule process following two state Supreme Court decisions in 2016 that invalidated hydraulic fracturing bans or long term moratoriums. In March 2017, Boulder County commissioners unanimously passed what are, according to them, the “most restrictive” local oil and gas regulations in the state. They require energy companies to minimize impacts, like limiting truck traffic and covering sand during transportation to well pads in order to reduce environmental and public health impacts, something that Oates thinks is unnecessary.

“I don’t feel like the oil and gas development that follows all the [state] rules and regulations has a public health impact,” he said.

Crestone Peak Resource representatives are still confident that drilling in Boulder County is economically viable, even with the new land use code.

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Credit Brett Rindt / Flickr - Creative Commons
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Flickr - Creative Commons
Protesters in support of a fracking ban in Longmont, which was overturned by the state Supreme Court in 2016.

“I’m not sure exactly if all of these rules will stand or not, that’s still be analyzed by multiple different people in [the] industry,” Oates said. “There are obviously some preemption issues that have been posed and talked about so it’s going to have to be this ‘as applied’ analysis that goes into the different rules and regulations as they may come out.”

“We’re eager to sit down with them at the table and talk through some drilling plans and locations, and things like that, then we can have those conversations and really understand where they’re headed with these regulations,” he said. 

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