Boulder County Drilling Moratorium Extended

Nov 13, 2014

Protesters against oil and gas drilling in Erie. Photo taken June 7, 2012.
Credit Brett Rindt / Flickr - Creative Commons

By a unanimous vote, a moratorium on any new oil and gas drilling has been extended in Boulder County till 2018. Had there been no decision from the county commissioners, the current moratorium would have expired Jan. 1, 2015.

Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones said they chose the July 1, 2018 date in order to read the various studies that are underway on oil and gas drilling.

"One study in particular, the $12 million National Science Foundation study won’t be concluded until the end of 2017. So the three Boulder county commissioners voted unanimously to extend our moratorium until July 1, 2018 so we would have the benefit of the results of those public health studies… and the ability to have digested the results and taken action accordingly," she said.

Boulder County has so far not been to court over it's moratorium, which has been in place since 2012.

"There is certainly the possibility that we will be sued by industry," Jones said. "There is an ongoing statewide conversation about oil and gas development that we are a part of."

The commissioners also heard from county citizens in a public comment meeting held a few days before the vote.

The Daily Camera quoted one Boulder resident and member of the group Frack-Free Boulder as saying at that meeting, "the only prudent thing to do is give us the time. Give science the time. Give the legislative process the time." With the commissioner's decision that time has been granted.

The extension will last until July 1, 2018, when commissioners will have to revisit the issue. The moratorium does not affect companies with existing permits. There are 180 actively producing wells in unincorporated Boulder County.

In an earlier interview, Jones noted that Boulder County's economy is driven by different needs and not the oil industry, like in neighboring Weld County.

"The issue of oil and gas  and  fracking development will not be going away anytime soon," Jones said. "Even though we have extended our moratorium."

Update 3:42 p.m. - In an email response to a request for comment regarding the Boulder County Commissioner's decision, Doug Flanders, the director of policy and external affairs at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association said the following:

"COGA is evaluating all of its options now that the commissioners have unanimously decided to ignore recent judicial rulings that bans on fracking and energy development are illegal. By extending their ban to 2018, it would be in effect even longer than Fort Collins’ five-year moratorium that a district judge already has ruled to be illegal."