How long will the leash be on oil and gas drilling in Colorado Springs? Pretty long, it appears.
The city Planning Commission convenes at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, and will take up proposed regulations on the drilling industry later in the meeting. To read the backup materials, go here.
One specification under review is the allowance for drilling to take place right next to homes — potentially without a public hearing of any kind. Here's a recap of the regulation:
Code Provision: The proposed regulations permit oil and gas operations in any zone.
However, Planning Commission review is required for permit applications for oil and gas
operations located one-thousand feet (1,000’) or less from a building unit, educational
facility, assembly building, hospital, nursing home, board and care facility, jail or
designated outside activity (all as defined in COGCC rules). All other applications are
reviewed administratively. Planning Commission review of applications in high density
areas allows for fuller engagement of property owners impacted by the proposed
That gets the goat of some observers, including a reader who e-mailed us his thoughts, calling the proposed regs "a disgrace."
"They do absolutely nothing to protect the citizens of Colorado Springs from oil and gas pollution," he wrote. "They do not provide any adequate setbacks and do not prevent drilling in residential areas."
Here's an advisory from Lotus, who goes by one name and is a renewable energy advocate:
Colorado Springs City Council has consistently ignored most of the input from its citizens. In contrast the City of Longmont and Routt County officials have not only listened, but they are standing up as best they can to the State of Colorado and the oil companies to defend their citizens’rights, health, water and land as they are required by the common law to do.
Longmont’s regulations are 48 pages long, the draft Colorado Springs regulations are 11 pages long.
Colorado Springs Councilor Angela Dougan even claimed at a City Council meeting that the oil and gas industry is the most regulated industry in the U.S. With leaders as gullible and unaware as this the citizens of Colorado Springs are clearly not being protected by their own City Council. These unaware Councilors apparently think the State of Colorado (and at least in one case the federal government) is going to protect us. Not so according to Longmont and Routt. Hopefully at some point the Colorado Springs public officials will listen to the public officials in other cities and counties. If not, then we need to get creative or continue being unprotected.
The Colorado Springs City Council and citizens will have an opportunity on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 5:30pm to attend Fracking Colorado Springs: Debunking the Myths and Stating the Facts, East Community Meeting Room at East Library (5550 N. Union Blvd.)
Meantime, Ultra Petroleum of Houston, which is the reason for the stir over oil and gas regulations in the city, reported a strong second quarter.
Ultra Resources, a subsidiary of Ultra Petroleum, bought 18,000 acres of the 23,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch on the city's east side in spring 2011 out of a developer's bankruptcy action. (Ultra paid $20 million, and some think the city should have jumped on that one.)
In any case, the city and Ultra are still wrangling in bankruptcy court over the annexation agreement. Ultra doesn't want to abide by the agreement, which would require the company to build roads and other infrastructure. The city has paid Hogan & Lovells law firm more than $20,000 this year in legal fees to work on the bankruptcy action. The firm was paid another $2,200 to work on the annexation agreement.
We wrote about how the city has taken a shine to Hogan & Lovells on June 13, and cited its work for the city in other stories as well.
There's been no disclosure of where the bankruptcy and annexation matters stand.
But you can bet money, marbles or chalk that the city is doing everything it can to clear the way for oil and gas drilling, because a vigorous exploration program would go a long way to adding 6,000 jobs per year, as demanded of the Chamber and EDC by Mayor Steve Bach last week.
Whatever is happening in the bankruptcy action might have given Bach the confidence to make such a demand that otherwise might seem impossible to reach. But turn loose the oil and gas boys, and watch what happens.