Oil and gas reserves aren't bound by city limits or county lines. And at least one company, Texas-based Ultra Resources, wants to drill in both El Paso County and Colorado Springs — soon.
But it's premature to say whether the city will use any rules that the county plans to adopt for the industry, according to Colorado Springs Councilman Val Snider. "We just don't know enough yet about the needs of the city," he says.
Snider heads the city's Oil and Gas Committee, commissioned last month to hammer out local regulations after Council enacted a moratorium through May on exploratory drilling. The committee, which is seeking members from the public, tentatively has scheduled its first public work session for 8:30 a.m., Jan. 26, with weekly meetings expected thereafter.
The county, meanwhile, is way ahead of the game. Its four-month moratorium on exploratory drilling on unincorporated county land ends Jan. 31. Commissioners are on schedule to implement regulations for such elements as storage pits, setbacks, chemical spills, noise and light pollution, and more.
County Commissioner Darryl Glenn says it would make a lot of sense for at least some of those policies to be mirrored by the city.
"I want to make sure we have compatible regulations," Glenn says. "When you're dealing with land use, you don't want to encourage any set of activities based on your regulations — for example, [a company] choosing to locate in the county or the city based on looser regulations."
But to date, few efforts have been made to ensure cooperation between the two governmental entities. Snider says he read most of the 254 pages of comments and backup materials submitted to the county during its public comment period, and attended the county's work session a week ago to hear more. But no one from Colorado Springs government actually submitted comments to the county; officials from other cities, including Monument, did chime in, according to county planner Craig Dossey.
The county periodically has spoken with city leaders about its proposed regulations, says Dossey, who outlined the county's strategy to City Council members during a joint city-county meeting in October.
At another meeting in December, city and county officials discussed "how it would be useful if our regulations were similar," says Commissioner Dennis Hisey.
But because the city and county operate under different government structures, "they may have the ability to do some things we can't," Hisey says.
The city still must follow state law, the same as the county, notes Glenn, who previously sat on City Council.
With that in mind, he says, "It doesn't make any sense for us to not work together."
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees statewide drilling and production, is pushing for the county and the city to refrain from adopting local rules.
Its director, David Neslin, told commissioners Dec. 29 that the state is hiring two full-time liaisons to work with local governments on industry monitoring and compliance of drilling activity.
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