14 Jun Its Time for a Timeout on Oil & Gas in Delta County
In the times since SB 181 and HB 1261 (the bill amending the Colorado Oil and Gas Act, and setting emissions reductions targets, respectively) passed, it has become clear that Delta County needs to enact a moratorium on new oil and gas applications in the County.
Right now, the State of Colorado, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) are undertaking the first rulemaking process required by SB 181, and Delta County has struggled to engage effectively in the process. In a special meeting to address how the County would engage, County Commissioners and staff all stated that Delta County lacked the resources and expertise to engage in the rulemaking process on their own. The result of that special meeting was a decision to engage in the rulemaking process as a part of a coalition led by Garfield County.
SB 181 explicitly gives local governments like Delta County the authority to regulate certain aspects of oil and gas activity within their jurisdictions to protect public health, safety, welfare, and the environment. In addition to the new power granted under SB 181, the Delta County Oil and Gas Working Group, convened to help the County move forward under its new Master Plan, has submitted a series of recommendations to the Commissioners on how the County’s oil and gas regulations could be improved to make it a leader in protecting the clean air, water, and environment Delta County residents rely on. Reckoning with these new powers, and implementing the recommended revisions and regulations will all take time and resources, and the process is still very much ongoing.
Good local governance and building meaningful regulations take time. The County has a lot of work to do in reviewing, analyzing, and understanding the new state law which is a radical change from the fear of preemption based framework the county has been operating under for the last 20 years.
Oil and gas operations are simply too risky, too dangerous, too much of a threat to what we hold dear in this county, for Delta County to continue approving applications at a lower standard. Delta County’s specific development regulations are about mitigating harm, not about for example, how to reach goals of no spills, no traffic accidents, no air and water degradation; SB 181, on the other hand is about putting public health, safety and the environment –FIRST– by regulating when necessary and reasonable. Why should applications continue to be reviewed and approved at a lower standard when the County can, should, and must do better to protect its citizens? A time-out in approving oil and gas applications in Delta is necessary because Delta County needs the time to do its due-diligence and because Delta County has already admitted that it is under-resourced to address the increase in activity. After operating under a cloud of fear for so long, Delta County owes its citizen this commitment.
Delta County received two applications for oil and gas activity that we know of since SB 181 was enacted. One for the expansion of an existing well pad in the Iron Point Unit, which the Planning Commission voted to recommend for approval with “additional consideration of conditions of approval”. The Board of County Commissioners will consider this application on July 2, 2019 at 10 am at the Delta County Courthouse. The second application is for a fresh water pipeline. That application is not yet deemed complete and we do not have further information on it.
Click here to send a letter to the Commissioners requesting that they call a time-out on approving oil and gas activities within Delta County until 1) Delta County has set goals for prioritizing public, health safety and the environment under SB 181, and set goals for being a leader in clean air, water, and healthy communities under the Master Plan; and
2) Delta County has revised its oil and gas regulations.
Delta County needs to be leader, not a follower. It was once before, and it can be again.