Arapahoe County officials clarified their recent decision to create a setback of oil and gas drilling from reservoirs in the county near Denver, Colorado.
Following almost four hours of public comment, the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners Tuesday night voted 5-0 to approve several amendments to oil and gas facility regulations in the County’s Land Development Code. The passed amendments seek to provide additional health and safety requirements and bring other rules into compliance with neighboring jurisdictions.
Commissioners heard from constituents across the county, representing viewpoints from both populated suburban areas and unincorporated areas, where most oil and gas operations are currently located.
“It is important for us to recognize that these are regulations for our entire county,” said Chair Carrie Warren-Gully. “We need to make sure we’re being thoughtful and not singling out one area versus another. We need good processes in place for our entire county.”
New regulations that focus on health and safety include:
· Building access roads to comply with current fire code;
· Requiring alternative emergency access roads for well pads located in areas with only one way in and one way out, unless emergency responders decide that an alternative access road is not needed;
· Providing handwashing supplies for workers at oil and gas sites;
· Requiring additional application information, including a project narrative, photo simulations and documentation of floodplain, wetlands and riparian area boundaries.
· Ensuring the operation of oil and gas facilities in compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.
The most significant change to the County’s regulations is the requirement for all oil and gas operations to be located more than one mile from existing and planned reservoirs.
The one-mile setback can be reduced to 2,000 feet if the location of the oil and gas operation is downgradient (at a lower elevation) in relation to the body of water. Commissioners directed staff to further examine setback requirements from occupied structures and neighborhood notifications, bringing additional amendments to the Planning Commission for consideration in November.
The county committed to a second phase of oil and gas regulation updates, which will delve into more complex issues such as improving air quality, and implementing rigorous groundwater monitoring, and an inspection program.
The County will host several study sessions for the Board and the Planning Commission in the coming months. Meeting notifications and agendas can be found on the County website.