The town’s City Council this week voted 6-1 to have its draft of oil and gas regulations prepared for an ordinance. The regulations ban drilling from residential zones. However, fearing the state may pre-empt stronger rules, the latest proposals don’t go quite as far in restricting energy companies as previous ones.
The tone of the council action was, in effect, let’s at least get a “win” for a local municipality when it comes to oil and gas regulation. Councilman Brian Bagley noted that the industry usually beat cities in court, so Longmont picked defensible ground for a lawsuit, even if the rules didn’t go as far as many wanted.
The motion also asks the city to set up a specific process for its “Local Government Designee” to review proposed oil and gas operations and work with companies and the state to resolve problems.
The lone vote against the new rules was lodged by Councilwoman Sarah Levison, who wanted the city to take a stronger stance. One idea she suggested was that Longmont ban disposal facilities from inside an urban renewal area. Heavy industrial zones are common in the Southwest Urban Renewal Authority, she said, where the city is committed to removing blight. Her proposal will be studied by city staff, but has not yet been added to the regulations.
The new regulations set up both minimum and recommended standards. Companies can obtain faster approval for their drilling permits by adopting all the recommended standards. As one example, the minimum standards follow the state’s setback rules but the recommended standards set a 750 foot distance from occupied buildings.
Longmont is not currently accepting oil and gas permits after June 16, when a moratorium expires.