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BOCC takes next step on oil and gas issues

In September at a second workshop on oil and gas leases, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to impose a four-month suspension, which started Sept. 29, on all applications for oil and gas operations. In late October, the commissioners amended the resolution to allow the El Paso County Development Services Department to process temporary use permits on exploratory-only oil and gas operations.Pre-production activities are not allowed under the amendment ñ separate applications will be taken for those permits when the suspension has been lifted.During the September work session, Craig Dossey, project manager with El Paso County Development Services, said, ìWe’re doing this out of the interest of making sure that the way we approach oil and gas activities in El Paso County is the way that we want to approach it.îDossey gave a presentation on the background of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulations and the countyís ability to add regulations, if necessary. He included an analysis on gaps in COGCC regulations and potential operational conflicts if county regulations were added. ìWe want to get some insight into how the county should seek to regulate and to what degree should we regulate,î Dossey said.The presentation focused on three main areas of operational regulations: highly regulated areas; moderately regulated; and areas that were minimally regulated or not regulated at all.Ten areas highly regulated are chemical inventory, signage, drilling, pipelines, seismic testing, air quality, waste management, pits, wildlife and reclamation and re-vegetation. Dossey said the highly regulated areas would most likely create operational conflicts if the county imposed their own regulations, but ìto a large degree, we would be in an operational conflict if we went down any of those paths much further.îIn his recommendation to the board, Dossey said it would be beneficial to identify which of the highly regulated areas the county could effectively enforce and be able to incorporate language from the COGCC regulations into the county’s land use code. He also said it would be wise to identify the COGCC regulation from which the language was taken.To avoid confusion or extra work, Dossey said, ìWe can make a requirement that every time the COGCC amends their rules, we amend our code.îAt the moderately regulated level, Dossey listed the following: facility site locations; comprehensive plans; setbacks; financial assurances; grading and erosion control; land use analysis; noise abatement; trash and debris; site security and safety; fire prevention and protection/emergency management; geological hazards; transportation; and water quality protection.Dossey said the minimally or unregulated areas cover the impacts to local roadways; the source of water supply; aesthetics and visual impact mitigation; impacts to cultural resources; and the analysis of operational conflicts.After the presentation, Commissioner Peggy Littleton asked Dossey for recommendations on areas the board should consider for adoption into the land code and what areas would be over-reaching.Dossey said regulations laid out by the COGCC are set in stone, but the county can expand on them; while abiding by the regulations already in place by the county.ìThe operator has to have their ticket punched twice, by the state and then by the local government if the local government regulates,î said George Monsson, county attorney. ìWe can’t say ëoh you don’t need to follow that state regulation.íîFuture work sessions will be held to determine the areas the county wants to regulate and the process in which the county will implement its own regulations.

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