Feb 1, 2012 8:20 PM by Matt Stafford

City, County trying to handle oil and gas in El Paso County

El Paso County's moratorium on oil and gas operations ended Monday night. The Board of County Commissioners passed a set of regulations and is opening up the permit application process.

The regulations passed by the board in Monday night's meeting were a smaller version than had been proposed through an earlier planning commission. They limited their rules to areas concerning transportation, emergency response plans, noxious weed issues, and some water testing specifications. Commissioners also decided to form an Intergovernmental Agreement, sending a delegate to discuss local issues with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (CGOCC).

The Attorney General's office sent a letter to commissioners earlier this month as they were first considering adopting regulations, saying the state had preeminent control of areas that it regulates through the COGCC.

After Monday's meeting, County offices have already received emails with interest in three new applications, according to a county spokesperson. Public Information Officer Dave Rose tells News 5 it could be a month before we begin to see operations in place.

Now eyes are on Colorado Springs to see what happens next; the City Council also passed a moratorium in November, lasting until May. Each Thursday night until then, the City Oil and Gas Committee will meet for work sessions to study the oil and gas exploration and production processes.

The Banning-Lewis Ranch on the east side of Colorado Springs - which has had drilling companies speculating - is part of the city. Colorado Springs and Houston-based Ultra Petroleum have been in legal battles over control of drilling practices on part of the area that the company purchased.

Several parts of the county are getting attention for possible oil and gas exploration; the Niobrara Shale formation is being examined through parts of eastern Colorado.

Councilwoman Angela Dougan, who's on the city's committee, tells News 5 she says the industry's increased presence in the area is a win-win, and doesn't want it to be held back from over-regulation. She says the work sessions have been important for her to become more familiar with the material.

Just as County Commissioners just worked through; Councilmember Dougan says the City Council needs to find the areas that they're able to regulate, that the state doesn't already handle.

The City Oil and Gas committee meets every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. in City Hall.



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