Adams County board unanimously approves temporary freeze on new oil and gas permits

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ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. – Adams County commissioners unanimously approved a moratorium on new oil and gas permits Wednesday evening.

“What we’re addressing are those permits that have not yet been filed,” chairman Steve O’Dorisio said.

The temporary freeze on new permits will last for six months, from March 20 until Sept. 20. The moratorium will not affect wells currently in use or wells for which permits have already been submitted to Adams County.

Commissioner O’Dorisio estimates this will affect around 100  wells that were pre-planned but did not yet have paperwork submitted.

“It is not a permanent decision,” commissioner Chaz Tedesco said. “I am not for banning oil and gas.”

According to O’Dorisio, the board decided to implement a moratorium in anticipation of SB 19-181, which is quickly making its way through the Colorado legislature and is expected to be signed into law as early as April.

The legislation would, in part, change how drilling sites are regulated by giving more power to local municipalities to choose where new wells can be located within their borders.

“The reason we implemented this moratorium is because we’re concerned about an influx of permits coming in trying to get in under the old rules,” O’Dorisio said.

He says Adams County will use the six-month hold on new permits to work with oil and gas industry stakeholders to craft new local regulations in accordance with the provisions of SB 181.

“The temporary ban — passed before SB 181 has even cleared the statehouse — wasn’t needed. It sends a negative message to businesses and workers in Adams County and could have a chilling effect on the economy,” Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said in a statement.

Some worry the moratorium in Adams County is the first indication of increased restrictions on oil and gas regulations if SB 181 becomes law. Chairman O’Dorisio said there will likely be changes to the current rules if Adams County gets more say in regulations within the county but could not speculate on what those changes may or may not include.

“That may include flexibility in some areas and more restrictions in others,” he said.

The board’s decision came after a nearly three-hour public comment session on the issue. Three-quarters of the people who got up to speak did so in opposition of the moratorium.

“You are going to be putting families in jeopardy of putting their homes up for sale,” Adams County resident Sally Reese told the board.

Those who work in the oil and gas industry fear that even a temporary ban on new production will result in job loss and economic hardship for the county.

“It’s countless nights where we just can’t sleep because we don’t want to leave this state. We don’t want to leave,” Jenette Dolezal, who works in the oil and gas industry with her husband, told the board. “Please consider what you’re doing to all these people.”

Despite the large turnout, many others opposed to the moratorium criticized the commissioners for only giving a 24-hour notice in advance of the public hearing and vote. The board is required to provide at least 24 hours notice.

“This is absolutely a ridiculous process,” Larimer County resident Michael Kelly told the board.

Chairman O’Dorisio said the amount of notice given for the meeting was not intended to restrict those in support or opposition from attending the public hearing.

Many in attendance praised the board’s decision as a responsible step forward.

“I care about our health and our well-being, and oil and gas is destroying that,” Damon D’Amico told the board.

“This is not a ban. This is being strategic,” Nicole Johnston told the board.

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