Boulder County Imposes 6-Month Moratorium on Fracking

“Boulder County commissioners  imposed a temporary moratorium on accepting and processing new applications for oil and gas drilling operations in any unincorporated areas of the county.  A March 1 public hearing on oil and gas drilling, particularly on the potential impacts of horizontal drilling and of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” — the process of injecting a mixture of sand, water and chemicals into rock formations in order to free up hard-to-reach oil and natural gas deposits — is tentatively set.

The six-month moratorium, which went immediately into effect and is to remain in place until Aug. 2, is intended to give the county staff time to study the adequacy of Boulder County’s current land use regulations as they apply to oil and gas development, and to propose possible amendments to those existing local rules.

Assistant county attorney Ben Doyle told the commissioners that while Boulder County’s current comprehensive plan and Land Use Code do address oil and gas exploration, the county’s regulations “are ripe for review” and “may not be adequate to address the impacts” of drilling as it’s now practiced.

According to the resolution the commissioners adopted Thursday, “oil and gas operations have the potential for significant and immediate impacts on the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Boulder County.”

Among those possible impacts, the resolution says, are: “increased noise, odor, dust, traffic, noxious weeds and other disturbance, as well as the potential to significantly impact the county’s air, water, soil, biological quality, geology, topography, plant ecosystems, wildlife habitat, wetlands, floodplains, water, stormwater and wastewater infrastructure, drainage and erosion control, parks and open space lands, transportation infrastructure, emergency response plans, and other aesthetic values and community resources.”

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