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Erie, Lafayette may require operators to map pipelines By Anthony Hahn
Daily Camera

Erie and Lafayette may soon require oil and gas operators to map their pipelines throughout the cities, officials say, signaling the potential for heightened local control months after similar legislation fell along party lines at the state Capitol.

Such measures — and similar legislation aimed at curbing the industry’s reach over the past few months — could lead eastern Boulder County to become a haven for more strenuous oil and gas regulation efforts, advocates say.

 

The communities are at different moments of implementing their respective ordinances; Lafayette officials announced their intentions for such a measure earlier this summer and gave an update on a potential ordinance’s status on Tuesday, while Erie’s Planning Commission has already approved the language.

Details on how such a proposal could be granted exist under the respective municipalities’ land-use powers, according to Lafayette City Attorney Dave Williamson and Erie’s special counsel, attorney Barbara Green.

The language was fashioned after similar wording used in La Plata County code, Lafayette Councilwoman Merrily Mazza said. According to La Plata County Attorney Sheryl Rogers, its measure requires operators to hand over maps of pipeline locations to officials if an emergency response is necessary.

However, Rogers said those maps are kept from the public eye — even with a Colorado Open Records Act request.

Both Erie and Lafayette’s ordinances, if approved, would require operators to provide maps of existing and new flow lines — a process similar to how traditional development is proposed, officials say. It would allow for municipalities to eventually file injunctions on operating wells if operators were unwilling to provide maps, according to attorneys specializing in oil and gas matters.

A section of Erie’s measure reads, “The Final Plat shall include a map at a scale designated by the Town showing the location, including GPS, of existing flowlines and all other subsurface facilities. The map shall denote if the subsurface facility is in use, abandoned, or shut-in; its age; its size and the maximum pressure at which it is operated; its depth from the surface; and the name of the Operator or Owner.”

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has said it does not know the locations of all the industry’s pipelines, but leaves it up to local jurisdictions to decide where development can occur in proximity to pipelines.

Dan Haley, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, argued against the statewide legislation earlier this year because widespread mapping would be regulated by different agencies, creating a potential for “significant conflict.”

“Any sort of local regulation is a challenge,” Jason Oates, the spokesman for Crestone Peak Resources — Erie’s primary oil and gas operator — said Thursday. “It creates a patchwork for regulatory bodies — that’s why we’ve preferred legislation at the state level; it provides a consistent process.

“My fear is not how this information will be used by anti-oil and gas individuals,” he said of a common industry complaint. Oates said his fears rest rather on how people interpret the information.

However, if the ordinances are approved, “It’s just another process that we’re going to have to look over and respond to,” he said.

The growing coexistence between fracking and development was spotlighted in the wake of April’s deadly Firestone home explosion, which spurred Anadarko Petroleum Corporation to shut down 3,000 wells across the state and revived the conversation around stricter regulation along the Front Range.

Colorado’s oil and gas industry has opposed revealing pipeline locations in the past — even in the wake of the Firestone blast, which was fueled by gas emitting from a cut Anadarko pipeline and has sparked statewide debate about the industry’s reach.

Opposition from the industry has prompted state lawmakers — mostly Republicans — to shoot down regulation efforts.

However, a similar ordinance on a local scale has stronger precedent, Green said Thursday.

“The idea of regulating oil and gas — lots of towns have been doing it for years,” she said. “But because of what happened in Firestone, people are now saying we need to know where these things are more than ever.”

The issue for the industry “is more the principle of it,” she said. “Their view is that anything that’s different from what the COGCC asks for is potentially preemptive. But from a local government’s perspective, it falls right within their land-use authority.”

Such inertia at the state level has invoked a sense of urgency among local municipalities, who have found themselves a flash point for greater local control over the industry’s reach.

Erie last month passed a landmark odor ordinance that now allows operators to be ticketed and fined by local law enforcement and municipal judges, respectively.

In May, trustees approved a contract with Denver-based Pinyon Environmental Inc. that could cost the town up to $200,000 for air quality monitoring near several oil and gas sites. Their results will play a large role in the town’s reexamination of oil and gas operation setbacks.

 

 

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