Map of Centennial, Colorado
The City of Centennial has temporarily halted oil and gas activity, citing its need to better understand state law. Credit: COURTESY CITY OF CENTENNIAL

Centennial City Council has voted to place a nine-month halt on the acceptance and processing of oil and gas development permits within the city limits.

Citing the lack of applicable existing regulations, the “temporary suspension and delay” would enable the city additional time to study and enact oil and gas conventions consistent with state law.

“The city probably can’t and wouldn’t think of completely banning oil and gas activities within the city, as that is pre-empted under state law,” said Linda Michow, deputy city attorney. “However, there are certain regulations that the city is authorized to enact and those would include zoning restrictions in the residential zoning districts, land use approval procedures, application fees, building permit fees, certain right of way permit fees as well as inspections for those right of way access fees. We could also adopt water quality regulations, fire protection plans, wildlife mitigation plans, emergency response plans and regulations regarding access roads.”

To date, there are no active oil and gas development wells within the city, but according to a memorandum from the city manager, John Danielson, there have been four inquiries from outside sources.

The city has historically used moratoria on a limited basis when City Council determined there was potential or actual development pressure on certain land uses.

Fears of growing demands for oil, as well as increased drilling activity along the Front Range, prompted the city to act quickly to define its stance on the issue and determine how it will mitigate the secondary effects of oil and gas drilling.

Citizens attending the July 16 public hearing vocalized concerns on both sides of the issue, including environmental and health concerns, property devaluation, and the possible perception that the city is no longer open to new business ventures.

While District 2 Councilmember Sue Bosier agreed further study is needed, she expressed concern the nine-month delay was too long.

“I agree we need to look at the issue seriously, and how it impacts our citizens,” she said, suggesting it shouldn’t take city staff that long to explore the issues involved. “I will be voting no on this ordinance because of that reason. I don’t want to interfere with anyone trying to provide energy to our citizens.”

Councilmember Vorry Moon of District 1 said it was his position that extra time was necessary to complete a thorough evaluation.

City staff will use the additional time to perform community outreach and consult with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Other municipalities have already approved similar moratoria, including Boulder, Erie, Loveland and Longmont.

Colorado Springs moratorium expired May 31, 2012.

Commerce City is contemplating a moratorium but has not enacted one to date.

The 7-2 vote makes Centennial’s temporary suspension and delay of oil and gas operations effective as of Aug. 19 and automatically terminating at midnight on May 19, 2013.

This story was first published in The Centennial Citizen on July 18, 2012.

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