Centennial lifts drilling moratorium

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Centennial has repealed its moratorium on oil and gas development and replaced it with a set of regulations to permit exploration within the city.

With a vote of 8-1, city council authorized modifications to the municipal code making oil and gas exploration and extraction permissible as a limited use activity in all zone districts.

City Attorney Bob Widner said the move is not so much one to open up the floodgates for drilling, but rather to flesh out the city's current codes that do not align with statutory authority.

“For example, the state determines whether or not a wellhead is permitted, the local government does not — if we say no they could say yes, as long as (the operator) met the spacing and setback requirements,” said Widner. “So we would be pre-empted as to that location; we need to recognize the state has control over the location issue, which we are doing through this regulation change, bringing ourselves in line with the state law.”

City planners said statutory requirements are far more restrictive, and the city's new regulations are essentially the most it can do without conflicting with the state authority.

However, the city can now require potential oil and gas operators to apply for an administrative permit, provide site plans detailing wellhead locations and associated structures, and even produce traffic studies to determine potential impacts of industrial vehicles on the city.

Fears of increased drilling activity along the Front Range prompted city council to place a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in July until it could better determine how it would deal with potential operations within the city.

The moratorium prompted concerns on both sides of the issue, including environmental and health worries, property devaluation, and the possible perception that the city was no longer open to new business ventures.

No drilling permits are pending and no wells currently exist within the city.

Widner said the regulation gives the city the ability to push certain requirements on operators to “protect, to the extent we can, the health safety and welfare of our public.”

A copy of the new regulations will be posted online at centennialcolorado.com under the “Government” drop-down menu.