The Loveland City Council Tuesday night passed an emergency nine-month moratorium on new oil and gas operations within city limits as a "time out" allowing the city to update its zoning code and to develop a regulatory process for energy development in the city. The moratorium passed 6-3 after two hours of debate and public comment.
The Fort Collins City Council unanimously gave initial approval to an ordinance that would establish a moratorium of up to 8 months on accepting land-use applications related to oil and gas operations.
During the moratorium, the city would develop a permitting process for oil and gas drilling and draft land-use regulations with the aim of protecting the interests of the city and residents as allowable by state law, officials said.
The process of crafting the regulations would involve extensive public outreach. The moratorium would go into effect June 15 and end in February or earlier if the process is complete.
Nearly 20 residents spoke to the Fort Collins City Council in support of the moratorium. No one spoke against the proposal.
Mayor pro tem Kelly Ohlson said the city should "look out for its own" and come up with the strongest regulations possible.
Some residents said the city should do more than consider regulation of oil and gas operations; it should consider an outright ban, especially on fracking.
Dian Sparling said the chemicals used in fracking and other gas and oil operations have been linked to health problems and could cause birth defects.
The city should act to protect future residents, she said.
"Push the pause button," she said. "Please consider the health risks."
Gary Wockner said Fort Collins should be prepared to "test the limits" of the state's authority over gas and oil operations within the city.
In a letter to council members, the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, an industry trade group, encouraged the city to not enact a moratorium. The city would be better served by engaging in the permitting process and the existing rules of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the trade group stated.
Larimer County has not considered a moratorium. In an interview, Commissioner Lew Gaiter said the state's regulation of gas and oil development is sufficient and the county does not have to take further action.
"At this point in time, we'd be solving a problem that doesn't exist," he said.
The city has received no applications for well permits, but expects interest in the future as exploration for gas and oil grows. City officials said regulations on gas and oil development within municipal limits are minimal.
The Loveland moratorium, the result of public concern about proposals for new oil and gas wells at Centerra near Interstate 25, takes effect immediately and continues through Feb. 16, 2013.
"We're not prepared for this," Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez said after hearing from residents about their fears that their health may suffer if new oil and gas wells are drilled and hydraulically fractured close to neighborhoods.
Though some Loveland City Council members were concerned about the extent of the city's jurisdiction to regulate energy development within city limits, council member Ralph Trenary said the city has no procedures for monitoring public safety around new energy development.
"I do prefer that we be proactive," he said. "We do need to have a set program."
Andrew Casper of COGA urged the council to reject the idea of a moratorium.
"A moratorium is a serious step," Casper said. "It will unnecessarily affect employment opportunities, inhibit economic activity and deny mineral rights owners access to their property."
Loveland resident Irene Fortune urged the council to support the moratorium.
"Accidents do happen" she said. "When it comes to chemicals, the best thing to do is keep them out of the air and out of the water."
Written by Bobby Magill
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