Extraction Oil and Gas will take a temporary timeout from plans to drill four large well pads in Broomfield. City leaders arrived at the voluntary agreement with the company at a packed council meeting Tuesday night. In a 6-3 vote, city councilors decided to postpone a moratorium vote indefinitely.
City councilor Kevin Kreeger said the goal now is to work on a detailed plan on where to site oil and gas wells.
“The comprehensive plan in my opinion needs to be data based. So we need to find out how far from a well is the air safe to breathe,” he said. “If it’s a data based plan the data will tell us where to put this.”
Extraction Oil and Gas will re-submit drilling plans for a meeting with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission July 24 and 25. Right now, those plans call for 139 wells on four well pads in the northern part of town. According to analysis by CPR News, the number of wells per pad is on the rise as companies propose new projects in 2017.
In the coming weeks, Broomfield plans to create a task force to guide the planning process. That group will include members from the public. Extraction Oil and Gas has also asked to participate in the comprehensive plan update.
The Feb. 28 meeting attracted hundreds, many crowded into overflow areas outside Broomfield city council chambers. During three hours of public comment, residents came to the podium armed with spreadsheets, signed petitions and health studies.
“I’m not necessarily saying that fracking should be banned. I don’t like fracking. But if it’s necessary, why does it need to be done in the middle of a residential community?” asked Broomfield resident John Dulles. “If we have to do it, then your job is to negotiate the toughest terms and mitigate for the well-being and safety of this community.”
Supporters of Colorado’s oil and gas industry also turned out to the meeting to discourage Broomfield from implementing a moratorium.
“The comprehensive planning process that you unanimously supported will allow you to address the concerns and needs of all parties involved without sending the negative message to your residents employed by the oil and gas industry [and] to the business community at large that would come with a moratorium,” said Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.
Since approving an initial reading of a 5-month hydraulic fracturing moratorium Dec. 13, the Broomfield City Council has been on an accelerated learning curve on how to best manage oil and gas development. That learning was open to the public during a Feb. 21 town hall that included health experts, state regulators and representatives of the oil and gas industry.
“This project could exist and still maintain clean air, clean water and clean soil. That’s the goal everyone has, and I think we can definitely accomplish it,” said city councilor Mike Shelton. “I really hope that this project is so astounding — the soil monitors, the air monitors — I hope that objective data will put people’s minds at ease.”