Arapahoe County votes down moratorium on Lowry oil and gas drilling project

Brennan Linsley/AP Photo
In this March 25, 2014 photo, a worker oils a pump during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Corp. well pad near Mead, Colo. The National Petroleum Council estimates that up to 80 percent of natural oil wells drilled in the next decade will require hydraulic fracturing.

In a 3-2 decision The Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners has voted down a six-month moratorium on a proposed new oil and gas project at a former bombing range east of Aurora, allowing for new fossil fuel development in the area.

Commissioners voted on the moratorium Tuesday, following two hours of public comment for and against the measure — including stiff opposition from Denver-based oil and gas company Civitas Resources.

“We’re not all against fracking, right? We understand the needs and necessities of oil and gas,” said moratorium supporter Kevin Chan of Aurora. “What we want you to do is protect us.”

Those arguing for the moratorium expressed concern a Civitas proposal for 174 wells would harm local air quality and potentially contaminate the nearby Aurora Reservoir. Others asked that the six-month formal moratorium be used to crafter tighter local regulations to further guard against pollution.

“I see this not as something that will inhibit business but as something that will give us an ability to move forward intentionally,” said Commissioner Jessica Campbell-Swanson, who supported the moratorium.

Brian Cain, the chief sustainability officer for Civitas, said the company would not be filing permits for the project for six months anyway. He said they would use that time to work directly with local governments on coming to greater consensus on the project. 

“Our team is committed to transparency, to partnership and to ongoing communication to improve operations and ensure local governments and communities feel informed and engaged,” Cain said. “We can do all of this together, and we can do it without a moratorium.”

Commissioner Bill Holen, who voted against the moratorium, said he was confident county staff would still be able to find solutions for fears from residents.

“They have the ability and the expertise to dig deeply into these concerns and come up with workable compromises,” Holen said.