After an extensive public and industry engagement process, Arapahoe County this week solidified new oil and gas regulations that address key safety, traffic and quality of life considerations. The new rules aim to create parity between industry and resident concerns while also allowing for continued production and growth in Arapahoe County. The Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the regulations on Tuesday, Nov. 9.
During the hearings, industry officials stated their opposition to the required pad setback of 2,000 feet from an “occupied structure,” but agreed with a waiver process that mirrors the regulations set by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Citizens applauded the 2,000-feet requirement but expressed disappointment that applicants could seek the waiver. However, the new County regulations also include a provision that any setback that’s less than 2,000 feet must be approved by the local fire district that provides service to the facility.
The new regulations are the result of a comprehensive review by Arapahoe County Public Works and Development (PWD) that began in 2019 after the passage of Senate Bill-19 181. The legislation granted additional authority to county governments to enhance oil and gas regulations in their communities. The new regulations provide detailed requirements for the application and approval process, which include public outreach and safety guidelines.
Other notable provisions:
Approval and Review: The PWD director will ultimately approve any administrative application submitted for a new oil and gas facility. The regulations also provide standards for an administrative alternative with a use-by special review process. Applicants can opt for this with a public hearing if they propose alternative standards for a project. If the County seeks to revoke a County-issued permit for an oil and gas facility, the Board will decide after hosting a public hearing.
In addition, applicants must comply with the following:
Public Outreach: Producers must contact property owners and registered homeowner’s associations within one mile of a proposed facility pad boundary. A neighborhood meeting must be held to solicit concerns and ideas.
Setbacks: A proposed pad must be 2,000 feet from any occupied structure. The waiver process for a lesser setback follows the regulations set by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and includes a provision that a local fire district agrees to provide service to the facility.
Safety: Applicants must submit a facility-specific Emergency Action Plan and an initial facility-specific Tactical Response Plan, as well as provide 24-hour contact information for the operator.
Water Sampling: Operators must pay for initial baseline and ongoing sampling and testing of all water sources located within one-half mile of the proposed facility. If no water source is located within a half mile, operators must test water sources within a one-mile radius of the facility.
Noise: Operations cannot exceed 60 dBA or 65dBC, which is measured at the nearest property line with an occupied structure. Sixty decibels is the average sound level of a restaurant.
Odor: Operators must use low-odor Category III drilling fluid to prevent odors during drilling.
Lighting: All site lighting must be directed downward and inward to prevent lighting from impacting neighboring properties. During production, lighting must be turned off between 10 p.m. and dawn.
Visual Mitigation: Well pads within 1,320 feet of a property containing a home must be designed with solid fencing, berms or landscaping.
Traffic: Operators are to make their best efforts to limit heavy truck traffic on County roads during peak commuting hours and during school bus hours.
Additional information about the new Oil and Gas Regulations can be found at www.arapahoegov.com/oilandgas.