Saturday, February 25, 2012

Boulder County commissioners to review impacts of potential increase in oil, gas drilling

Longmont Times-Call
By John Fryar

BOULDER -- Significant expansion of oil and gas exploration in Boulder County could cause expensive-to-repair damages to county roads near those well sites, according to the County Transportation Department.

"The impacts of heavy trucks necessary to serve potential oil and gas development on Boulder County roads could be equivalent to the wear and tear of hundreds of millions of passenger vehicles,"

Transportation director George Gerstle has written the Board of County Commissioners.

That additional truck traffic might also "increase conflicts with other vehicles and bicyclists and would place significant new demands for road infrastructure and safety improvements on the county, without additional revenue to address the potential needs," Gerstle said in his memo, which is part of a 277-page report the county staff prepared for a commissioners' meeting this coming Thursday.

Boulder County's Land Use Department has initially estimated that as many as 1,800 oil and gas wells could be drilled in unincorporated Boulder County under current county and state regulations.

Parks and Open Space director Ron Stewart wrote the commissioners that there are now about 345 active oil and gas wells in Boulder County. About a third of those active wells are on county-owned open space. Another third are on privately held lands covered by Boulder County conservation easements, and the rest are on privately held land not protected by conservation easements.

Stewart said his department has had its own both short- and long-term experiences with the impacts of oil and gas operations on county open space -- wells the county had to let be drilled and operated because the property was subject to existing oil and gas leases when the county bought it. The county doesn't have the legal ability to prevent that drilling and production when it doesn't own the mineral rights that previous property owners severed from the surface rights -- or even when it does own those mineral rights but has to honor existing leases.

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Oil and gas drilling issues

What: Boulder County commissioners will hold a public hearing on issues relating to the adequacy of the county's current Land Use Code regulations about oil and gas exploration in unincorporated Boulder County.

When:  March 1st, 4 p.m. Thursday

Where: Commissioners' third-floor hearing room, Boulder County Courthouse, 1325 Pearl St., Boulder

Further information: After a county staff presentation that's expected to last at least an hour, members of the public will be invited to comment. There'll be a three-minute time limit for each individual speaker. Comments also can be submitted via email, to

People unable to attend the meeting in person can watch it over the Internet, via a live stream at Further information about the issue, including the county staff's report for Thursday's hearing, is available at

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