By John Aquilar
NOAA air pollution study serves as prime catalyst for board's change of heart
ERIE -- In a dramatic turnaround late Tuesday evening, Erie trustees unanimously voted to craft an emergency ordinance to temporarily ban new gas drilling permits from being filed with the town.
The ordinance will come before the town's elected leaders at their next meeting, on March 13, and, if voted on as an emergency ordinance, would require six votes to pass. It would go into effect immediately and last 180 days.
If it passes, Erie would join Longmont and Boulder County in imposing a moratorium on new drilling operations.
Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Hauger brought the motion to the table late in the evening, saying that a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that came to light last week showing that levels of propane -- a pollutant associated with oil and gas drilling and production -- are 10 times higher in Erie than they are in cities such as Houston and Los Angeles was instrumental in prompting her to give a moratorium another try.
Just last month, the board voted against imposing a moratorium.
Several trustees mentioned the NOAA study as a primary reason for changing their opinion on the safety of drilling and hydraulic fracturing, an extraction process known as fracking that uses a sand-water-chemical mix to loosen gas from underground rock.
Trustee Ronda Grassi said that a moratorium would provide time for the town to work out issues with oil and gas operators in Erie, though she cautioned it wouldn't stop companies already drilling and fracking here. She said Erie doesn't currently have an application for a drilling permit in front of it.
"A moratorium won't change one thing today -- they are allowed to drill in our community and they won't stop,"
The town is in the midst of drafting a set of rules drilling operators would be expected to follow, including air and water monitoring, larger wellhead setbacks and noise, light and dust mitigation. Gas drilling is regulated by the state and municipalities are limited in what they can control operationally.
Trustee Joe Carnival said...