BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) – Broomfield city leaders delayed a vote on whether to enact a 5-month moratorium on oil and gas development, which would impact a current plan to build 139 new horizontal hydraulic fracturing wells near homes.
As many as 1,000 people attended a city council meeting Tuesday, which was held at the City and County Building on Descombes Drive. Police officers provided crowd control as people took seats in several overflow rooms made available for the packed meeting.
Quickly and without public comment, the council passed the first of two measures designed to the give the city more control over oil and gas development. Council members voted 9-0 in favor of amending its ordinance “governing the transfer and disposition of Broomfield’s property and property to add the words ‘mineral’ and ‘lease.'” The ordinance requires city council give consent over what happens to its property.
The second measure, a proposed ordinance that would impose a temporary ban on oil and gas production, including fracking, in the city, generated more than four hours worth of public comment from residents and stakeholders. The moratorium would give the city more time to consider whether to adopt updated regulations, and specifically, impact current proposals by Extraction Oil & Gas.
Denver-based Extraction Oil & Gas, which already has a agreement of understanding with the city of Broomfield, wants to build 139 new wells on four pad sites near the Anthem and Wildgrass neighborhoods.
Extraction representatives have said the plan would add millions of dollars in economic value to the city. At the council’s request, the company has delayed some of its applications. Its plan would rely on a pipeline network rather than above-ground oil tanks and includes $1 million worth of landscaping to mitigate visual impacts, company representatives said.
Extraction asked council to vote down the proposed moratorium.
“I urge you to please honor your prior commitments and move forward with responsible energy development,” an Extraction spokesman said.
Dozens of residents said they did not see what Extraction cited as mitigating factors as enough to satisfy their health and safety concerns.
“Has this ever even been done this close to homes? Have we even checked on the safety of that much oil and gas moving through our homes?” one resident asked.
Through tears, a teenage girl asked council members, “if this type of destruction continues, what will my generation’s future hold?”
Other residents who oppose the proposed moratorium said a ban would only delay inevitable oil and gas development. They asked city council to stop what they referred to as costly and legally indefensible bans, and instead trust in oil and gas regulations already in place.
“Aren’t there better ways to spend taxpayer money?” asked a Broomfield man, “This isn’t a gray area that taxpayers might lose, it is a black and white area and Broomfield would lose this expensive argument.”
Last year, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against long-term fracking bans, but issued no opinion on “marginally shorter” bans. That has created legal ambiguity over whether it is constitutionally acceptable for a local government like Broomfield to enact a 5-month ban on oil and gas production.