By Jeff Todd

WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – When Colorado State Legislators approved new rules to allow local governments to control oil and gas development, many believed tighter restrictions would be placed on the industry. Weld County is hoping a new department will make things easier.

(credit: CBS)

“We think it’s important we have an efficient process that addresses safety, wellness, health, the environment but at the same time allows for certainty and stability with regard to development of oil and gas within our county,” said Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer.

Earlier this month the county established the Oil and Gas Energy Department. Eventually 12 people will help streamline the application process related to land use and new site development.

(credit: CBS)

“This is going to give a more comprehensive review of the oil and gas locations that are proposed in the county,” said new department Director Jason Maxey. “This department is important to Weld County because oil and gas is important to Weld County. It’s a large employer in the county. It’s a big revenue producer in the county.”

The numbers are staggering. More than 21,100 wells operate in Weld County. They produce 88% of the state’s oil and 34% of the state’s total gas. Kirkmeyer says that brings in nearly $900 million in taxes.

(credit: CBS)

“We’re trying to make sure that we have a department in place and a process in place that provides stability and certainty for the oil and gas industry,” she said. “For every well being drilled, think of 120 jobs related to that drilling. Then think of all the secondary jobs associated with that as well.”

Weld County says this is the move it’s making to ensure the industry can thrive. Other places in Colorado have put in lengthier setbacks or even halted all new production.

(credit: CBS)

“We will be able to really keep an eye on what’s going on with regard to oil and gas,” Kirkmeyer said. “Those things the state was doing, pertaining to the extraction and development of oil and gas just got delegated to local governments if they choose to take it. We’re choosing to take it. We’re taking that authority now.”

The new department is expected to be up and running August 5.

Jeff Todd