Broomfield is considering plans to hire oil and gas well inspectors and consultants, while it also prepares for a lawsuit filed by Sovereign, an oil and gas company that has been barred from drilling in Broomfield because of a voter-approved five-year moratorium on fracking.
Sovereign in 2013 planned to drill new wells in Broomfield, but was not able to do so, because voters in November narrowly approved the moratorium.
Sovereign argues its drilling plans were illegally put on hold because the company previously entered into a legal agreement, known as a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with Broomfield. That agreement would have enabled the company to drill in Broomfield under strict regulations.
Broomfield has until Tuesday to file an answer to the lawsuit, which is a common procedure in civil suits, said Bill Tuthill, city and county attorney.
In the meantime, at a study session on Tuesday, City Council discussed plans to hire oil and gas inspectors, in part because of the possibility that Sovereign could prevail in its lawsuit.
The inspectors, who would be hired on contract from a qualified company and would not be city employees, would make sure companies such as Sovereign follow Broomfield's oil and gas regulations.
Broomfield updated its regulations last year to be more stringent. The last time those regulations had been updated was in 1993, according to a staff memo. Hiring inspectors was part of those updated regulations.
The inspectors also would be in charge of examining Broomfield's existing oil and gas operations, which were in place before the fracking ban, said Deputy City and County Attorney Tami Yellico.
Broomfield has 97 active wells. The companies running those wells, such as Anadarko, Encana and Sovereign, have drilled in Broomfield in the past, but haven't used fracking procedures on those sites since the summer of 2013, when the fracking moratorium was placed on the ballot.
However, some of those wells are still producing, and would be subject to state and local inspections, Yellico said.
Broomfield wells are subject to state regulations, but a local inspector would help maintain Broomfield's specific regulations and allow experts to more quickly respond to questions or problems, Yellico said.
For example, during flooding in September, residents reported some oil and gas sites were flooding.
"We relied on state inspection folks," but a local, Broomfield-specific inspector might have been able to respond to the concerns more quickly, she said.
One of the reasons for discussing hiring oil and gas inspectors now is because of the looming Sovereign lawsuit. If a judge rules Sovereign can continue fracking in Broomfield, there is a big regulatory to-do list to check off, Yellico said.
Council members last year voted to approve the MOU with Sovereign, which would have allowed the company to drill 21 wells, as long as the company complied with 35 of Broomfield's new, more stringent oil and gas drilling standards.
Those strict standards would still apply if Sovereign wins the lawsuit. That means Broomfield needs to have plans for inspections and technical and air quality reviews in place, according to the memo.
Tuthill said Sovereign also is entitled to an "accelerated process" of putting drilling plans in place if it wins the lawsuit, because it has already agreed to the terms of the MOU.
According to documents filed in Broomfield District Court, Sovereign states it should not be subject to the fracking moratorium because of the company's pre-existing MOU with Broomfield.
The moratorium, Question 300, was petitioned onto the ballot by Our Broomfield, a grassroots group with concerns about the impacts of fracking on health and environment. It rallied to get the question on the ballot in response to Sovereign's plans to frack wells in the North Park area near Prospect Ridge Academy.
Contact Enterprise Staff Writer Megan Quinn at 303-410-2649 or email@example.com