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Boulder County now has in place what its county commissioners say are likely the strongest local oil and gas development regulations in Colorado.

Commissioners Matt Jones, Deb Gardner and Elise Jones voted unanimously during a Tuesday morning business meeting to formally adopt a resolution detailing a set of updated regulations that will apply to any companies seeking to explore for and produce oil and gas from deposits in unincorporated Boulder County.

Those new rules, restrictions and conditions — a final draft of which the commissioners informally approved with minor changes last Thursday night — took effect immediately when the Board of County Commissioners formally adopted the approval resolution Tuesday morning.

Future oil and gas well pads in unincorporated parts of Boulder County would generally have to be set back at least 2,500 feet from any residential dwelling, school or licensed child care facility, under the updated oil and gas development regulations county commissioners unanimously voted to approve Thursday.

That 2,500-setback requirement would also generally apply to the distances well pads would be allowed to be situated from work places in light industrial, general industrial, commercial, business and transitional zoning districts, under the new regulations.

Setbacks also would be required from public recreational trails and trailheads owned by the county or any city or town within the county.

In no case could the setbacks be smaller than a minimum of 2,000 feet, Kim Sanchez, deputy director of Boulder County’s Community Planning and Permitting Department, has told the commissioners.

And, depending on the wells’ locations and other factors spelled out in the regulations, the Board of County Commissioners could require even greater setbacks than 2,500 feet, Sanchez has said.

The new setback requirements are one aspect of a comprehensive set of updates to Boulder County’s well-permitting rules, requirements, restrictions and conditions that have been in place since March 2017. A county moratorium on accepting and processing new oil and gas development and seismic testing is in place through Dec. 31 while the updated regulations were under review.

A coalition of local organizations, businesses, community leaders and residents, led by 350 Boulder County, The Lookout Alliance, Sierra Club, the Niwot High School Environmental Club, Sustainable Resilient Longmont, Moms Clean Air Force and others, had turned out hundreds of people to testify for stronger regulations, and ultimately a countywide ban, Micah Parkin, executive director of 350 Colorado and a spokesperson of 350 Boulder County, said in a Friday news release.

Those organizations delivered a petition to Boulder County last year calling for a ban, signed by groups and businesses representing over 130,000 Boulder County residents, Parkin said.

“We appreciate that the Boulder County Commissioners have listened to the hundreds of people who’ve testified and the 70% of local residents in favor of 2,500-foot setbacks and ultimately a ban on fracking and have put in place the strongest rules and regulations on fracking that they think is legally defensible,” Parkin said on Friday.

Parkin cited the updated rules’ expanded requirements that oil and gas operators provide financial assurances to cover the cost and risk of their operations and noted that the regulations now will also require stronger industry notice to, and intervention opportunities for, county residents who will be affected by proposed fracking sites.

Parkin said “other key improvements” included “stronger noise, vibration and cumulative air quality monitoring, especially for ozone and hazardous air pollutants, were other key improvements. The updated rules require that industry operations use renewable energy and electrification rather than diesel fuel or other fossil fuel sources for their power.”

However, representatives of two oil and gas industry organizations have already criticized the new Boulder County regulations.

Lynn Granger, executive director of American Petroleum Institute Colorado, wrote in a Tuesday email that “API Colorado maintains that the regulations adopted today by the Boulder County Board of Commissioners are largely subjective and could serve to prohibit future energy development in the county.”

Granger said sponsors of Senate Bill 181, a bill the Colorado Legislature passed last year, “made it clear that local governments could have more authority to regulate natural gas and oil, but were explicit in affirming that local governments could not ban development. Boulder County appears to have ignored that directive, which is deeply disappointing.

“We will closely monitor the county’s implementation of its land use code in the weeks and months ahead, with the hope that our concerns prove to be unfounded,” Granger said.

Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said in a statement last Thursday night that Boulder County’s well-pad setback requirement “is based more on politics than science. The data shows a 500-foot setback is protective of public health.”