Aurora begins accepting applicants for new oil and gas advisory group

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AURORA | Aurora is now accepting applications for its new oil and gas advisory committee, which will start meeting next year amid continuing debate over regulating the industry, according to city officials.

The committee will assist the Aurora City Council in promoting efficient and equitable handling of oil and gas exploration while protecting the city’s natural resources and local quality of life, according to a statement.

“It will make ward councilors’ jobs easier for any ward where fracking is taking place,” said Renie Peterson, a city councilwoman for Aurora’s Ward II, which sits on the eastern part of the city, near Denver International Airport.

Peterson’s ward includes two neighborhoods most affected by oil and gas drilling: the Adonea and Murphy Creek subdivisions.

To date, Aurora city planners have issued 16 permits for well sites with six applications that are under review. The potential six new wells will be located at Jewell and Powhaton, on the south side of Jewell, and within 1,000 feet of a platted residential lot, requiring a public hearing with the planning and zoning commission set to happen in January 2016.

According to ConocoPhillips, which owns all the current oil and gas sites in the city, there are six producing wells and five well sites.

ConocoPhillips’ increasing presence near neighborhoods has been upsetting for Nicole Johnston, who lives in the Adonea neighborhood near many of the new wells.  In September Johnston took part in a candidate forum with Aurora’s four at-large city council candidates to get their take on fracking in the city.

“We want to let the candidates know on city council this is important to us. We’re watching how they vote,” she said. “It is going to be an election issue for many of us, where fracking can affect our safety and welfare.”

None have taken the position that they would ban fracking in Aurora if the state allowed, most referring to the fact that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has the sole authority to regulate oil and gas drilling, while the city can only address the land-use impacts of drilling, such as truck traffic.

Johnston said she feels the issue should be one for voters to decide, and she is not alone.   

Fracking is a pressing issue in Colorado, the nation’s seventh-highest energy-producing state. Along the urban Front Range, expanding suburbs and booming oilfields are running into each other, and drilling rigs sometimes show up near public schools. Several municipal attempts to ban fracking have failed, and the industry warns that local control would stifle energy development.

State regulators have released proposed rules to give local governments more of a say in the location of new oil and gas wells.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is drawing up the rules to implement the recommendations of a task force convened by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The task force recommended, among other things, that local governments be given a consulting role when energy companies are deciding where to locate large oil and gas facilities if they’re near homes or businesses. Cities and counties would not be able to enforce their own rules, however.

The governor asked the group to address tensions over hydraulic fracturing and conflicts that arise when cities and oilfields expand into each other.

Regulators released the first draft in early October and have scheduled public hearings for Nov. 16 and 17.

In September, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to decide whether cities can ban hydraulic fracturing, stepping into a high-stakes battle over whether local governments can impose tougher oil and gas rules than the state.

The court agreed to hear cases from Longmont and Fort Collins. Longmont voters banned hydraulic fracturing in 2012. Fort Collins voters approved a five-year moratorium in 2013.

Aurora has not banned fracking, but on several levels Aurora has expressed an interest in having a greater say in how it’s regulated in the city.

The city’s new advisory oil and gas committee will consist of five citizen members, with up to two living in areas most affected by oil and gas; three industry representatives who are registered to vote in Colorado; and three surface or property owners.

Citizen members only must be registered voters and residents of the city of Aurora. The membership term is three years. The deadline to submit applications is Oct. 30.  The application can be found at www.auroragov.org (click on City Hall/Boards & Commissions). Residents who need an application mailed to them may contact Karen Goldman at 303-739-7094 or [email protected]

— The Associated Press contributed to this story

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readmylips
readmylips
6 years ago

this is not a “new” oil and gas committee. It’s been operating for years. However, it has taken years to try to finally get the people
most affected by fracking assigned to the committee. Let’s hope that all the time spent by Council members proves to be
worthwhile, so everyone can learn first hand what it is like to have your neighborhood fracked, and what remedial measures
can be agreed upon between oil and gas and the City of Aurora to improve their quality of life.

Frank2525
Frank2525
6 years ago

I would remind all voters and property owners, this is NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE. Fracking has released more gas and oil for use, than any other procedure in our history, and with lateral drilling, the vertical wells are not only means now. Much of our clothes, food, test equipment, and other products are made from carbon, so this is not just for fuel for vehicles, or to produce electric. 52.7% of Xcel electric is produced from coal, 25.3% is from Natural gas, 18.9% is Wind, with rest from others means. USA should be exporting energy to world, removing the danger, killing, injuring of our people in middle east, and reducing their funds to attack us.
So you bet we are voting, and have been for our security, health, and economical well-being. All those who emigrated here from other states, only own the top of the land their house is on.
The oil-gas-coal (mineral rights) are owned by others, and will be developed, or all of us will have to pay them for their property being taken, without compensation. So whine, cry, complain, but if they wanted to drill in my back yard, I only own the top of the land. I do not own the oil, gas, coal, clay, or whatever is deeper than top area. And that is true for every other home owner in Colorado, or other states. I bought my property in 1963, and wife was born in Denver in 1935. Take this for what it is worth, but I served 26 years 18 days of military service, and do not want to see more of brothers and sisters, in service killed or injured, in middle east or other wars, over energy or water.