Aurora moves closer to forming oil and gas committee

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AURORA | The long-gestating oil and gas committee for the City of Aurora is about to move a step closer to reality.

A bulldozer waits to lower pipe Oct. 16 at a site just north of Murphy Creek in Aurora. Officials at Houston-based ConocoPhillips plan to suspend drilling efforts in Aurora this year amidst a drastic drop in crude oil prices, following the lead of an energy industry slowdown nationwide. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)During the Monday, Sept. 14, study session, City Council is expected to approve an ordinance to establish an informal special group of residents, industry officials and other stakeholders to mull oil-and-gas-related matters affecting Aurora and have an educational forum on O&G industry activity in the city.

If approved, the ordinance would go to a regular council session for approval.

Aurora’s Planning and Economic Development Policy Committee has spent months plotting out how an O&G committee would be constituted, with concerns routinely aired over exactly how many citizen members would be part of the committee and from which parts of the city they would come.

The committee, once approved, would include five citizens appointed by council, of which two would come from “the areas most affected by oil and gas” drilling in Aurora. The committee would also include three industry representatives from companies registered with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), and three surface or property owners in Aurora who hold mineral rights.

The terms for each of the committee appointments would be three years, and members would be limited to a maximum of three consecutive terms.

The desire for an oil and gas committee grew as the debate over energy exploration across Colorado has grown in recent years, with large increases in the amount of drilling over the past three years.

That increase in industry activity has come with a growing concern over environmental impacts. Opponents of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” have announced plans to seek a statewide ballot measure for the 2016 general election to institute some form of local control over O&G activity. Currently, oil and gas rule-making is done by the COGCC, and county and municipal governments are mostly pre-empted from issuing their own regulations regarding fracking.