Erie passes new oil and gas code despite opposition
By Whitney Bryen
Erie’s town board has approved a new code for in-town oil and gas operations — despite claims by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.
Anne Carto, COGA community outreach coordinator, reiterated concerns that the code supersedes state laws and called one of the code’s two permitting options “unachievable” for oil and gas operators.
Companies hoping to drill in Erie can follow two routes. Those that follow Type A — which includes rules on setbacks and noise limits that are stricter than state requirements — get a streamlined permitting process. Those that follow Type B — which follows state rules — will go through a process that includes public hearings and review by the town’s planning commission and trustees.
The code offers two routes for companies seeking operations in Erie. “Type A” includes restrictions that go beyond state requirements, such as stricter setbacks and noise limits, in exchange for a streamlined permitting process for operators who voluntarily choose that route. The regulations were based on an operator agreement approved by the town in August with Encana.
“Type B” is based on state regulations and has a longer permitting process that includes public hearings and approval from the town’s Planning Commission and Board of Trustees.
Mayor Pro Tem Mark Gruber said operator agreements are a third option for drilling and are the “preferred method.”
Six of the seven trustees voted in favor of the new code. Trustee Dan Woog voted against the measure, saying he would like more time to discuss the changes with COGA. Mayor Tina Harris disputed the need for additional time, saying that COGA had an opportunity to address the town’s code changes during a stakeholder meeting this summer.
“COGA is a lobbying body for the oil and gas industry, so they’re going to try to get the best terms,” Harris said. “We’re the lobbying body for the town of Erie.”
Harris said town staff members are meeting with representatives of Anadarko — which has also expressed concerns about the code changes at past meetings and through letters to the town — to discuss an operator agreement.
As stated above, the new code is based on a separate agreement between the town of Erie and Encana which was passed by the board in August.
In an agreement released Friday between the Town of Erie and Encana Oil and Gas, the operator submits to air-quality inspections and noise regulations that exceed state mandates in exchange for swifter processing and fewer public hearings …
… In the contract, Encana agrees to keep noise levels under 60 decibels — five decibels below the state requirement for similar wells. And all of Encana’s planned pad sites are located at least 1,000 feet from existing occupied buildings, which is double the state requirement, [Mayor Pro Tem Mark Gruber] said.
“We were able to push some planned wells back,” Gruber said. “That’s significant.”
Leak inspections beyond state mandates are also included in the agreement requiring Encana to test its existing and future wells monthly during the first 12 months of production and quarterly after that.
All inspection reports and repairs will be posted on Erie’s website for public viewing, [Trustee Jennifer Carroll] said, allowing residents to monitor the town’s air quality, which has been a top concern from residents during public hearings …
Not everyone was thrilled with the agreement. Erie resident Scott Cardwell who lives near the well pad in the photo above expressed his disappointment.
… Cardwell, who lives in Vista Ridge near Encana’s contentious Pratt site, called the agreement “super disappointing” giving too much flexibility to the operator.
Regular inspections were a step in the right direction reversed by allowing Encana to monitor itself, Cardwell said.
A provision addressing reduced light pollution leaves it to Encana to determine what the best equipment is to mitigate light while maintaining public and occupational safety.
“It’s basically saying we hope you do this but it’s ultimately up to you,” Cardwell said. “There’s no teeth to it at all.”
Cardwell was pleased with a clause that requires Encana to pay for road damage caused by operational truck traffic.
Cardwell said he was most disappointed that the agreement did not include the Pratt site, which has been dormant since December when Encana shut down the noisy operation that drew complaints from nearby residents and attracted the attention of state regulators.
“Pratt is the biggest problem this town has ever had and it’s not being addressed,” he said.