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La Plata County to host workshops on gas and oil land-use codes

Presentations will update residents on state rules while seeking feedback for local revisions
La Plata County will host two workshops next week detailing the rewriting process of Chapter 90 of the land-use code while receiving feedback from community members. (Durango Herald file)

La Plata County will host two gas and oil rewrite, topic-focused workshops next week to discuss refining the natural resources chapter of the 2020 Land Use Code.

According to a La Plata County news release, when the new land-use code was adopted in 2020, Chapter 90 involving natural resources, was intentionally omitted because Colorado had just begun an extensive rule-making process regarding gas and oil development prompted by Senate Bill 181 in 2019.

The bill prioritizes the protection of public safety, health, welfare and the environment by modifying the gas and oil statutes and by clarifying various aspects of local governments’ regulatory authority over the surface impacts of gas and oil development.

Workshops will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the County Administration Building Board Room and can also be viewed on Zoom.

Both sessions will include a presentation from RPI Consulting, with the first session analyzing the changes made to the land-use code involving natural resources and how the state’s regulations have created those changes. The second session will discuss the application process and application submittal requirements. It will look at long-term monitoring procedures and financial assurances for oil and gas facilities.

RPI Consulting Principal Gabe Preston said revising the gas and oil code chapter of the land-use code is a nuanced process, which is why the presentations will provide attendees a chance to offer comments and ask questions.

He said the code will apply only to private land in La Plata County and will not impact surrounding municipalities.

One of the standards the workshop will seek to characterize is natural and geological hazards. Such hazards include avalanches, landslides, rockfalls, mud falls or unstable slopes.

“It basically says that new oil and gas development is not allowed in geologic hazard areas,” Preston said. “Which is not entirely unlike the old code, which said that major facilities are not allowed in geologic hazard areas.”

Discussions in the first session will go over standards in the old code that will be more specified in the revision.

Preston uses noxious weed management as an example. He said the land-use code details a noxious weed control plan but the gas and oil chapter does not.

He said the noxious weed management chapter of the land-use code gives tap prevention techniques, revegetation standards and mechanical removal management practices. That is the type of specificity the county is trying to add with the new gas and oil code.

“That is kind of a good example of a lot of the changes in the oil and gas code draft,” Preston said. “It’s really just clarifying standards on subject matter that was covered more generally in the old code.”

Other topics that will be discussed are waste disposal, security, safety and protection of roads and infrastructure.

The second workshop will cover the gas and oil application process and submittal requirements. One of the adaptations made is the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission requires a series of reports and analyses based on the impacts the site may have on the surrounding land.

“Some of those reports that get submitted for the state permit are going to relate to what the county’s looking at,” he said.

It will discuss submittal requirements for two different types of permits: a minor and a major permit.

Developments that qualify for a minor oil and gas permit include an individual well pad with one or more wells operated to produce liquid petroleum or natural gas, pipelines that extend past one-quarter mile and temporary staging yards in place for less than six months.

Preston said a minor permit does not require a public hearing.

Developments that qualify for a major oil and gas permit will also be considered a type of major land-use permit and will be reviewed by and approved by the board. Developments such as centralized facilities, centralized water transfer stations or permanent accessory equipment with a cumulative of 200 brake horsepower or higher are considered major permit uses.

Preston said these requirements have been in the land-use code before, but now may be subject to other requirements mandated by the COGCC.

“Because gas and oil is a different kind of development, they’re going to have different types of reports than would be required for a two-lot subdivision,” he said.

tbrown@durangoherald.com

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