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Adams County adopts new oil and gas regulations that critics say will effectively ban drilling

Adams is one of the first Colorado counties to adopt new drilling regulations under Senate Bill 181

A pickup truck drives toward an illuminated drilling rig very close Highway 66 north of Longmont on June 29, 2019. (Andy Colwell, Special to the Colorado Sun)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

The Adams County Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 to adopt new oil and gas regulations at a public hearing on Tuesday, making the county one of the first in Colorado to revise its policies since new statewide regulations took effect in January.

The regulations increase setback distances for new drilling to 2,000 feet from homes, schools, daycares, environmentally sensitive areas, and parks and open spaces. They also expand the definition of environmentally sensitive areas and require closer monitoring of nuisance impacts.

The oil and gas industry says the new regulations effectively ban drilling in the county, while county commissioners argue the changes were necessary to address the growing concern over air quality and pollution.

“Frankly, the time is now. We are looking at the longest streak of poor air quality in the Denver metro in a number of years,” said Adams County Commissioner Emma Pinter. “There is widespread concern in the community, both about climate change, air quality, air pollution, water pollution, all the things that are really centered around these regulations. This is the best that we can do at this time.”

Along with Pinter, Board Chairperson Eva Henry and Commissioner Lynn Baca voted for the regulations, while Commissioner Chaz Tedesco dissented. Commissioner Steve O’Dorisio was absent.

A 2019 state law, Senate Bill 181, gave local governments more regulatory authority over oil and gas drilling. It also directed the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission to revise statewide regulations to prioritize health and safety, which the commission did last November.


CLARIFICATION: This story was updated at 1:32 p.m. on Thursday, July 29, 2021, to clarify that Adams County was one of the first counties in Colorado to revise its drilling policies since new statewide regulations took effect in January.

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