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Civitas Resources has put on hold its plan to tap oil and gas under 552 acres of Boulder County open space and conservation easements.

After a five-year legal battle, Civitas Resources has indefinitely paused its plans to obtain mineral leases and drill up to 32 wells on a conservation easement owned by Boulder County.

Crestone Peak Resources, which was acquired by Civitas, received permits from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to drill its proposed Blue Paintbrush pad on the land in 2018.

While Civitas — one of the top five oil and gas producers in Colorado in 2022 — may  have retreated from the field in Boulder County, it has big projects in Erie and in Arapahoe County.

The oil and gas operator sought to obtain mineral leases held by Boulder County, covering 552 acres. The county went to court to block Civitas, which was formerly Extraction OIl and Gas, from gaining access to the leases, which involve property west of County Line Road, between Quail and Oxford roads, south of Longmont.

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The county and the company were back in court in May 2022, and in July Civitas sent a letter to the county stating that if it did not sign leases the driller would seek an order from the COGCC  to “force pool” the leases, merging the county minerals into the project by administrative order.

A hearing on the force pooling order was set for later this month and in Civitas’  earnings report for the first quarter of 2023, the company said it intended “to vigorously defend against all claims alleged by Boulder County, both in the pooling hearing and in any subsequent action brought by Boulder County.”

The county, however, said in a release that it was informed Monday that Civitas would halt its plan for the Blue Paintbrush site.

Civitas did not respond to telephone and email requests by The Colorado Sun for comment.

“These oil and gas rights were purchased with taxpayer funds that require us to protect them from development. We are very pleased that we have succeeded in doing that,” Boulder County Commissioner Ashley Stolzmann said in a statement.

Civitas, however, is pursuing oil and gas development elsewhere on the Front Range.  In October, the COGCC gave the company a green light to drill 19 horizontal oil and gas wells between Broomfield and Erie — over protests from Broomfield.

The company is also seeking oil and gas commission approval to drill up to 174 wells on 12 new and existing well pads on Arapahoe County property owned by the Colorado State Land Board as part of its Lowry Ranch drilling project.

A grassroots group opposed to the drilling plan — Save the Aurora Reservoir  — has already formed to challenge the company.

Wells would be as close as 2,000 feet to homes and the reservoir — the state-mandated setback — according to the group’s website.

Mark Jaffe

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @bymarkjaffe