Tim Gosar and I both made an appearance before the Fort Collins Planning & Zoning Commission meeting last night, when they ultimately voted to recommend adoption of the draft oil and gas regulations we have all been chewing on over the past week and a half. Michelle Haefele was the sole dissenting voice
That anyone takes on these chores as a voluntary citizen board member is amazing. The old aphorism about watching paint dry comes to mind. But I am aware that some of you have been in on these sessions when certain controversies have been brewing in the past. That said, recent changes Fort Collins is enacting on their Land Use review processes which may remove the P&Z from being as involved in some decision making. This is disturbing.
I will note a few changes that were proposed by supporting staff to the draft regulations as we had originally seen them. Senior Environmental Planner Kirk Longstein and Staff Liaison Rebecca Everette presented the changes. These included:
- Removing oil and gas pipelines as acceptable in residential and open space zoning. There was some discussion of how and where such lines would run, with some consideration given to running them along existing utility corridors.
- Removing approval of oil and gas pipelines and their siting from the Basic Development Review (BDR) process and place under the Planning & Zoning Commission’s more comprehensive review process.
- Discussion of pipeline issues did focus on the need to reduce surface transportation by trucks.
- A 2,000 foot Natural Habitat Buffer Zone was suggested.
- Plugging and Abandonment of wells would be supervised under a BDR process.Monitoring requirements were suggested as additional requirements.
- The need to establish inspection protocols, with provisions for the operator to pay for such protocols, was suggested. As part of a financial assurance process, the operator would be required to provide guarantees of two years of maintenance on a plugged/abandoned well, five years worth for any necessary repairs. This is in compliance with COGCC financial security requirements.
- They clarified that any decision under the BDR process, including any waiver decision on the part of the Director of Building Services, are subject to same criteria as processes initiated before the full Planning and Zoning Commission. They are also subject to appeal in the same manner as well.
The staff presenters said all of these changes were in response to public feedback since the Oct. 25 work session with City Council. Given the degree of feedback, they had pushed for and succeeded in having the first reading of the new regulations before City Council pushed back until Dec. 20. Those of you with more experience before City Council may be able to advise me if I am understanding that the Council may not make a final vote on the draft O&G rules on that date. . . “first reading” implies they may make changes based on their own concerns, and any issues raised by their constituencies. . . us.
The Commission, in passing the motion to recommend, did discuss the setback issue at some length, responding primarily to Michelle Haefele’s concern about the “corner of building” versus “property line” for the setbacks. The staff did clarify that the property line standard would apply to parks, schoolyards, open space and natural habitats. Commissioner Haefele was focused on needing more time, but was overridden primarily by Chair David Katz and member Jeff Schneider, who both subscribed to the notion that a vote not to recommend was essentially a vote for no regulation, eerily reminiscent of Commissioner Tom Donnely’s line of reasoning during Larimer County’s first round of rule making. Commissioner Haefele was clear she favored regulation, but the need for more time to craft corrections was clear. Chair Katz seemed to be making it clear the Council was driving the process.
Tim Gosar added that staff present at this meeting indicated that the City Council appears to be pushing to pass these draft rules ASAP.
Kirk indicated he was aware of the potential for not only an additional special hearing later this month at the AQAB, but also before the Natural Resources Advisory Board. Both websites for those groups still only show their regularly scheduled meetings, but those of you have been tracking this more closely than me have your ways to reach out and find out when such a hearing may take place and how we can marshall community feedback to those sessions and the Dec. 20 City Council meeting.
We have word the Air Quality Advisory Board will hold a special meeting to take up the draft regulations on Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 6:00 PM. A precise location will be reported when we have it.