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Biz owners cheer council’s move to rescind moratorium

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — Brighton City Council lifted the oil and gas permit moratorium during its April 1 meeting, about a month after instituting the measure. 

Community Development Director Holly Prather said a number of “significant circumstances” have occurred since the moratorium was passed that allow city staff to justify lifting the temporary suspension. She said city and legal staff were able to meet with representatives of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“Representatives of these entities could acknowledge the existing COGCC regulations may not be sufficiently specific to adequately protect the city’s domestic water supply and have indicated a willingness and commitment to work with the city and in the city’s interest, prepare additional regulations in that regard,” she said, adding that COGCC and CDPHE are unable to tell the city how long it would take to create regulations to protect the city’s domestic water supply. 

According to Prather, city and legal staff have completed the initial redraft of the oil and gas regulations ordinance with the expectation that water protection regulations and best management practices will be discussed with representatives from COGCC and the oil and gas industry. 

In the meantime, she said any oil and gas permit filed with the city will be subject to the newly enacted oil and gas regulations ordinance, currently under consideration by staff.

Although the item was an emergency ordinance and not a public hearing, Councilwoman Cynthia Martinez said she still wanted to hear from citizens who had made a point to attend the meeting. Council heard from three individuals — two of them business owners — asking council to rescind the moratorium.

Carson Ribble, Hudson resident and Chief Operating Officer at Brighton-based Quadco Inc., presented council with a petition signed by employees asking council to rescind the ban.

“We would like to make you realize that this affects jobs,” he said. “This affects jobs. This affects Brighton. This affects how we’re perceived in the (Denver-Julesburg) Basin. Thank you for bringing this back to council for discussion.” 

Brighton resident and business owner Gary Mikes said he was disheartened when he heard about the oil and gas suspension in the city.

“I’m a local business owner and to me, that sent a very bad message... I really appreciate you rescinding this, I think it will send the message out to prospective businesses that want to come to the area that we are open for business,” he said. 

City spokeswoman Kristen Chernosky said the moratorium was passed to give new council members a chance to catch council up to speed but also because of the city’s concern over safety measures for its shallow water wells.

“We wanted to make sure the regulations addressed that for the safety of our residents and our businesses,” she said. 

Chernosky anticipates that the regulations will be finalized sooner than the four-month time period established in the moratorium. She said they already have a draft ordinance and although staff still have more work to do, they don’t anticipate it taking any longer than the four months.