by Pam Zubeck
As interest in drilling for oil and gas heats up in eastern El Paso County, the county is realizing it's not prepared.
The Development Services Department will ask commissioners tomorrow to suspend accepting new land use applications for oil and gas exploration for four months.
“We’ve had two very well attended town hall meetings and one informative work session where Development Services and County Attorney staff reviewed the types of local regulations used in other Colorado counties where they have a lot of experience with oil and gas operations,” Commissioner Chair Amy Lathen said in a press release, “but we need to make sure that we have the right procedures in place before we are asked to consider applications for potentially large drilling operations.”
If approved, the suspension would last until January.
Meantime, commissioners will hold a second work session to discuss land use regulations specific to oil and gas exploration following the Thursday meeting. The session starts at 1 p.m. in the third floor hearing room, 27 E. Vermijo Ave.
By way of background, Ultra Petroleum of Houston bought about 18,000 acres of the Banning Lewis Ranch out of bankruptcy recently and wants to drill on the property. To do that, the land will either have to be de-annexed and placed under county land development rules, or its master plan changed to allow drilling rather than traditional residential and commercial development for which it now is zoned. Ultra has said it wants to change the annexation agreement, which spells out the developer's responsibility for building roads, police and fire stations and other infrastructure.
Banning Lewis was a chief reason for the Southern Delivery System pipeline project that's now under construction and will divert $2.3 billion from customers' wallets over the next 30 or so years to fund the pipeline.