On Tuesday May 15th, Longmont, city council members and city staff made a public presentation on a proposed oil and gas drilling agreement with Top Operating and Cub Creek Energy that would prohibit surface drilling within city limits, but would still allow fracking through horizontal drilling under city property.
City officials presented a time line of the agreement with Top Operating going back to July 2012 when City Council approved the master contract with TOP, through November 2012 when voters overwhelmingly approved a total ban on fracking within city limits and the resulting lawsuits filed against the city by the Colorado oil and gas conservation commission and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. In 2016 the state supreme court ultimately overturned the voter approved fracking ban.
Since that court ruling, fracking has been possible in Longmont and negotiations have been happening since then between the city and Top Operating and subsequently Cub Creek Energy.
Dale Rademacher, General Manager on Longmont’s Public Works & Natural Resources Department told last night’s crowd that the new proposed agreement would phase out oil and gas facilities within city limits but would still allow fracking through horizontal drilling.
There are currently 2 forced pooling applications against city of Longmont owned minerals in front of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Forced pooling is when a drilling company can force a lease on a mineral rights owner to lease their oil and gas. City officials said that if they don’t come to an agreement with TOP Operating and Cub Creek Energy before a June 11th COGCC meeting, they could be forced into a less favorable agreement with due to forced pooling.
After the city’s presentation, officials answered questions that had been submitted from members of the public. Many people asked why the city doesn’t pursue further legal avenues to support the voter approved fracking ban but Assistant city attorney Dan Kramer said this was not possible.
Under the proposed agreement, TOP Operating Co. would plug and abandon eight active wells, and would abandon or remove flow and gathering lines associated with those wells. They would also relinquish 11 future drilling sites and abandon 80 potential well permits. They would also agree to never again drill from within city limits.
Cub Creek Energy would also commit to forever relinquishing any right to drill inside Longmont city limits or on city-owned property, but this would only happen if the state approves Cub Creek’s proposed well location in Weld County northeast of Union Reservoir.
The proposed agreement does not stop fracking within the city, rather it stops surface drilling within city limits with reserves under union reservoir being accessed through horizontal drilling.
Michael Belmont, one of the Longmont activists who helped pass the ballot measure banning fracking in 2012 says that while he would prefer a fracking ban he understands the city’s position.
But not everyone is supportive and many in attendance at last night’s meeting and the previous week’s meeting were critical of city council for not further defending the voter approved fracking ban or pursuing other legal options. There were also critics of the process in which the city has formulated the agreement and calls for more public input.
Longmont city council is scheduled to vote on the agreement at next Tuesday’s meeting, public comment will be allowed at that meeting.
Details of the proposal is on the city of Longmont’s website