Council set to delay final action on oil and gas regulations

NED B. HUNTER Updated: December 10, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: December 10, 2012

The Colorado Springs City Council is poised to postpone until January a final vote on regulating oil and gas drilling within the city.

The final vote had been planned for Tuesday after the council voted 6-3 in favor of the regulations at a meeting last month. City Council members could still vote Tuesday, but Council President Scott Hente said he counted at least five council members “who nodded their heads in approval” when members were asked at Monday’s informal council session if they would like to postpone the final vote.

“This would give us the opportunity to have a special session to talk about this and obtain more information,” Hente said.

The discussion came on the heels of an e-mail from Councilman Tim Leigh, who stated he would vote against the regulations.

“My rationale is simple,” Leigh wrote. “I don’t agree that we should allow drilling in residential zones or other softly zoned areas we prize highly inside the city limits.”

Leigh was among the six council members to vote for the regulations in November. In an interview held before Monday’s meeting, Leigh said he still backs the oil and gas industry’s desire to drill within the city, “but I just don’t like the ordinance,” he said.

Councilwoman Angela Dougan, however, chided those council members who favored a delay.
“This has been in the works for over a year and a half,” she said. “I can’t really support the postponement.”

The regulations, approved by the city Planning Commission in August, try to work oil and gas drilling into the city’s existing land use code and cover issues such as traffic impacts and the permitting process.  Ultra Resources, a subsidiary of Houston-based Ultra Petroleum, bought 18,000 acres of Banning Lewis Ranch on the north side of the city in 2011 and has state approval to drill at two sites there, but still needs a permit from the city.

The potential for Ultra and others to use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has stirred protests by those who fear water and air pollution. Fracking uses water mixed with chemicals to crack rocks below the earth’s surface; the cracks create pathways from which oil and natural gas can be extracted.

Ultra has already begun drilling at sites in El Paso County outside of the Springs.

Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.

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