BMP of Oil and Gas Development

Colorado County and Municipal Law

Read about Colorado Governer Hickenlooper's Oil and Gas Development Task Force - the goal of this task force is to coordinate State and local jurisdictions in hopes of achieving a regulatory structure that benefits the economy, health, environment, and wildlife.

In Colorado, there are several statutes that give local governments broad powers to regulate land use. Particularly, the Local Government Land Use Control Enabling Act provides local government with broad planning and regulatory authority in land use. CRS § 29-20-104 (2010). More specific to oil and gas, under Colorado statutes, local governments have the authority to regulate oil and gas development extensively, so long as the local regulation are not in operational conflict with state statutes. CRS § 30-15-411 (2010).

Several Colorado localities have developed significant regulation of oil and gas development including permitting and zoning regulations that specifically incorporate BMPs. Counties and Municipalities have the power to regulate oil and gas development through zoning powers. CRS § 30-28-103 (2007) authorizes counties to regulate land uses through zoning, to appoint a planning commission, and to prepare and adopt a comprehensive plan for the physical development of their jurisdictions. Similarly CRS § 31-23-202 (1975) provides municipalities with the same authorization.

More recently, the COGCC regulations have specifically recognized the role of local governments, including establishing a position of Local Government Designee and requiring that they be invited to participate in development of Comprehensive Drilling Plans. 2 CCR 404-1:214 (2009); 2 CCR 404-1:216(d)(2 (2009). Although Colorado rules also provide that the permit to drill is “binding with respect to any operationally conflicting local governmental permit or land use approval process. 2 CCR 404-1:303(a)(2) (2009).

According to the Colorado Petroleum Association, oil and gas wells are located in 42 of Colorado's 63 counties. The top 3 counties in oil production are Rio Blanco, Weld, and Cheyenne. La Plata, Weld, and Garfield counties lead the state in natural gas production. A number of county and municipal governments in Colorado have enacted local regulations to supplement the applicable federal and state laws and regulations in order to further manage oil and gas development in their areas. Not every county or city in Colorado has chosen to implement such regulations, but among those that have, some are more stringent than others in terms of recognizing environmental concerns and including environmental protection provisions. The following are provided as examples of the variety of local oil and gas regulations currently in place throughout Colorado. Links to the full text of each county’s regulations or city’s ordinances are provided below, but provisions of particular interest are identified as well.

Also, in 2003, the Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP), a Colorado-based organization that raises awareness about the environmental impacts of oil and gas development and promotes positive industry reform, drafted the Colorado County Model Regulations in an effort to assist local governments in enacting or improving their oil and gas regulations.  Because local governments are often limited in what they can regulate, the OGAP Model Regulations provide guidance on what aspects of oil and gas development counties can and cannot regulate. In addition, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs is revising their publication, A Guide for Local Governments, which provides a detailed overview of the statutory authority for local regulation and discusses preemption and mitigation strategies (contact DOLA for more information). Water Quality and the Interaction of Federal, State and Local Regulation of Oil and Gas Development in Colorado uses stormwater and other water quality issues to explore county authority and preemption issues.

Lastly, several counties and municipalities in Colorado have designated government personnel to serve as liaisons with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). The list of local government designees (LGDs) and their contact information can be found on the COGCC’s website (click on "Local Governments," then click on "Listing of Participating LGDs").

Colorado Counties

Arapahoe | Boulder | Chaffee | Cheyenne | Douglas | Elbert | Garfield | Gunnison | La Plata | Mesa | Pitkin | Rio Blanco | Saguache | San Miguel | Weld | Yuma

Arapahoe County

Arapahoe County, bordering the southern and eastern edges of Denver, is the third most populous county in Colorado. The eastern portions of Arapahoe County have experienced increased oil and gas exploration in recent years because it overlies Niobrara shale. For example, in 2012, the Colorado State Land Board approved an oil and gas development lease on the 26,000 acre Lowry Range located in Arapahoe County. In 2013, Arapahoe County added an oil and gas section to its Land Development Code (12-1900) for the unincorporated portions of the county.The County also approved a Memorandum of Understanding, which requires increased county oversight of operations and more stringent standards than state regulations, but allows the oil and/or gas producer to access a faster, less costly administrative permitting process.

Boulder County

Boulder County is home to nearly 300,000 residents and includes some of the most diverse, natural landscapes and sustainable development along the Front Range. While there is not significant oil and gas development in the county, on February 2, 2012, the Boulder County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved a temporary moratorium on the processing of oil and gas permits in order to update the County’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Code. On August 15, 2012, the Boulder County Planning Commission adopted changes to the oil and gas policies in the Comprehensive Plan. The BOCC adopted Resolution 2012-142 approving the updated oil and gas Land Use Code amendments on December 20, 2012 and Resolution 2013-49 to amend the transportation sections of those regulations. (For a detailed history of events during 2012, please visit the Land Use Department’s webpage.

Chaffee County

Chaffee County is on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains in central Colorado. There is not significant oil and gas development in the county, although there is significant mining and gravel extraction. The County is in the process of revamping the land use code for the last several years in order to better serve the needs of the community.  After the Planning Commission completes their review, they will hold public hearings on the proposed Land Use Code, tentatively scheduled for November, 2011. 

Cheyenne County    

Cheyenne County is located in eastern Colorado on the Colorado-Kansas border. Cheyenne is one of the top three leading counties for oil production in Colorado. The county does not have local regulations specific to oil and gas; rather the county primarily relies on state and federal regulation to control oil and gas development.

Douglas County

Douglas County is located in eastern Colorado between Denver and Colorado Springs. There is not significant oil and gas development in the county currently; however, recently located natural gas deposits are partially located in Douglas County generating potential development in the county. The County is in the process of developing local regulations for oil and gas development. See the County’s oil and gas page for more detail.

Elbert County

Elbert County is located in eastern Colorado between Denver and Colorado Springs neighboring Douglas County. There is not significant oil and gas development in the county currently; however, recently located natural gas deposits are partially located in Elbert County generating potential development in the county. The County is in the process of developing local regulations for oil and gas development.

Garfield County

Garfield County Oil and Gas Department: Garfield county is located on the western border of the state and includes the cities of Battlement Mesa, Glenwood Springs, and Rifle. There is a significant amount of oil and gas development in the county as much of the County is part of the Piceance Basin. Over the last five years, Garfield County has been working to implement oil and gas regulations. Recently the County drafted a Unified Land Use Resolution. Additionally, the County has a County Oil and Gas Department that serves as a liaison between the citizens of Garfield County and the energy industry and plays a significant role in the regulation and development of oil and gas resources in Garfield County. Additionally, the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board was established in 2004 to provide a forum for the oil and gas industry, the public, impacted landowners, and local government entities to prevent or minimize conflict associated with oil and gas development through positive and proactive communication and actions that encourage responsible and balanced development of resources within Garfield County. Visit the Garfield County website.

Garfield County has issued several oil and gas guidance documents that include:

Draft Garfield County Oil and Gas Primer: How to Navigate Garfield County Zoning Regulations – This document is intended to serve as a guide for operators, contractors, and consultants involved in pursuing projects related to the development of oil and gas in Garfield County. It contains the County Zoning Regulations that govern the most common types of oil and gas projects.

Garfield County Energy Advisory Board’s Community Guide: Understanding Natural Gas Development – This user-friendly Guide provides a general overview of the drilling and processing of natural gas. It also explains legal issues surrounding split estates, major applicable state and federal regulations, environmental concerns related to air quality, water quality, and surface impacts, and provides information about the implementation of best management practices. 

Gunnison County

Gunnison County Oil and Gas Regulations: Gunnison County is located in southwestern Colorado. The Piceance Basin (which contains significant reserves of coal, natural gas, and oil shale) underlies a portion of the county. A high level of oil and gas development in Gunnison county and surrounding areas prompted the County to enact temporary regulations specific to oil and gas in 2003. The Gunnison County Board of Commissioners voted on August 28, 2012 to pass Resolution #2012-25, which amended the regulations. 

Discussions regarding Gunnison County oil and gas development have to date focused on three areas: improvements to use of the state “local government designee” process, improvements to the Gunnison County regulatory process, and improved inspections.

Provisions of particular interest include:

§1-103(E) Classification of Oil and Gas Facilities – categorizes oil and gas operations for permitting purposes:

Limited Impact Oil and Gas Operation – the operation is of such limited scope and duration that the impacts are likely to be insignificant; to be reviewed administratively.

Potentially Significant Impact Operation – includes all other oil and gas operations; requires review, public hearing, and decision by Planning Commission.

§1-104 Application Submittal Requirements for Oil and Gas Permits – establishes the requirements for an application to drill, which in part include:

A Site Plan Map – identifies all proposed facilities (structures, pipelines, tanks, wells, pits, flow lines, impoundment facilities, storage areas, and equipment); identifies all site features (floodplains, water bodies, drainage patterns, aquatic habitat, vegetative cover, wildlife migration routes, and significant wildlife habitat); describes an operation plan with the method and schedule for drilling, completion, transporting, production, and post-operation activities; and describes a reclamation plan.

Wildlife and Wildlife Habitat Analysis – requires an applicant to provide an analysis of existing wildlife and sensitive wildlife habitat at the operation site, an evaluation of the impacts of operations on wildlife and habitat, and proposed mitigation plans.

Vegetation Analysis – requires a written description of the type, character, and density of existing and proposed vegetation at the operation site, a summary of the impacts of the operations on vegetation, and proposed mitigation plans.

Water Quality Impacts – requires an applicant to identify all wells and springs at the operation site, provide baseline water quality analysis, describe potential impacts to surface water, wells, and groundwater quality within one mile of operations, and proposes measures to avoid and minimize water quality impacts.

Emergency Response Plan – requires submission of a comprehensive Emergency Response Plan, including a provision holding the oil and gas operator financially responsible for costs incurred by any emergency response service providers in connection with an emergency at the site.

§1-108 Oil and Gas Operation Standards – this section establishes standards and criteria for oil and gas operations, such as:

  1. Operations must not cause significant erosion or sedimentation
  2. Operations must not cause significant impact to wildlife or sensitive wildlife habitat
  3. Operations must not cause significant degradation in the quality or quantity of recreation activities in the county, such as hunting, hiking, skiing, or related activities
  4. Operations must not cause significant degradation to quality or quantity of ground water, surface waters, or public or private water wells
  5. Operators are required to bear the proportionate cost of mitigating the impacts caused by oil and gas operations
  6. Operators are required to provide financial security to cover any mitigation required by the county

Best Management Practices Field Guide for the Construction of Low-Volume Service Roads – a guide to building remote roads that aims to help build better, more cost-effective roads and to minimize adverse environmental impacts and protect water quality.

La Plata County

La Plata County Oil and Gas Regulations (select Chapter 90, Article II): La Plata County is located in the southwest corner of Colorado and includes the city of Durango. Both the Paradox Basin and the San Juan Basin lie within the county, which leads to a significant amount of oil development and especially natural gas development. La Plata County is one of the top three natural gas producers in the state. La Plata County enacted its oil and gas regulations "to facilitate the development of oil and gas resources within the unincorporated area of the county while mitigating potential land use conflicts between such development and existing, as well as planned, land uses." The regulations are generally intended "to protect and promote the health, safety, morals, convenience, order, prosperity, and general welfare of present and future residents of the county." (§90-17)

The La Plata County regulations were adopted as part of the La Plata County Code and are administered by the La Plata County Board of Commissioners. The regulations were updated in November 2008.

Provisions of particular interest include:

§90-19 Definitions of Major and Minor Oil and Gas Facility – establishes criteria for categorizing operations as either major or minor oil and gas facilities for the purposes of permitting:

Major Oil and Gas Facility – compressor stations and associated facilities and gas treating facilities serving multiple wells, water injection stations and associated facilities, and storage yards occupying more than one acre; the cumulative horsepower rating of all auxiliary equipment is 200 hp or more.

Minor Oil and Gas Facility – an individual well site built and operated to produce petroleum or natural gas and all auxiliary equipment, the cumulative horsepower rating of which does not exceed 200 hp.

Minor Oil and Gas Facility Requiring Special Mitigation Measures – any facility not categorized as a major oil and gas facility that does not meet all applicable standards and requirements set forth for a minor facility.

§90-41 Submittal Requirements for Facility Permits – establishes application requirements, such as site plans, operating plans, and mitigation measures, for facility permits based on the type of facility.

§90-108 Permit Review Criteria – facility permit applications are reviewed by the board of county commissioners according to criteria such as the demonstrated need for the facility in the proposed location, the suitability of the proposed location given its size, design, and operational characteristics, the potential impacts of the facility on air and water quality, wildlife, aesthetics, and public safety, and the compatibility of the facility with existing uses.

§90-123 Environmental Quality Standards – establishes environmental standards for both major and minor oil and gas facilities, such as:

Facility Siting Criteria – maximizing the amount of natural screening available, minimizing the amount of cut and fill needed to construct the facility, avoiding prominent natural features, such as distinctive rock and landforms, vegetative patterns, river crossings, and other landmarks, and avoiding crossing hills and ridges or silhouetting.

Wildlife Requirements

  • Applicants must consult with the Colorado Division of Wildlife to obtain recommendations for appropriate site specific and cumulative impact mitigation procedures when a facility is located within a "moderate" or "high impact" habitat zone as determined by the Division
  • Examples of site-specific wildlife mitigation procedures include:
    Triple indent
  • Avoiding drilling and construction activities during wildlife critical use periods (i.e., near eagle nests during nesting, and on big game winter ranges during winter)
  • Avoiding onsite operation and maintenance activities during wildlife critical use hours
  • Conducting work in streams in a manner that minimizes siltation and erosion and at a period of little or no flow
  • Completing the fueling and lubrication of construction equipment away from aquatic environments
  • Impacts from oil and gas operations that threaten endangered species are considered nonmitigable and will result in denial of a permit

Water – onsite containment and disposal of water must be in accordance with applicable federal, state, and county regulations.

§90-124 Surface Impact Standards – the purpose of this section is to encourage minimal damage to surface activities and surface conditions; it requires that, where a facility reduces or destroys existing vegetation, an applicant consult with the Soil Conservation Service and develop a revegetation plan, specifying particular species as well as appropriate planting schedules and methods.

Mesa County

Mesa County lies on the Western border of Colorado and covers 3,309 square miles. Five municipalities sit within its boundaries. The City of Grand Junction and the Town of Palisade are both located in Mesa County. There is significant oil and gas development in Mesa County. The local land use code regulating oil and gas can be accessed from the Mesa County Website.

5.2.16 Oil and Gas Drilling Use Regulations  All oil, gas and other drilling operations, on public or private lands, shall be subject to the standards below:

A. At the conclusion of drilling, related construction, or upon lapse of any required Conditional Use Permit, the subject site shall be restored in accordance with an approved rehabilitation plan.

B. At the time of Site Plan review for a proposed Oil and Gas Drilling operation, the Planning Director may require that the applicant provide financial assurance to mitigate the impacts of the oil and gas operation and rehabilitate the site after drilling has been completed

C. All oil and gas well wastes must be disposed of in an approved manner. Fresh water may be stored in a reserve pit on-site. All pits shall be fenced and backfilled after evaporation of fluids. All produced water shall be disposed of in an approved disposal site. All use, production, and control of water shall comply with applicable Colorado State Water Quality Control Standards.

D. All State and Federal permits must be obtained and evidence of approval of applicable permits shall be submitted to Mesa County prior to commencing operations.

F. Permits pertaining to oversize/overweight vehicles shall be obtained by the operator from the Mesa County Public Works Department.
H. New access or change of use to an existing access to a Mesa County road requires an access permit from the Mesa County Public Works Department.

J. All permanent structures shall require Mesa County building permits prior to construction.

K. Visual Mitigation Permanent structures/facilities shall be painted or otherwise treated to blend with the surrounding area.

N. The reclamation plan shall include a noxious weed management plan as approved by the Mesa County Pest and Weed Control Office, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, or other appropriate agency.

Pitkin County

Pitkin County Oil and Gas Regulations: Pitkin County is located in western Colorado and includes the city of Aspen. The Piceance Basin runs along the western edge of Pitkin County. Chapter Four of the Pitkin County Code, last updated by the Board of County Commissioners in 2006, covers permitted and special review uses and addresses oil and gas development.

Provisions of note include:

§ 4-10-10(b) Special Review Uses – indicating that, when a particular land use is classified as a special review use in a given zoning district, it is allowed only after a permitting and review by the Board of County Commissioners. This process is described at § 2-40-20(a)-(e) and involves a permit requirement, an annual reporting requirement for operators, a site visit by the County Development Commission, and other requirements.

§ 4-20 Permitted Use Table – classifying oil and gas extraction as a special review use in certain rural zoning districts and prohibiting extraction in most rural and urban zoning classifications.

§ 4-30-20(h) Oil and Gas Extraction – setting various performance standards that oil and gas surface operations must comply with in order to be permitted. These standards will not be waived even on the basis of technological infeasibility, and the burden is on the operator to show compliance. Oil and gas surface operations must be compatible with current and projected surrounding uses. Compatibility is to be determined on the basis of a operator’s ability to mitigate the impacts of oil and gas development on surrounding uses.

§ 4-30-20(h)(2)(b) Emergency Response Requirements – requiring that operators file an emergency response plan that includes emergency contact information and site specifications. Operators also must provide any necessary equipment and training to Fire District and Pitkin County Hazardous Material Team personnel. Additionally, this provision requires that all storage tanks be bermed subject to COGCC rules and regulations.

§ 4-30-20(h)(2)(d) Fire Protection – requiring compliance with fire management planning regulations for facilities in severe or low to moderate wildfire hazard areas.

§ 4-30-20(h)(2)(e) Floodplain – Requiring compliance with floodplain regulations for facilities in flood hazard areas.

§ 4-30-20(h)(2)(f) Impact on Agriculture – prohibiting oil and gas operations from interfering with agricultural operations or irrigation ditches without the written consent of the affected parties.

§ 4-30-20(h)(2)(i) Off-Site Staging Area – requiring that off site staging areas be maintained and constructed in the same manner as the oil and gas operation’s access road, and placing additional permitting requirements if the county road must be used to travel between the staging area and the well site.

§ 4-30-20(h)(2)(j) Roads and Access – requiring that road use permits be obtained, requiring a bond to cover any potential road degredation, and requiring that operators repair damaged roads. This provision also requires operators to avoid scheduling heavy traffic between Oct. 1 and May 2, due to the possibility of muddy conditions that could increase rut formation, and requires operators to minimize dust creation and provide the county with a drainage plan.

§ 4-30-20(h)(2)(k) Security – requiring security measures, such as fencing and locking gates, as agreed upon by the operator and the surface owner. Also requiring that discharge valves on pipelines, storage tanks, and other containers be secured when the facility is unattended.

§ 4-30-20(h)(2)(l) Trash and Waste Removal – requiring that liquid and solid waste be confined to the site or disposed of in compliance with county regulations and in a manner that avoids impacts on surrounding land.

§ 4-30-20(h)(2)(n) Visual Impact Mitigation – giving the county authority to require vegetative screening and other visual impact mitigation for facilities visible from scenic byways or within 200 feet of a maintained public road, 350 feet of a residence, or 1,000 feet of a public facility. These visual impact mitigation measures include requirements that facilities be located away from scenic areas, avoid crossing ridgelines, and be situated at the base of hills where possible, and also require that cleared vegetation lines be feathered or thinned and that cutting and filling be minimized. Buildings must be of minimal size and painted flat, non-reflective colors slightly darker than the surrounding land.

§ 4-30-20(h)(2)(o) Noxious Weed Control – requiring that operators control noxious weeds during construction and operation of facilities using methods recommended by the Pitkin County Weed Coordinator.

§ 4-30-20(h)(3) Oil and Gas Gathering Systems and Transmission Pipelines – placing various requirements on the construction, siting, and operation of oil and gas gathering systems and pipelines. These include measures for emergency response, erosion control, fire protection, floodplain regulation compliance, agricultural operation protection, road damage mitigation, visual impact mitigation, noxious weed control, and wildlife protection.

Rio Blanco County       

Rio Blanco County is located in rural northwestern Colorado. The two communities of Meeker and Rangely are located within the County. Approximately 75% of county lands are federally owned and include parts of the White River and Routt National Forests. The local permitting requirements can be located on the Rio Blanco County website.

Article X, Section 410 Temporary Use Permits for Oil and Gas Wells
410.1 All drilling activities related to exploration and production of oil or natural gas in
Rio Blanco County whether on Federally owned, Indian owned, State of Colorado owned or privately owned surface land require a Temporary Use Permit as follows:      

  • A separate Temporary Use Permit must be obtained for each new well before commencement of construction of the well pad. As to multi-well pads, a Temporary Use Permit must be obtained for the first well before commencement construction of the well pad. For each subsequent well on the multi-well pad, a Temporary Use Permit must be obtained before commencement of drilling. A Temporary Use Permit must be obtained for each new well notwithstanding the fact such well may be part of a Special Use License issued prior to the effective date of this Section 410 or issued subsequently.

410.2 Application Process For a permit to be considered complete it must include a site plan and vicinity map, proof of access, copy of approved state or federal Application for Permit to Drill (APD), copy of environmental assessment, traffic and transportation plan including BMPs to reduce traffic impacts, waste and sewage disposal plan

Saguache County

Saguache County is located in the Rocky Mountains in South, Central Colorado. Over 70% of the land in Saguache County is publicly owned with the majority being national forest, national park, or BLM managed lands. There is significant oil and gas development in the County and extensive regulations have been developed to control development that incorporates BMPs and regulation of hydraulic facturing. The local oil and gas regulations can be accessed from the Saguache County website.

XXL.6. Application Submittal Requirements for an Oil and Gas Operations Permit

6.2.6 Characteristics and Current Condition of the Operation Location. Identification of physical characteristics and descriptions where development is to occur, including water bodies, soils and vegetation, potential geological hazards.
6.2.11. Operation Plan. A plan for projected start and completion, method, hours of operation, equipment to be used
6.2.13. Water and Sewer. Availability and plan for sewage handling.
6.2.14. Noxious Weed and Introduced Species Prevention Plan
6.2.15. Waste Management Plan
6.2.16. Access and Transportation Routes/ Plan
6.2.18 Visual and Sound Mitigation Plans
6.2.20 Water Quality Non-Point Source Impacts.

  • Identification of all water bodies
  • Description of existing water quality based on a current baseline water quality analysis
  • A description of non-point source pollution associated with the proposed Oil and Gas Operation
  • Proposed avoidance and mitigation measures to minimize the water quality impacts

6.2.22 Biological Assessment Report. A site-specific biological assessment in consultation with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) must be performed
6.2.23. Vegetation. Description and mitigation strategies
6.2.24. Drainage and Erosion Control Plan
6.2.29. Cultural Survey.

XXL.8. Performance Standards for All Oil and Gas Facilities.

8.2 Well Pad Density. In order to maintain the scenic resources primary to the County economy seek visual mitigation by requiring multiple wells to be drilled on existing well pads and maximizing the use of directional drilling
8.3 Land Use Coordination Standards.

  • Setbacks based on the proposed sites
  • Noise and Sound Emissions Limitations
  • Visual Impact mitigation strategies must be applied including clearing limits, paint requirements, etc…
  • Safety and Security Requirements

8.4 Environmental Quality Standards.

  • Water Quality Requirements including non-point source pollution, use of green drilling fluids, aquifer protections, stormwater management plan, monitoring
  • Air Quality protections including limits on odors and dust, specific emissions requirements
  • Wildlife and species of concern protections
  • Geologic hazard areas and floodplain limitations on development
  • Waste Management and Disposal Requirements
  • Produced Water Disposition in order to avoid contamination of drinking water supply of the county
  • Restrictions on how hydraulic fracturing should be carried out

8.5 Surface disturbance standards to minimize impacts.

  • Protection of agricultural, recreational, cultural and historic resources
  • Roads and Access standards
  • Weed Control requirements for all facilities
  • Reclamation Requirements including a re-vegetation plan, road design and construction, monitoring

San Miguel County

San Miguel County Oil and Gas Regulations (select Article 5): San Miguel County is located on the southwestern border of Colorado. The County includes the city of Telluride and the Uncompahgre National Forest. The Paradox Basin underlies most of San Miguel County. The San Miguel County regulations are intended "to provide for the development of oil and gas resources within the unincorporated area of San Miguel County while mitigating potential land use conflicts between such development and existing, as well as planned, land uses and the natural environment." The San Miguel County regulations were adopted as an amendment to the County Land Use Code in 2006 by the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners. Visit the San Miguel County website.

Additionally, San Miguel County "encourages the use of directional drilling, the placement of multiple wells on a single site, the use of evaporation pits rather than water injection stations, and other innovative techniques, and provides for the supplemental use of the Bureau of Land Management Gold Book (Surface Operating Standards for Oil and Gas Exploration and Development), the Gunnison Sage-grouse Rangewide Conservation Plan, and the San Miguel Basin Gunnison Sage-grouse Conservation Plan as guidance for the land use development and review process and the required mitigation of potential impacts. 

San Miguel County also encourages the avoidance of critical wildlife habitat areas, wetland areas, floodplains, and geohazard areas." (§5-2601(A)) 

Provisions of particular interest include:

§5-2601 Definitions of Minor and Major Facility – establishes criteria for categorizing facilities as minor or major oil and gas operations for the purposes of permitting:

Minor Oil and Gas Facility – an individual well site or multiple well sites on a single pad or water injection stations and their associated facilities used by a single operator servicing a single oil and gas field; the cumulative horsepower rating of all auxiliary equipment does not exceed 200 hp.

Major Oil and Gas Facility – any facility related to the production of oil and gas, including compressor stations and associated facilities which serve a single well or multiple wells, water injection stations serving more than one operator or more than one field, or storage yards that occupy more than one acre; the cumulative horsepower rating

§5-2602(J) Reclamation – requires a facility plan for interim and final reclamation that provides for a reasonable reclamation schedule in light of the specific surface use and surrounding land uses and possible recontouring and revegetation of the surface to pre-disturbance conditions equivalent to adjacent undisturbed areas; requires the construction of pipelines, flowlines, and reserve pits to be consistent with the standards provided by the Bureau of Land Management "Gold Book".

§5-2602(K) Surface Damages and Surface Use Agreements – requires an operator to submit documentation of any surface use agreement, written waiver, or written consent of the surface owner for operations located on split estates.

§5-2602(L) Air Quality – requires air contaminant emissions to be in compliance with the permit and control provisions of the Colorado Air Quality Control Program and any local air quality regulations if and when the county adopts such regulations.

§5-2602(N) Siting Criteria for Minor and Major Oil and Gas Facilities – establishes criteria for the siting of oil and gas operations, for example:

  • Facilities should be sited in locations that maximize the amount of natural screening available
  • Facilities should be sited to minimize the amount of cut and fill needed to construct the facility
  • Facilities should be sited away from prominent natural features, such as distinctive rock and landforms, vegetative patterns, river crossings, and other landmarks
  • Facilities should be sited to avoid crossing hills and ridges or silhouetting
  • Facilities should be sited to minimize the impact on wildlife habitat as identified or mapped by the Colorado Division of Wildlife, including raptor proofing any potential perching structures in mapped Occupied Gunnison Sage-grouse habitat

§5-2603 Development of Minor Oil and Gas Facilities – establishes application requirements for minor facility permits, including drilling plans, surface use plans, surface owner notification, descriptions of potential impacts on surface lands, and proposed reclamation and mitigation measures.

§5-2604 Development of Major Oil and Gas Facilities – proposals for major facilities undergo a two-step review process, including a public hearing and issuance of a Special Use Permit before commencement of construction and operation:

  • application requirements for major facility permits include surface owner notification, public notice, detailed site maps, site plans, and operation plans, analysis of the potential impacts on surface lands, vegetation, wildlife, wildlife habitat, and water quality, proposed reclamation plans, and proposed mitigation measures
  • major facility applications are reviewed for general consistency with applicable land use plans and standards set forth in the Bureau of Land Management "Gold Book"

§5-2604(F) Water – all approved or conditionally approved facilities must comply with all applicable state water quality standards and classifications established by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission.

Weld County

Weld County covers an area of 3,999 square miles in north central Colorado. It is bordered on the north by Wyoming and Nebraska and on the south by the Denver metropolitan area. Weld County is one of the leading counties for natural gas production in Colorado. Weld County has introduced some local regulation for individual wells in the unincorporated areas of Weld County. The Weld County Code imposes requirements for oil and gas development.

23-1-90 Oil and Gas Production Facilities: consist of the oil or gas well, pumps, heater treaters, separators, meters, compressors, tank battery and other equipment directly associated with the producing well, all of which must be connected and functional

A land use permit is required for oil and gas production in residential, commercial, industrial, estate and planned unit development zone districts. In the agricultural zone district, oil and gas production facilities do not need a land use permit. (See Weld County Oil & Gas Guidance Document)

12-2-10 An access permit is required for the construction of any new access to a county road or when the use of existing access is changed

29-3-10 Building Permits are required for Oil and Gas production Facilities
29-2-120 Those Facilities located in a designated floodplain are required to submit a Flood Hazard Development Permit to Weld County Public Works; New Oil and Gas Production facilities (excluding wellheads) cannot be placed in the floodway, but existing oil and gas production facilities located in the floodway

Wattenberg Rules

Yuma County

Yuma County is located on the Northeastern Colorado Plains with Nebraska and Kansas at its border, Yuma County has an area of approximately 2,379 square miles. There is significant oil and gas development in the county. The County Land Use Code can be accessed from the Yuma County website.

Oil and Gas Development is considered a Major Land Use under the Yuma Land Use Code as it does not fall within the Administrative or Minor Land Use Permit Class as described in Section 2-103

10-101 Definitions. Oil and Gas development constitutes an industrial use or activity for purposes of the land use code

4-104 Major Land Use Permit Application and Review Procedures.
Application for Permit must include written description, vicinity map and site plan
(3) Site Plan must include description of boundaries, current land use, location of all structures proposed, existing proposed roads and oil and gas facilities, significant features on the site including wetland areas, hydrologic features, aquatic habitat, geologic features, soil types, vegetative cover and any other feature that might influence development
(5) Drainage and Erosion Control Plan where there is any excavation, grading or surface disturbance then a plan showing practices that will be used to prevent erosion, flooding and run off
(6) Noxious Weed Control Plan a plan that control noxious weeds existing or may be established by development
(7) Wastewater system for treatment of any wastewater in compliance with state
(9) Road Maintenance and Improvement Agreement to mitigate impacts to public roads caused by construction and operation of land use
(10) Impact Analysis
a. Surface water impacts on quality or quantity and mitigation techniques that will be used to prevent degradation
b. Ground water impacts to quality or quantity and mitigation techniques that will be used
c. Air quality impacts and mitigation techniques
d. Wildlife and wildlife habitat affected by proposed use including both terrestrial and aquatic and mitigation
e. Any increase in dust and noise and mitigation
f. Impacts of development on agricultural lands
g. Impacts on areas of paleontological, historic or archaeological importance and mitigation techniques
h. Impacts on recreational uses of land and mitigation to prevent significant adverse impacts

5-103 Site Development Standards. Applies to any Minor and Major Land Use Permits issued

  1. Structural Location Standards. The location shall complement the natural topography and use existing vegetation

E. Setbacks from Site boundaries. Set the minimum setbacks required for particular types of structures

5-104 Additional Requirements for Commercial and Industrial Uses. Seek to manage outdoor storage and disposal, smoke and particles, vibration, lighting, hours of operation and impacts to the county road system.

Colorado Cities

The following is a sampling of municipal oil and gas ordinances enacted by cities throughout Colorado. In general, city ordinances are more limited in scope than county regulations, and they tend to echo many county provisions both in form and substance. Due to this similarity, links to the municipal codes are provided, but provisions of particular interest are not additionally highlighted.  One noticeable distinction between regulations at the county and municipal levels, however, is that many municipal codes include restrictions on specific oil and gas activities permitted in urban areas of a city and those permitted in nonurban areas. 

Click on the link to view the city's ordinances; choose the specific chapter or section indicated in parentheses.

City of Aurora Building and Zoning Code (Ch. 146, art. 12, sec. 7)

City of Durango Code of Ordinances (Ch. 27, sec. 10-12)

City of Grand Junction

City of Lafayette Code of Ordinances (§ 26.22-1)

City of Louisville Code of Ordinances (Ch. 17.68)

City of Thornton Code of Ordinances (Ch. 18, art. VI)

Intermountain Oil & Gas