Colorado is well-known for its natural resources and history of oil and gas exploration. Like other local governments, Commerce City strives to balance municipal growth and development with the needs of industry. The city's land development code and participation in the state's local government designee program offers a layered approach to protect the interests of the community and the rights of private developers.
In Colorado, oil and gas development is regulated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), a division of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. COGCC manages all below-ground aspects of oil and gas drilling and handles the state permitting process. Permit applications must be submitted to COGCC and approved before any city permits can be issued or any activity occurs on a drilling site. Learn more about the COGCC regulatory process
Recent oil and gas application activity
The city’s role in regulating oil and gas involves the surface-level activities related to drilling within Commerce City limits. The land development code (LDC) requires any potential operator to obtain an oil and gas permit and execute an extraction agreement with the city for each individual well pad prior to operations taking place. The LDC also regulates plugging and abandonment of existing well sites in the city.
- Model Extraction Agreement
- Development Review (Article III)
- Uses and Accessory Structures (Article V)
Public Involvement/Comment Opportunities
Apply for the city’s Oil and Gas Focus Group, which allows residents to provide feedback to city staff. Applications are due March 29 and the focus group will meet three times between April and June.
The COGCC provides opportunities for public comment on state permit applications prior to approval.
All city permit applications and draft agreements will be available for public feedback prior to approval. Public comment opportunities on city processes include:
- 21-day public comment period for any potential regional operator agreement
- Neighborhood meeting about each individual well pad site as part of the city oil and gas permit application process
Oil and gas public comment form - this form allows residents to share general feedback with city staff about proposed BMPs, thoughts that should be passed along to the COGCC and any other topics you want to comment on.
Best Management Practices
Since oil and gas is regulated by the state, the city cannot prohibit operations outright or set regulations that are more restrictive than those in state law. However, the city can negotiate with operators to determine Best Management Practices (BMPs) that can exceed requirements set by the COGCC, since these are agreed upon with the operator and not mandated by city regulations. These BMPs can be included in documents such as a Regional Operator Agreement and/or an Extraction Agreement.
In recent months, city staff has been in negotiations with Extraction Oil & Gas on BMPs that are part of a draft Regional Operator Agreement applying to all of Extraction’s sites within the city. A draft of the current BMP document is available for public review below. To comment on the BMPs, follow the link to the oil and gas public comment form in the section below.
Updating City Regulations
An ordinance (#2183) making minor amendments to the oil and gas regulations in the LDC was approved by city council at the November 19, 2018 meeting. The amendments are limited in scope to clarify and reorganize city regulations (including grammatical revisions) and avoid potential conflict with state law. In addition to these minor updates, more policy-oriented additional changes to the city's regulations are expected at a later date.
Renewed Industry Interest
In the spring of 2018, interest in oil and gas development in the city began increasing significantly and a large number of new permit applications were submitted to the COGCC. This recent change has sparked a citywide conversation among residents, city council and staff, and industry representatives.
Extraction Oil & Gas Proposed Activity
Six of the eight new well pads currently being proposed within the city would be operated by Extraction Oil & Gas, LLC. City staff has been meeting with Extraction representatives throughout the process to understand their plans for the area and negotiate items such as the BMPs mentioned above in order to minimize impacts and maximize protections for residents.
City staff hosted a public open house on Dec. 6, 2018 to provide more information about Extraction’s plans for development, explain actions the city is taking in the regulatory process and encourage resident feedback on oil and gas in the city. About 90 members of the public attended the meeting.
Since the open house, city staff has continued to negotiate on BMPs and other elements of a potential regional operator agreement with Extraction. City Council has been consulted on the progress of these conversations through executive sessions, which are held privately with only staff in order to avoid compromising the city’s negotiating position and allow council to receive legal advice. If and when the two sides tentatively agree on a draft operator agreement, it will be subject to a 21-day public comment period before being considered for approval or rejection.
How to Stay Informed
- View our Oil and Gas Application Activity page for a list of current permit applications with the city and the COGCC.
- Sign up to receive the weekly City Manager's update, which contains the latest information about oil and gas activity, or review previous weekly updates.
- Attend city council meetings, especially on the third Monday of each month, when regular oil and gas updates and presentations from subject matter experts are typically given (find updated agendas here).
- Oil and gas speaker series guests:
- July 16 - Julie Murphy, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission
- Sept. 10 - Sean Hackett, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
- Oct. 15 - Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
- Oil and gas speaker series guests:
- Watch live and archived council meetings on our video page. Prominent discussions about oil and gas from council meetings are noted below:
- May 21, 2018 – staff presentation and citizen communication (discussion starts at 0:09:15 on the video).
- June 4, 2018 – citizen communication and council discussion of a proposed a six-month moratorium on new oil and gas activity (discussion starts at 1:13:35).
- July 16, 2018 – monthly update and first speaker series presentation from COGCC Director Julie Murphy (starts at 1:22:05).
- Sept. 10, 2018 - oil and gas study session with presentations from the Colorado Oil & Gas Association (COGA) and North Range Concerned Citizens, along with a speaker series guest from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and city staff's monthly oil and gas update for council.
- Oct. 15, 2018 - First reading of ordinance 2183, making minor amendments to the city's oil and gas regulations (starts at 2:23:20).
- Nov. 19, 2018 - Citizen communication (starts at 0:31:25) and second reading of ordinance 2183, making minor amendments to the city's oil and gas regulations (starts at 1:25:40).
- Dec. 17, 2018 - Citizen communication (starts at 0:30:20) and motion to explore the creation of an oil and gas resident task force (2:56:50).
- Feb. 4, 2019 - Explanation of oil and gas executive session (starts at 1:11:03), citizen communication (1:19:58) and resolution creating a temporary oil and gas focus group (3:35:47).
Oil & Gas and Your Health (Information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment)