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Frequently Asked Questions#

Is the draft oil and gas regulations the final version that will be considered for adoption?

Based on public comments, several changes to the draft oil and gas regulations currently posted to the city’s website have been updated in the version 2 draft that the City Council will consider during their first reading. The next reading of the regulations by City Council is scheduled for December 20, 2022.

Why do the proposed Fort Collins regulations allow new Oil and Gas operations and facilities within city limits?

The proposed Oil and Gas regulations add oil and gas facilities in addition to new pipelines as an allowed use within certain zone districts in the Land Development Code and adds buffering/ setback restrictions.

This authority was extended through the passage of SB181 and without the inclusion of Oil and Gas development within the Fort Collins Land Development Code, siting of new wells and pipelines would remain under the sole purview of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

By including oil and gas development within the Land Development Code, the City of Fort Collins gains authority to regulate surface activities prior to state permitting. Within this authority and current zoning, Council has directed staff to develop regulations that limit surface operations to extremely small areas of the City within only the industrial zoning district. Even in this restrictive environment, a process for approvals is still necessary and is an element of what has been proposed in code language.

Why do the proposed Oil and Gas regulations establish a 2,000-foot setback for new Oil and Gas Developments?

There is an abundance of research related to health impacts from large, multi-well oil and gas sites (research related to noise, anxiety/stress, and general health impacts); including a 2019 study commissioned by CDPHE that found that health risks are greatest during drilling and fracking of wells and that emissions reach 2,000 feet from the drilling site.

Version 2 of the Fort Collins regulations include a 2,000-foot setback requirement for new oil and gas development applications, and these uses would be allowed within the Industrial zone district, only.

While variances are allowed through the State rules, Fort Collins proposed regs do not allow a modification of the setback standards.

Why does the City not require a 2000-foot setback for new oil and gas pipelines?

The current standards include 150′ setback from buildings based on public safety. Research related to setbacks from pipelines is limited. Scientific consensus on setback distance is rare but setback distances have increased over time with more studies released each year.

Oil and gas operators do not have condemnation powers (e.g., eminent domain) and so the proposed development standards focus new pipeline (flowline) sitings be located within existing easements and right of way.

While Fort Collins does not anticipate many new oil and gas development proposals, emissions from increased truck traffic versus underground pipelines within the right of way is a consideration when reviewing new development applications.

Do the proposed regulations allow pipelines within all zone districts?

No. Based on feedback from the public and the Planning and Zoning Commission on the Version 1 Draft, the Version 2 document does not allow pipelines (flowlines) within Mixed-Use; Residential; Public Open Lands Zone Districts. This includes gathering lines and transmission lines.

What is the public process for a new oil and gas development proposal?

To address public concerns and allow the public more opportunity to provide feedback on oil and gas proposals, the second version of the proposed code requires a Type 2 Planning & Zoning Commission review process. Pipelines were originally proposed with a Basic Development Review process (in version 1 of the published draft code) but have also been now updated to a Type 2 Planning & Zoning Commission review process. This type of development review requires:

  • Notification mailer to all owners and occupants within a 1-mile radius. This also includes a 12 square foot yellow sign in front of the proposed development
  • Neighborhood meeting is required during the initial conceptual review and may require additional public meeting if requested.
  • Planning and Zoning public hearing is required including public comments before the planning and zoning commission makes a final determination.
  • Appeals for all development applications are heard by City Council
Are there requirements that a pipeline is buried?

Yes. The Fort Collins proposed code language requires pipelines be underground. The proposed Oil and Gas regulations include development standards that prioritize a sitting location where the pipelines (flowlines) share existing utility easements and consolidate new corridors for oil and gas pipeline easements to minimize surface impacts.

The Fort Collins requirements are in addition to COGCC rule 1102 which includes technical standards for installation of flowlines by either trenching or boring of underground pipelines to minimize surface damage.

Why are setbacks measured from occupied buildings and not from the property line?

There are few properties that are big enough to accommodate a 2,000-foot buffer without touching a property line. The proposed oil and gas regulations include property line setback for schools, playgrounds, and recreational fields.

What has the timeline for this project been and when has the public had the opportunity for input?

To date, public outreach has focused on high level policy questions and objectives related to eliminating or mitigating impacts from development. The bulk of outreach occurred prior to 2021, and efforts since then have focused on development of code language within a constantly changing State regulatory environment. On November 8, 2022, Version 1 of draft code language was published here on the City’s oil and gas website. On November 17th, 2022, a Planning and Zoning Commission hearing was held on the draft code.

In addition to public engagement in 2020 and 2021, the following stakeholders have specifically asked to review the draft code since it was released, November 8, 2022:

Air Quality Advisory Board (AQAB) – a motion was not introduced and a memo to Council will be voted on during the December 12 meeting. November 14 regular meeting minutes will be adopted during the December 12 meeting.

Planning and Zoning Commission - The motion to approve the draft regulations carried 6-1 vote with the following recommended changes:

  1. Remove oil and Gas pipelines as an allowed use within public open lands and residential zone districts; including, HMN, LMN, MH, MMN, RL, UE, RF, and RUL
  2. Oil and Gas developments (new pipelines, oil and gas facilities) would be subject to a Planning and Zoning Commission Review (Type 2). Plugging and abandoning remains Basic Development Review.

Have a question?#

Do you have a question about oil and gas regulations in the City of Fort Collins? Ask it here!

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The City of Fort Collins has an active oil field in the northeast part of the City that was first discovered in 1924. As is common with older, once remote, oil and gas developments around the state, urban growth has encroached upon the field. In the past decade, advances in oil and gas technology have led to increased production in the state, and an evolving regulatory environment.

The map below shows the active wells within Fort Collins City limits. A detailed map of wells and well status are available from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

Active Wells Map

Types of Wells

In the Fort Collins field, the vast majority of the oil is produced from an underground formation called the Muddy formation.  These wells require high pressure water injection lines which pressurize the formation, and bring a mixture of water (~97%), oil (~3%) and gas (minimal) to the surface for separation and distribution. Types of wells (and count) in Fort Collins include:

  • Producing Wells (3): Wells where produced oil and/or gas is collected from underground reservoirs
  • Injecting Wells (3): Wells used for the exclusive purpose of injecting fluids for enhanced oil recovery
  • Shut-In Wells (4): A well not currently producing, but which is capable of production or injection.
  • Plugged and Abandoned (20): A well that has been plugged by means the cementing of a well, with removal of associated production facilities, abandonment of its flowline(s), and the remediation and reclamation of the wellsite.

Prospect Energy is in the process of developing the Codell formation within the Fort Collins field, which is shallower than the Muddy formation and would require no new drilling.  Full development would allow for the Muddy zones to be permanently abandoned, which would eliminate the need for high pressure water injection and water treatment.  This would also introduce increased gas volumes, which could potentially be used to generate electricity on site.

2019 Health Impacts Study

In 2019, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) released a health impacts study based on emissions data collected during field operations along the Front Range in 2016. This study concluded that air emissions related to oil and gas development may cause short term negative health impacts (e.g., headaches; dizziness; respiratory, skin, and eye irritation) during worst-case conditions at up to 2,000 feet from operations.

2017 Air Quality Assessment and Technical Session

The City's Air Quality Advisory Board and Natural Resources Advisory Board, and County's Environmental and Science Advisory Board, hosted an air quality technical session on November 15, 2017. Discussed were an air quality monitoring assessment conducted using data collected during the 2014 Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Experiment (FRAPPE), and new oil and gas health information and response resources available from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE).

The NCAR assessment report indicated that oil and gas emissions, along with transportation sources, were the largest contributors to the regions high ozone events.

Watch the session on FCTV

2017 Fort Collins Emission Rate Study

In 2017, Fort Collins, Colorado State University (CSU) and Prospect Energy collaborated on a sampling effort just outside City limits to characterize emissions during the hydraulic fracturing and flowback stages of a well recompletion. Measurements indicated that emissions were lower than other measurements along the Front Range.

2016 North Front Range Emission Rate Study

In 2016, Colorado State University (CSU), in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and several operators, completed a monitoring study that characterized emission rates from oil and gas operations along the northern Front Range. The lowest emission rates were measured during hydraulic fracturing operations, followed by production. The highest emissions rates were measured during flowback, which is a pre-production stage where the fracking fluid, produced water, oil, and natural gas flow up and out of the well before it is placed into production

2014/2015 Assessment Reports

In 2013, air sampling was performed in Fort Collins per the terms of the City's Operator Agreement with Prospect Energy. Measurements indicated concentrations of oil and gas related air pollutants were lower in Fort Collins than near larger oil and gas fields in eastern Colorado.

Operator Agreement

In 2013, an Operator Agreement between the City and Prospect Energy which was implemented and structured to renew in 5-year increments (last renewed in 2018). 

2018 Land Use Code Updates

The City's Land Use Code, which includes setback requirements for new residential development around existing wells and other oil and gas infrastructure (called reciprocal setbacks). Conversely, the COGCC regulates setbacks for proximity of new wells to existing residential development. These rules were updated in 2018 as follows:

  1. Increase the buffer between new residential development and existing oil and gas operations from 350 feet to 500 feet. This applies to both active and permanently abandoned wells.
  2. Increase the buffer between High Occupancy Uses and existing oil and gas operations from 350 feet to 1,000 feet. High Occupancy Uses include schools, hospitals, nursing homes, correctional facilities and daycare centers.
  3. If state setbacks increase above 500' for residential and 1000' for High Occupancy Buildings, then the state setback shall prevail.
  4. Allow a decision-maker to consider a reduced setback around plugged and abandoned wells if additional investigation, soil sampling and groundwater testing are completed and accepted by the City. The minimum setback that could be obtained would be 150 feet from the plugged well.
  5. Require an additional method of notification to future property owners about the presence of nearby oil and gas operations.

COGCC/CDPHE Upcoming Rulemakings

  • COGCC
    • Additional rulemakings in 2022 are expected to include Worker Safety, and the enactment of permit fees.  To learn more about participating, upcoming hearing and the rulemaking schedule, visit the COGCC website.
  • CDPHE
    • Information related to air emissions rulemakings, for oil and gas and other emissions sources, is available from the CDPHE AQCC.

COGCC/CDPHE Completed Rulemakings/Guidance

  • COGCC - Financial Assurances
    • In March 2022 the Financial Assurances rulemaking was completed. New rules, effective April 30, 2022 including requirements that operators demonstrate financial capacity to meet all obligations related to development, including plugging and abandonment.  Rules also broaden access for local governments regarding plugging and abandonment of wells.
  • COGCC - Mission Change
    • In November 2021 a Mission Change rulemaking was completed, including comprehensive changes to reflect mission changes related to increased local authority and protection of public health, safety, welfare, the
      environment, and wildlife resources.
  • CDPHE - Oil and Gas Emissions
    • On September 23, 2020 the CDPHE approved new rules including air pollution monitoring requirements at oil and gas sites during early stages of operations. Companies were required to start monitoring programs for new wells beginning May 1, 2021.
  • COGCC - Health Impact Notifications (Guidance)
    • On January 1, 2020 the COGCC released a Notice to Operators (NTO) with guidance to provide health impact information (COGCC Fact Sheet) to residents that are within 2,000 feet of proposed oil and gas operations.
  • CDPHE - Methane Emissions
  • COGCC - Pipelines/Flowlines 
    • In November 2019 new pipeline rules were adopted that allowed for the public disclosure of flowline information in additional to reporting requirements through Colorado 811, and to determine when deactivated flowlines must be inspected.
  • COGCC - Mission Change Whitepaper (Guidance)
    • On November 1, 2019 the COGCC published a Mission Change Whitepaper, which provided an outline and discussion of some, but not all, of the larger concept rule changes under consideration.
  • COGCC - Objective Criteria (Guidance)
    • On May 16, 2019, the COGCC Director set out new “objective” criteria to be used by the COGCC pending adoption of new rules to evaluate whether a proposed well or location requires additional analysis to ensure it meets the mission of the legislation, pending adoption of new rules.

Larimer County

  • Phase II
    • Following adoption of new COGCC regulations in November 2020, the County began evaluating revisions to County rules under this context. Revised rules are expected in July 2021.
  • Phase I
    • On April 6, 2020 the Larimer County Board of Commissioners approved new oil and gas facility regulations. For Fort Collins, these rules would apply to the City's Growth Management Area (GMA), and any City owned property outside of City limits.

Other ways to share your opinion#

Community members are invited to speak during open public comment time at upcoming Council meetings. First reading of the ordinance is scheduled for December 20, 2022. Second reading is currently scheduled for January 17, 2023 (subject to change depending on Council direction at first reading).

Formal letters or comments can be sent to City Council members by emailing CityLeaders@fcgov.com

Comments, questions and feedback about these new proposed oil and gas regulations should be directed to Kirk Longstein (klongstein@fcgov.com), Senior Environmental Planner, or Cassie Archuleta (carchuleta@fcgov.com), Air Quality Program Manager.