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Frequently Asked Questions#

Where is oil and gas development located within the City?

Oil and gas operations within City limits is minimal. Current operations (2 producing wells) occur only in an older legacy oil field in NE Fort Collins, and no new oil or gas fields of interest have been identified outside of the existing field.

What new regulations are being proposed?

New proposed regulations for oil and gas facilities are focused on zoning and setback standards that highly restrict the potential for new oil and gas site development.

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

A first reading of proposed regulations occurred on December 20, 2022 and Council voted unanimously to adopt, while delaying a second reading to April 4, 2023. Based on public comments, minor administrative changes to the draft oil and gas regulations may be considered during their second reading.

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

Recent research related to health impacts from large, multi-well oil and gas sites), including a 2019 study commissioned by Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE), found that found that health risks are greatest during drilling and hydraulic fracturing states of well development with emissions reach 2,000 feet from the drilling site. This was the basis on which the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) recently updated setback standards to 2,000 feet.

Proposed Fort Collins regulations align with COGCC regulations and also includes a 2,000-foot setback requirement for new oil and gas development applications, adding a restriction that these uses would only be allowed within the Industrial zone district. While variances are allowed through the State rules, Fort Collins proposed regulations do not allow a modification of the setback standards.

Where are pipelines (or flowlines) allowed?

Pipelines (sometimes called flowlines), which are primarily used to transport oil, gas, and produced water from a production site (e.g., a well) to a storage facility, have location restrictions in the proposed draft. Pipelines are not a permitted use for Mixed-Use, Residential, or Public Open Lands Zone Districts.

Are the proposed regulations in the Land Use Code a ban on new oil and gas development?

No. New regulations will be highly restrictive in allowing additional oil and gas locations within City limits. However, it will still be possible for new oil and gas facilities to be constructed and operated within the City, and a process for approvals is necessary and is an element of what has been proposed in code language.

Why is the City requiring permits to plug and abandon wells and decommission facilities?

Requiring City permits to decommission wells is important because the equipment used is a (small) drilling rig. At minimum, the proposed requirement of an administrative review will ensure the City is notified and nearby residents are aware of proposed activity. The City is also concerned about soil and ground water testing that will not occur unless it is prescribed by code.

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 proposed code requires a Type 2 Planning & Zoning Commission review process as outlined in Article 6 of the Land Development Code. This type of development review requires:

  • Notice requirements: proposed regulations require mailed notifications for all owners and occupants with in a 1-mile radius of the proposed site. Notice also includes a 12 square foot yellow sign at the development site to ensure local residents are aware of the proposal.
  • Neighborhood meetings: one neighborhood meeting is required as a part of a Type 2 development review and includes presentations by both the project applicant and City staff reviewing the project. Some proposals may benefit from a second meeting after making revisions to receive feedback on plan changes prior to hearing.
  • Planning and Zoning Commission hearing: The Planning and Zoning commission is the final decision maker on all approved site plans. The Planning and Zoning Commission hearing includes an oral public comment period.
  • Appeals: All decisions by the Planning and Zoning Commission can be appealed to City Council
Do the proposed regulation include the full range of regulatory measures that are available to local governments?

No. Adoption of Senate Bill 181 in 2019 significantly changed the legal landscape for local governments with respect to regulating oil and gas activities, allowing for a wide range of regulations at State, County and City levels to protect public health, safety, the environment and wildlife.

While a wide range of regulatory tools at the City level are available, current operations within City limits (3 producing wells) are very small scale and will further limit any new operations. The lack of oil and gas wells, limitations on potential future wells, and newly updated State regulations puts Fort Collins in a position to work with the State regulatory program and State expertise to ensure that current wells are regulated while avoiding the resource needs to develop an additional, local, regulatory program.

How will the City work with the County and the State to assure there are no impacts from existing and future oil and gas operations?

Existing regulations through the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) are comprehensive and apply within City limits.  Additionally, Larimer County serves as designee of the State to support compliance within City limits for State regulations, including those related to emissions, leaks, spills, odor, noise and dust from oil and gas operations.


While the rules and regulations are comprehensive, inspection and enforcement resources are sometimes limited. Related to this, the City recently drafted an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the County to use an Optical Gas Imaging Camera (OGI) to aid in timely response to leak detections and odor concerns.

How are financial assurances for existing wells addressed?

In April 2022, the COGCC adopted new financial assurance requirements, including bond requirements to ensure appropriate plugging and abandonment, and increased bonds for low producing wells. The Fort Collins operator (Prospect Energy) has filed a Financial Assurances Plan (November 1, 2022) and staff are reviewing the plan to ensure the plan adequately addresses the COGCC’s new financial assurance requirements. Local jurisdictions have authority to review these plans prior to approval, and City staff are currently evaluating whether proposed financial assurances are sufficient to cover potential reclamation of wells within City limits.

What is the City doing to address existing low-producing wells?

Financial assurance requirements, as adopted in April 2022, allow local jurisdictions to request that low or non-producing wells be ordered plugged and abandoned (reclaimed). These are important considerations for wells within the Fort Collins field, as some of the wells have not been operational or have been low producing for a long period of time, and in some cases more than 20 years. Staff is preparing to submit a request for the COGCC to order that several low producing wells in and near homes plugged and abandoned

How will these regulations and land use code affect oil and gas development outside of City limits?

During public outreach, staff heard concerns about the potential for oil and gas development in City owned Natural Areas outside of City limits, and potential annexation of additional land within City limits.

As related to Natural Areas outside of City limits, Larimer County Regulations contain restrictive surface use requirements for oil and gas facilities.

For potential future annexations, the City is limited to growth within the currently defined Growth Management Area (GMA). New proposed restrictions on land use would apply to any annexed property, and current land use and building density estimates indicate the GMA does not have potential space available for future surface use for oil and gas facilities.

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#

    • To learn more about participating, upcoming hearing and the rulemaking schedule, visit the COGCC website.
    • 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. Second reading is currently scheduled for April 4, 2023.

Formal letters or comments can be sent to City Council members by emailing

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