Boulder County news roundup

County warns of COVID spike and Commissioners extend oil and gas moratorium

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Joel Dyer

Boulder County Commissioners extend oil and gas moratorium until 2021

Boulder County will not consider any new oil and gas development applications until at least 2021.

That’s the result of a vote by the Boulder County Commissioners on July 14 that extended the moratorium set to expire this month through Dec. 31, 2020.

The moratorium will allow staff to review and update the county’s oil and gas regulations in light of the passage of Senate Bill 181 last year, which provided some measure of local control over natural resource extraction. 

The new process will include opportunities for further public input throughout the fall — in the virtual public hearing this week, comments from community members widely supported extending the moratorium.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic slowing everything down, we simply need more time to ensure we get our regulations right,” Commissioner Elise Jones said in a statement announcing the moratorium extension. “Extending our moratorium on new oil and gas development to the year’s end is both responsible and necessary in order to fulfill our duty to our constituents. They deserve the strongest possible protections and a pause on any applications until those are in place.”

Commissioner Deb Gardner cited the fact that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) hasn’t finished it’s own rule-making as another reason to extend the moratorium.

“With too much still unknown about what the [COGCC] will do this fall with its new rules and how those might affect our local regulations, it doesn’t make sense to rush finalization of our regulations or lift the moratorium until we know we have the best possible regulations we can put in place,” Commissioner Deb Gardner added.

The moratorium extension comes as several heavily indebted oil and gas producers in the U.S. have filed for bankruptcy in recent weeks. 

County health officials warn of rising COVID-19 numbers

On July 13, Boulder County experienced the highest one-day spike of new COVID-19 cases in a month, prompting health officials to issue a warning to remain mindful of common-sense safety measures.

“These trends are highly concerning,” Carol Helwig, Boulder County Public Health Communicable Disease Control program manager, said. “We are seeing an explosion of new cases in many of the states around Colorado. If we want to avoid going backwards, every single one of us needs to do what we can: Stay home if you can, and if you must go out, please be very diligent about social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing your hands.”

There were 25 new cases reported on July 13 — until then, cases had plateaued at about 12-13 per day. About 1,540 Boulder County residents have tested positive or are considered probable for COVID-19, according to County data. About seven people have been hospitalized per day over the last two weeks, slightly higher than the rate of hospitalization in weeks prior.

The recent increase in cases is not linked to college students — fewer than 25% of the reported cases were found in that demographic.

“Transmission seems to be limited person-to-person and within the community, but residents have also reported recent travel out-of-state and to Colorado mountain communities during their interviews with our disease investigators,” Emily Payne, Boulder County Public Health data epidemiologist, said.