Town board work session examines oil and gas regulations, pesticide ordinance
By Dan Karpiel
In a virtual work session Tuesday night, the Berthoud Board of Trustees heard presentations on oil and gas regulations in town as well as details regarding a potential ordinance pertaining to the application of commercial pesticide and herbicides.
Berthoud Community Development Director, Curt Freese, presented the board with information town staff had in relation to Colorado Senate Bill 181, passed in 2019, which expanded local authority on oil and gas extraction operations. In a nearly 90-minute question and answer session, Freese and Town Administrator Chris Kirk offered explanations and details to the questions proffered by the seven town trustees.
Since SB 181 became law, Berthoud passed a moratorium on allowing any further oil and gas extraction operations to take place within town limits and it appeared quite clear Tuesday evening that a number of the trustees are not at all eager to relax the moratorium.
Berthoud’s current oil and gas regulations date to 2017 and, following the passage of SB 181, it was reported that only a handful of localities have passed further requirements beyond the existing statutes. Freese pointed to Adams and Broomfield counties for guidance regarding potential new regulations; he further added that Weld County is “very pro-oil and gas,” that thus sought aforementioned Broomfield and Adams counties as examples, saying he “felt it was not the goal of the board to make oil and gas easier to permit.”
Following Freese’s presentation, which was detailed and informative, questions abounded from all seven trustees regarding everything from the potential for requiring the use of electric-powered equipment to help mitigate noise, to the location of underground lines, the aesthetics surrounding operation sites and air and water quality monitoring.
Several questions were posed as “what ifs,” regarding the potential for accidents and bankruptcies by operating companies; town officials were not eager to get into hypotheticals saying rather that measures already exist for such potentials that could arise from extraction operations. On several lines of questioning, both Freese and Kirk admitted would be better answered by town attorneys, who were not present for the work session.
Kirk made the point that, as purely an economic consideration on behalf of the oil and gas firms, creating any significant number of new wells in Berthoud town limits is not likely. “It’s much easier to develop oil and gas in Weld (County) than in Larimer (County) or in Berthoud,” Kirk said adding, “much of what we have proposed to you has been land-use related.”
Given the seriousness of the issue, the board decided, this would not be a matter on which any decisions will be made in the very-near term; all agreed more information is needed and community feedback needs to be heard. Long-term decisions will be made after greater evaluations are done, it was decided, and the Town of Superior was pointed out as a potential model for Berthoud.
Secondly, Kirk presented the board with some further information regarding a potential town ordinance that would require commercial entities that will be applying pesticides and herbicides in town to notify neighboring homes and properties as to the date and details of the application. The board asked town staff to investigate models for such an ordinance at a meeting earlier this summer.
Kirk explained that town staff had done the research and found the State of New York has similar measures on the books saying, “(We) felt like what we found from the State of New York applied really well given what we heard from the previous discussion.”
In broad strokes, such an ordinance would require any commercial applicator to provide written notice to any adjacent property or any within 150 feet that details the location of the pesticide/herbicide treatment, contact information for applicator, date(s) of the treatment, EPA certification of the agent(s) being applied, and other such details at least 48 hours prior to the application of the pesticide/herbicide.
There was some debate as to what would constitute the commercial firm’s notification versus solicitation for further business. There was concern that by notifying neighbors of a property that is to have treatment could be constituted as solicitation, which could potentially cause problems. Kirk said that he does not foresee this being a significant issue, but should problems arise, they can be addressed after the ordinance has taken effect.
The board will hold an official meeting July 28.
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