The council voted unanimously on an emergency ordinance to withdraw the four-month moratorium approved March 4, which was intended to give the council and staff more time to update the city’s oil-and-gas regulations.
Instead, some Brightoners cried foul, especially after learning that attorney Matthew Sura, who has spoken at anti-fracking events, had been hired to help draw up the new rules.
“I was really disappointed in the way that they enacted it in the first place,” said Brighton resident Gary Mikes after the vote. “It came out on the agenda at the last minute, and it happened to be on the same night as the Republican caucuses. Then I did some more research on it and found out that the attorney or advisor that they were going to use is not a proponent of the oil-and-gas industry. Quite the opposite.”
Mikes, a commercial mechanical contractor, added, “To me, that’s quite underhanded, kind of dirty.”
Several residents, wearing bright green stickers that said “I Support Responsible Energy Development,” spoke out against the ban during a public comment period before the vote.
“Although it [the moratorium] applies only to the city of Brighton, it still affects our entire county,” said Maria Wiess, who lives nearby in Westminster. “It sends the wrong message that the oil-and-gas industry and its business is not welcome in our community, and that is not the impression we want to leave.”
The emergency ordinance also “acknowledges the commitment of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to facilitate the enactment of regulations to protect the city’s domestic water supply.”
The ordinance adds that industry officials have said that “to the best of their knowledge there are no oil and gas operators who plan to submit an application to the COGCC or the City for a drilling permit over the next four months.”
Voters in four Colorado cities approved anti-fracking initiatives in November, and Brighton residents at the meeting said they worried their community would be lumped in with that group.
Carson Ribble, chief operating officer of Quadco Inc. in Brighton, an oil-and-gas service business, submitted a stack of petitions signed by employees in favor of rescinding the moratorium, which was slated to expire on July 15.
“We’d like to make you guys realize that this affects jobs. This affects Brighton, this affects how we’re perceived in the DJ basin,” said Ribble, referring to the Denver Julesburg Basin.
Councilwoman Joan Kniss held up a thick notebook on oil-and-gas operations provided by staffers and thanked them for bringing council members, particularly those like herself who were recently elected, up to speed on energy issues.
“I have to commend the city because the city has brought in over the past month representatives, a variety of representatives, from different groups with varying interests to give us . . . important foundational information,” said Kniss.
About two-dozen people in the audience wore the bright-green pro-industry stickers, which were provided by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.
“We are very happy with the unanimous decision to rescind the ban on oil and gas by the Brighton City Council,” said Doug Flanders, COGA’s director of policy and external affairs, in a statement. “We thank the city council and the public that spoke in favor of lifting the ban for supporting oil and gas workers and their families. This vote is just another example of how working together can create solutions instead of relying on division and rancor.”