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Arapahoe County commissioners reject oil and gas moratorium

Arapahoe County’s commissioners on Tuesday narrowly voted down a six-month moratorium on all new oil and gas drilling in the county, a decision at odds with the concerns of dozens of Aurora residents worried about the impact of energy extraction on their doorstep.

The vote was 3-2 and followed two meetings filled with public comment for and against the issue.

The moratorium would have stopped Arapahoe County from accepting any new applications from oil and gas companies to drill until this fall. A proposal to drill 174 wells on land directly east of the Aurora city line and the Aurora Reservoir drove the discussion.

Denver-based Civitas Resources had outlined its plans for its project, dubbed Lowry Ranch, but the company had not yet submitted any applications to drill.

Commissioners Jeff Baker, Bill Holen and Carrie Warren-Gully voted down the moratorium. Commissioners Leslie Summey and Jessica Campbell-Swanson voted in favor.

The dispute over the temporary ban on energy extraction in Arapahoe County revolved around the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on Aurora Reservoir, a drinking water source for tens of thousands of people in Aurora.

Opponents of the moratorium said a government-imposed ban on extraction could harm oil and gas workers in what is Colorado’s third most prolific county for oil production. Others also worried about putting upward pressure on energy prices as consumers continue to be hit by the highest rate of inflation in 40 years.

County officials said a moratorium would have been an opportunity to refine Arapahoe County’s oil and gas regulations, which were first implemented in late 2021.

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