Oil & Gas Development—The Planner’s Role and Educational Opportunities

By: Glenn Hartmann, Principal Planner - Garfield County and
      Kirby Wynn, Oil & Gas Liaison - Garfiled County

Oil and gas development is a reality across Colorado and offers opportunities for planners to be an important part of the development review process. While each jurisdiction’s regulations will set the baseline for process and regulatory authority, common threads are worth noting regarding how planners can prepare for dealing with this interesting and often challenging land use.

One of the primary actions planners can take is to learn as much as possible about the oil and gas industry as it relates to land use. Obtaining education regarding oil and gas operations helps planners significantly as they address land use change permitting for this technically complex industry. Some of the education and information resources available to planners statewide include: energy symposiums or conferences, citizen advisory boards, private consulting firm reports, private consulting firm staff (industry professionals are a great educational resource), local and state referral agencies; university faculty and researcher assistants, local oil and gas liaisons, and other dedicated municipal or county oil and gas staff.

Accessing a variety of information resources and being prepared to ask the tough questions of a particular expert or an applicant is essential to navigating oil and gas permit applications. The willingness of industry representatives and others, including academic professionals, to dig a bit deeper for meaningful answers and explanations has been our experience in a wide range of development reviews. Every planner in our office has worked on oil and gas applications and the combined institutional knowledge is a huge benefit both for the reviewing planner and our applicants.

Garfield County Community Development proactively engages oil and gas operators via periodic meetings to discuss shorter and longer-term development plans and county permit regulations. We have found this effort goes a long way toward keeping planning staff well versed in the workings of this rapidly evolving industry and helps operators submit higher quality permit applications that require less effort for our planners to navigate through the review process. Additionally, Garfield County produces an online Oil and Gas Navigation Guide to provide applicants with information they need to navigate applicable regulations.

One of the best oil and gas educational resources for local government planners is the annual Energy & Environment Symposium which this year Garfield County and Colorado Mesa University will host April 18-19 in Rifle, Colo. This event is tailored to the needs of planners and local officials tasked with navigating planning, social, fiscal, legal, and environmental issues related to oil and gas development.

Oil and gas topics at the Energy & Environment Symposium include: Best mitigation practices local governments may require to minimize nuisance impacts, county and state mineral revenue projections, legal landscape for local versus state control of oil and gas, regulatory controls at state and local levels, anatomy of citizen activism, Pew Research Center analysis of public views on energy and climate issues, a field trip to an active drilling and fracking site, air quality impacts of oil and gas extraction and production, and executive director updates from COGCC, DOLA, CDPHE, APCD, and DNR. Several full scholarships are available for local governments. For additional information, Garfield County’s Oil & Gas Liaison, Kirby Wynn may be contacted at 970-625-5905 or or visit the Energy & Environment Symposium website

In summary, we strongly recommend planners proactively provide oil and gas operators with information on navigating your processes and dive into learning details of oil and gas operations by taking advantage of educational resources and expertise. This knowledge will make you a more effective and marketable planner not only regarding oil and gas permitting, but will develop research skills that are very transferable to other types of applications and reviews. What better way to demonstrate your planning skills than including on your resume work in a challenging and complex field such as oil and gas permitting and regulation. We look forward to seeing you at the Symposium in Rifle this April!



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