Our temporary suspension in accepting new oil and gas drilling applications underwent a revision this past week after the industry pointed out that due to the time it takes the county to process the application it would actually be six to seven months before any drilling could take place. Given the possibility of jobs by the first of the year, it seemed prudent to allow applications to start winding their way through the system.
With a few additional restrictions, what we allowed was the administrative process that had been used previously to approve temporary work. The practical effect is the industry can now submit application for exploratory vertical wells (no horizontal drilling). The information provided to the county for this activity is fairly exhaustive and we added criteria to regulate the haul route and also road maintenance criteria. As well as not allowing open pits but to use what is called a “closed loop system”. As always they must comply with all the state regulations throughout the entire process.
The change allows any oil company to submit applications but ULTRA Petroleum is the only company to have expressed interest. They have indicated they plan to submit applications for 2 exploratory wells on state lands and set up over a previously drilled well for further exploration in the south east part of the county. They hope to have at least one rig in place by either late December or early January. If we can stay on track with our regulation process we should be in the final comment period by then and if potential issues have been identified, we can work with the company to institute best practices.