City leaders have raised the possibility of implementing a citywide oil and gas drilling moratorium.
The move comes on the heels of concerns voiced by several residents over a proposed exploratory oil- and gas-drilling project outside the city’s jurisdiction in unincorporated Brentwood.
“I asked for this (exploration), because there are similar issues going on in the county, so I wanted to know if we had an ordinance within the city in regard to oil and gas drilling,” said City Councilmember Claudette Staton, who first requested the city explore a moratorium. “I understand there is an issue outside the city, but I am talking about inside the city.”
Currently, oil and gas drilling inside city limits requires Brentwood Planning Commission approval, which can be appealed to the city council.
Assistant City Manager Terrence Grindall said he was unaware of any oil or gas wells operating in the city, and there are no proposed applications for such pending.
But city leaders said they’d like city staff to investigate the city’s oil and gas drilling moratorium options and bring their results back for further consideration.
“I am hard-pressed to think that a drill will go in anywhere within the City of Brentwood, with the exception of maybe PA1, but I would like to find out whether or not we are able to place a moratorium on it, because as we know, with a conditional use permit it can get approved by the planning commission and then it goes forward,” said City Councilmember Karen Rarey, referring to PA1, which is over 430 acres surrounded by Lone Tree Way to the north, Heidorn Ranch Road to the west, Sand Creek Road to the south and Shady Willow Lane to the east.
Staton’s request was first made at the conclusion of a late July council meeting that saw several community members publicly oppose proposed plans for Indiana’s Powerdrive Oil & Gas Company LLC, in partnership with Brentwood’s Sunset Exploration Inc., to drill three exploratory wells in search of commercial quantities of oil or gas on a 160-acre parcel south of the corner of Hidden Ranch Road and Old Sand Creek, outside the city limits.
The future of that project is still being considered, ultimately resting with Contra Costa County officials — although Grindall noted that the city does pay close attention to projects near its jurisdiction.
“The county has land-use jurisdiction over the property within county jurisdiction, even if it’s within inches of the city’s boundary,” Grindall said. “Of course, the closer any facility is to our city, the more impact it will have on the city, and we definitely monitor such applications and comment on them. But we don’t actually have authority. It’s the board of supervisors that has ultimate land-use authority in the county.”
Sunset Exploration Inc. President Bob Nunn said this week that he supports any changes that are backed up by data, but he warns that the city cannot pass a local law that conflicts with state law.
Attorney Clifford Conkle, representing Sunset Exploration Inc, has sent a letter to the city highlighting those concerns.
“To have a moratorium, you’d better be careful,” Nunn said. “There is something called preemption under state law… Preemption is specific. It’s very dangerous, and the council needs to be very cautious about this… What preemption basically states is that you can’t pass a local law that conflicts with state law.”
Brentwood City Attorney Damien Brower said he was waiting for city leaders to direct staff to move forward on the exploration of an oil- and gas-drilling moratorium before he delved into the letter.
“Certainly there are a number of different state and federal laws that do preempt the city on certain things that we can and cannot do, but I have not specifically looked at that,” he said of the letter.
City staff is expected to return to the council with research results during a future meeting. To view upcoming meeting agendas, visit https://rb.gy/yauveh.