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Brighton reverses course on oil, gas

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By Crystal Nelson

BRIGHTON — City Council was poised to rescind the moratorium suspending oil and gas  applications by emergency ordinance during its Tuesday meeting, following outcry from Brighton business owners after some oilfield companies withdrew support from local businesses. 

Prior to this week’s council meeting, a Community Development staff report indicated a number of “significant circumstances” have occurred and staff believes it can justify lifting the moratorium. 

Since the moratorium was enacted on March 4, city staff have been meeting with representatives of both oil and gas regulatory agencies and the industry. They have been assured by industry representatives that no oil and gas permits are pending, and they don’t anticipate any applications being approved until new water safeguards are in place including groundwater protection. 

Concern over oil and gas companies avoiding Brighton in light of the moratorium was voiced during the March 18 council meeting. Will Whiteside, who owns Whiteside’s Boots with his father, implored council to rescind the moratorium and correct the misperception that Brighton is anti-oil and gas. He explained that they were contacted by one of their biggest oil and gas customers and were informed that, due to the city’s moratorium, the company would no longer be using Whiteside’s as a supplier. They were also encouraging their contractors to boycott Brighton businesses as well.

“In our particular case, this boycott will greatly impact Whiteside’s Boots and our 11 employees. We are primarily a vendor for safety footwear and clothing for the oil field. A large part of our inventory, as well as our future orders, are dedicated to the oil industry,” he said. 

Chamber of Commerce Director Holly Hansen said she has been receiving calls from a significant number of local business owners who have experienced a withdrawal of economic support from oilfield and other industry companies in the Brighton community. She said these calls have been coming from businesses across the service sector, including businesses who service industry vehicles, hotels and even small businesses in downtown. 

“We’re in a bit of a difficult position because it’s not really the Chamber’s job to decide whether or not the ordinances that city council passes are good or needed or fair,” she said. “When we get concerned is when we see an action that has the unintended consequences that this has had.” 

Over the past few weeks, Hansen said she has been keeping in touch with City Manager Manuel Esquibel and believes city council’s intentions to be sincere in trying to balance the need for regulations and the desire to not send a negative message to the oil and gas industry. She also said she has been meeting with members of the oil and gas industry, including Halliburton, and also understands where they’re coming from as a business. 

“Halliburton expressed to me that it was very difficult for them to come to this decision, but that they had to do what they felt like they needed to do, and that even if the city does lift the (moratorium) ... they will already have established relationships elsewhere,” she said, adding that industry boycotts could very well have long-term impacts on the community.

 

Contact Reporter Crystal Nelson via email at cnelson@metrowestnewspapers.com.