USR’s (Use by Special Review)
USR’s and why they can really help clarify all parties’ responsibilities in the development of an oil and gas project.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conversation Commission’s (COGCC) mission is to “promote the responsible and balanced development of Colorado’s oil and gas resources. ”One of its duties is to review requests for approvals for land use by special review (USR).
A USR is city or county specific and, by the name, is Colorado specific. It is one of the State’s Land Use Review processes. Technically what it means is that the Oil & Gas Land Use that is being proposed is not an “approved” use in the zone where the land is located and the USR is one of the State’s methods to allow a use, that is approved, as a “USR”. Having as a USR, means that by state law, the City or County Planning Department will be able to require that the developer/operator include mitigation measures in their plan or they include a requirement to perform additional engineering studies for the site plan approval that will mitigate nuisances that the oil and gas development may cause to the surrounding public. That is why the developer and/or operators are seeing landscaping, screening berms, security fencing, cut-off lighting, lighting scheduled to turn off at a certain time at night, limiting heavy truck traffic hours, hours of operation, electric motors vs. diesel motors on pump jacks, etc. These are the mitigation measures that most of the counties and or cities are requiring for these developments.
Other states call them “Conditional Use”, whereby the State would apply conditions to the land use approval. The oil and gas fields, in other states, haven’t been as close to urban and suburban areas, as they are in the Denver/Front Range area. So, there usually isn’t local jurisdictional review at a county level in other states with oil and gas development.
Other places the industry may encounter USR’s or Conditional Use requirements are in the City of Williston and Williams County, North Dakota. Both areas have something similar, but oil and gas development is an approved use in the majority of the zones where oil wells are currently being developed and built. So, to date the rules and regulations the oil and gas industry must comply with in Colorado and in the City of Williston and Williams County are basically the same with any type of development (i.e. commercial, residential, etc.).
As stated at the beginning a USR or Conditional Use can establish the agreed upon responsibilities for all parties involved in the oil and gas development in a particular zone for a responsible and successful project.