For the first time, at least since 2004, Garfield County has slipped behind Weld County in the number of oil and gas drilling permits issued in the last year.
Weld County had 36 percent of the permits issued in the state, while Garfield County had 34 percent, according to Judy Jordan, oil and gas liaison for Garfield County.
Weld County pulled ahead because operators discovered a large new oil field, the Niobrara, said Jordan.
The Niobrara Formation is in northern Weld County, beneath a sheet of shale rock. Oil companies have known the fossil fuel value of the region for years, but only recently acquired the legal rights and necessary technology to reach the oil.
While Garfield County fell to second place, the county's total number of applications for permits to drill increased from 1,981 in 2009 to 2,037 in 2010.
"This is still the third highest number of permits issued Garfield's history," Jordan said. "The peak was in 2008, with 2,888 permits."
Of the 67 drilling rigs currently operating in the state, 24 are working in Garfield County, according to Jordan's recent report to the Garfield County Commissioners.
Residents filed 11 complaints over oil and gas drilling operations in the final three months of 2010, mostly about odor, noise, dust and suspected water pollution.
So what does the future look like for oil and gas development?
"The whole international gas market is kind of up in the air right now," Jordan said. "And in the recent last few months - both domestic and overseas - it's been changing a lot. In fact, the whole landscape is changing as we speak."
Oil and gas development is continuing, but slow and steady seems to be the pace for now.
"The rig counts are up and it's a fairly steady market," Jordan said. "But we still haven't quite recovered from the recession."