“The pathetically weak setback rules adopted today by the Hickenlooper administration will continue to enrich oil and gas companies at the expense of the public’s health and property values.” — Gary Wockner, Colorado Clean Water Action.
Panel favors tougher setback rules for drilling rigs [abridged]
By Dennis Webb
Under the commission’s new rules …companies seeking to drill closer than 500 feet from homes and other buildings would have to abide by requirements for meeting with affected building owners and mitigating impacts. Also, a local government’s designee could require that permission be obtained from all building owners within 500 feet of a proposed well, unless a company receives a variance from the commission director.
The meeting and impact mitigation requirements also would apply for drilling within 1,000 feet of buildings, and a commission hearing would be required to drill closer than 1,000 feet from schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other public buildings.
The commission’s provisional vote was 7-2, with commissioners John Benton, an oil and gas executive, and Tommy Holton, mayor of Fort Lupton, voting no. It delayed final action so commission staff could bring back a revised document for it to consider based on its discussion Wednesday …
One hang-up on the setback issue has been over the concept of needing the consent of building owners within 500 feet of a proposed well. Commission staff had recommended requiring such consent, or a variance from it, in all cases of drilling in urban areas. But the commission supported the idea of leaving the consent requirement up to local government designees, out of respect for the idea that local jurisdictions differ on whether such consent should be necessary.
… They also agreed to extend the consent requirement to rural areas, after hearing from parties who questioned why rural residents should receive a different level of protection than urban ones under the rules.
“You should treat all community members of the state equally because the life of Mr. Smith is as important as the lives of my friends who live in Denver,” said Tresi Houpt, a former Garfield County commissioner and oil and gas commissioner.
And what do we, the environmental coalition, and all the witnesses for public health get for all our efforts? You guessed it — another damn study.
That’s right. Let’s kick that air sampling bucket down the road to 2016.
Mike Chiropolos, who represented a coalition of environmental groups at the hearing, said heart-wrenching testimony from property owners who believe they have been harmed by drilling operations failed to sway regulators who are considering exceptions to the rules.
“Everybody agrees more studies are needed, but the state has not been doing its job. Regulators have been hearing from citizens of Colorado who don’t like living in a science experiment while these studies continue. They don’t like being lab rats,” Chiropolos said after the meeting.