Setbacks proposal previewed at WCC Annual Meeting

Photo Gallery — Gasfield Tour

Western Colorado Congress (WCC) held their 32nd Annual Meeting on Saturday, October 13, at the Battlement Mesa Activity Center. Approximately 75-80 members were in attendance. I was invited to be part of the panel discussion “Voices from the Gaspatch” moderated by Judy Jordan (former GarCo oil & gas liaison). Other distinguished panelists included Lisa Bracken (West Divide Creek seep & author of You and What Army? How to Neutralize Conflict and Negotiate Justice For the Totally Outgunned, Inwardly Timid, Burnt Out or Socially Defunct); Dave Devanney (Battlement Concerned Citizens); and Matt Sura (attorney for L.A.N.D.: Landowners’ Alliance of Northeastern Douglas County). I was honored to be part of the discussion.

Last month the Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter and 12 other organizations including the WCC sent a letter to the COGCC requesting that the State begin a rulemaking process for increasing minimum setbacks for oil and gas drilling. Matt Sura reported that the setback rulemaking committee reached a draft proposal on Friday (10/12) at 10:00 p.m. He gave us an overview of the minimum proposed changes:

* No real change in setbacks — the minimum 350 feet in urban settings remains in all cases
* The rural 150-foot setback was eliminated and increased to 350 feet
* Operators will be required to meet with homeowners within 1,000 feet
* Noise regulations will be applied according to maximum permissible noise levels for light industrial, not heavy industrial
* No pits in buffer zone
* Odor control devices required when operations are within 1,000 feet of occupied buildings.  Garfield, Rio Blanco, and Mesa counties lost precious ground on this one. The odor control perimeter was previously 1,325 feet in the three counties.

So that happened.

This is hardly a level playing field — or gas field — when the COGCC (the state) applies this one-size-fits-all standard for regulations to protect public health, safety, and the environment, without any acknowledgment or consideration of any possible exceptions to the rules. Yet when it comes to regulating drilling operations in the field, the state takes a hands off approach. The COGCC simply hopes and prays the operators use best management practices (BMP) and don’t frack things up too badly. The state doesn’t require any uniform standard of operations.

Much of our panel discussion also focused on air quality. The morning gas patch bus tour gave some of us headaches, and the rest in the group who weren’t sickened got to smell and taste the odors associated with oil & gas drilling up close and personal. Dave Devanney told us about the Bucket Brigade and demonstrated how to collect air samples in a plastic bucket.

The discussion was scheduled for an hour but as usual we had so much to talk about our conversation lasted for two hours.

Here’s the latest news on setbacks from Summit County Citizens Voice:  Battle lines drawn over fracking setbacks

Photo gallery – Gas Patch Tour

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