Conservation Groups Make Formal Request to Increase Minimum Distance for Drilling from Homes, Schools and Hospitals
BOULDER, Colo. — In a formal letter submitted today to the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), three conservation organizations asked the State to begin a rulemaking process for increasing minimum setbacks for oil and gas drilling to 1,000 feet for residences and 1,500 feet for schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other similar facilities. Current state regulations mandate a minimum setback distance of just 350 feet in all urban settings.
“This is about protecting the health and safety of families,” said Mike Chiropolos, Chief Counsel for the Lands Program at Western Resource Advocates. “Continuing to allow drilling just a football field’s length from a playground is not in the best interests of any community.”
The letter from Western Resource Advocates (WRA), San Juan Citizens’ Alliance, and Western Colorado Congress notes that:
Residential setbacks are perhaps the most urgent piece of unfinished business from the 2007 rulemaking…Five years later, drilling activity increasingly targets populated areas on both the Front Range and Western Slope. It is past time to update the rules to address today’s available technologies. This update is more urgent than ever, given the newfound need to protect citizens in neighborhoods that may overlay producing formations like the Niobrara.
Northern Colorado is in the midst of an unprecedented increase in oil and gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), taking place near heavily-populated residential areas. A recent analysis by Western Resource Advocates found that 199 active or proposed drilling sites are within 2,000 feet of at least one school – in just four Colorado counties (Weld, Boulder, Broomfield and Adams; go to www.WesternResources.org/schooldrill for more information).
In the letter addressed to COGCC Acting Director Thom Kerr, the conservation groups formally requested that the Commission open a public process to consider increases to the statewide rule (COGCC Rule 603) governing drilling setbacks and commence a formal rulemaking. Approving this request would initiate an official process for consideration of extending minimum setbacks to 1,000 feet for residences and 1,500 feet for schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other similar facilities.
“Colorado can continue to show leadership in responsible practices,’” said Chiropolos. “Drilling and schools generally don’t mix any better than oil and water.”
As the letter concludes:
Ample science and experience in Colorado establish that the statutory mandate of protecting human health in the conduct of oil and gas operations will be furthered by 1) minimizing the quantities of emissions and other toxics, and 2) maximizing the distance between these industrial sites and both residences and public places. These two principles should guide state policy on oil and gas activities in populated areas.
“If natural gas is to help achieve a clean energy future with fewer carbon emissions, it has to be done right,” said Gary Graham, Lands Program Director for Western Resource Advocates. “These rulemaking recommendations are significant steps in the right direction.”
A formal rulemaking process would begin with the COGCC staff formulating a draft rule for consideration. This direction can come either from the COGCC Director or through a vote of the board.
To read the entire letter to COGCC, CLICK HERE.