Draft Oil & Gas Rules Disappoint

October 7, 2015 –


Adams County Communities for Drilling Accountability Now | Western Colorado Congress | Citizens for a Healthy Community | Weld Air & Water | Grand Valley Citizens Alliance

Colorado community organizations representing impacted residents around the state expressed disappointment and frustration in the newly released COGCC draft rule that allows large-scale oil and gas development in residential areas. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission released a draft rule yesterday outlining new regulations to implement the two recommendations from the 2014-2015 Colorado Oil and Gas Task Force.

“We are concerned that after several meetings between impacted citizens and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, that the administration has chosen largely to ignore the needs and concerns of Colorado communities,” said Wendy Highby of Weld Air and Water from Greeley. “This rule seems designed to accommodate drilling in neighborhoods rather than protecting public health and welfare.”

At several meetings with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, community groups expressed the need to prioritize public health and safety in siting oil and gas development facilities; a need for stronger definitions of residential areas that don’t leave rural Coloradans to fend for themselves against the industry; for better transparency in the siting process, and they re-emphasized the Task Force call to move large oil and gas facilities as far away as possible from homes, neighborhoods and schools.

“We’re getting thrown under the bus here,” said Grand Valley Citizens Alliance president Leslie Robinson. “Drilling in neighborhoods spurred the recent controversies about oil and gas development in Colorado. These draft rules fail to address this root problem. We saw this process as an opportunity to address the problem of big oil and gas facilities being sited close to homes and communities. Instead, the Commission is proposing to basically enshrine companies’ right to keep doing exactly that.”

“Colorado families need rules that move the heavy industrial activity of oil and gas development facilities as far away as possible from homes, neighborhoods, and schools,” said Jacky Kowalsky of Adams County Communities for Drilling Accountability Now. “We are disappointed that the draft rule fails to address the very real costs imposed on families when oil and gas facilities are shoehorned in next to family homes. These draft rules fail to even mitigate the very harsh impacts of oil and gas developments on people.”

In September, these Colorado community organizations sent a letter to the COGCC expressing the need for basic provisions in the new rule that would prioritize protections for Coloradans. “We had hoped that, for once, the State of Colorado would strike a balance between the rights of ordinary citizens and the power of the oil and gas industry,” said CHC Board Member Natasha Leger. “These proposed rules do not advance protections for families – instead, they continue to endorse placing large-scale oil and gas facilities on private property without the permission of the surface owner or the surrounding neighbors. Moreover, the COGCC continues to refuse allowing families to appeal to the COGCC when they are impacted by locating these facilities next to their homes or schools.”

“These rules, as written, do not provide enough protections for Colorado families. I am afraid that once these rules are adopted, there will be more neighborhood drilling – not less. This draft is not what was called for by the Oil and Gas Task Force,” stated Sara Barwinski, who served on the Governor’s Task Force for five months.

After several meetings with the COGCC, these community groups submitted the following list of recommendations, none of which are reflected in the Draft Rules:

1. Define a large oil and gas facility using a matrix that uses proximity and scale in order to mitigate intensity:
The proximity to homes and schools must be a factor when determining whether a proposed oil and gas facility is “Large Scale.” Truly “large scale” facilities should not be allowed within 1,500 feet of homes.

2. All Colorado residents in close proximity to a proposed large oil and gas facility need to have access to siting tools and appropriate mitigation measures:
The current definition of “Urban Mitigation Area” cannot be adequately justified. Because the current definition ties health and safety mitigations to number of buildings instead of to people or potential human impact, its application is inadequate for both rural and urban Coloradans. All Coloradans living near proposed Large Scale Oil and Gas Facilities need these protections, not just urban residents.

3. Close existing setback loopholes for using an existing surface use agreement or expanding an existing well into a “large oil and gas facility:”
Allowing exceptions to the setback rules for expanding existing facilities and/or using an existing surface use agreement that would allow oil and gas facilities closer than 500 feet from a home must be eliminated. These exceptions were not contemplated for large scale facilities but could very well be abused under future administrations.

4. Prohibit the siting of Class II waste injection facilities near residential areas:
Waste injections wells are industrial operations that are not limited by the location of oil and gas or mineral rights. These industrial facilities must be located away from residential areas.

5. Use property line of schools as marker to measure distance between a school and a well or production facility:
Playgrounds and fields outside of schools receive more use than any other outdoor area in our communities. Oil and gas activities should not be allowed near outdoor activity areas near schools.

6. Landowners adjacent to a proposed large oil and gas site should have standing to request a hearing before the COGCC:
Large Scale Oil and Gas Facilities could change a residentially-zoned area into a de-facto industrial area. Due process requires that landowners who would be negatively affected by these facilities have a fair opportunity to be heard by the COGCC.

7. Utilize “siting tools” to locate large oil and gas facilities away from residential areas when feasible:
The COGCC Director needs explicit authority to deny irresponsible oil and gas locations and to utilize “siting tools” to move locations away from residences.

8. Increased health and safety mitigation measures should be required at all large oil and gas facilities:
Additional baseline mitigation measures at the state level for Large Scale Facilities should include new noise, odor, dust, and safety protections. We understand that the oil and gas industry is opposed to requiring any additional mitigation measures because the Director has authority to impose conditions on the permit. However, impacted communities fundamentally disagree that the COGCC’s authority to mitigate and a regulatory requirement for the industry to mitigate are substantially equivalent means of protecting the community. They are not. COGCC should require additional mitigation measures to protect impacted communities from the large impacts of large scale facilities.


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