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RBC I Coloradans, conservationists, impacted landowners and legislative leaders criticized new setback rules passed by Governor Hickenlooper’s Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). While the new rules marginally increased setback distances, a number of loopholes and exemptions were included which effectively allow heavy industrial oil and gas development even closer to Colorado homes, schools, and places of business.
“The rules passed by the commission today are not protective of Colorado’s air, land, water and our public health. For months Coloradans have testified that they want significant protections to reduce the impacts of drilling and fracking. Instead, we are left with rules that don’t solve the problem, leaving our homes, businesses and communities exposed to the coming onslaught from heavy industrial drilling and fracking,“ said Pete Maysmith, Executive director, Conservation Colorado.
During the course of the extended stakeholder and public hearing process, residents from all over Colorado testified in front of the Commission. Landowners talked of either personal or family member health conditions that did not exist before drilling arrived at their doorstop. Other Coloradans talked about the increase of noise, dust and truck traffic near their homes, with one testifying it was like being on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Julie Boyle, a Weld County resident, spoke about a number of health related and quality of life impacts from oil and gas development near her home. “Our family and neighbors have experienced increased upper respiratory issues and skin irritation in the last few years, and I do fear for our long-term health.”
Julie stated, “I firmly believe that the health and environment of Colorado residents is equally as if not more important than the revenue: if our collective health fails, the costs of treating our illnesses will be a disaster for the county’s and our state’s bottom line.”
However, instead of hearing these concerns, the Commission actually established more exemptions and loopholes to allow drilling even closer to Colorado homes and communities.
The most egregious example is the large exemptions in “rural” areas — more than 95 percent of Colorado – which will allow drilling as close as 200 feet from a home if minimal requirements are met. Other parts of the rules will also allow wells to be placed near properties with little or no recourse for adjacent landowners.
“While the state may tout the minimally increased setbacks as a victory for Coloradans, a closer look reveals exemptions that leave the great majority of Coloradans at risk of drilling in their backyard. All Coloradans should be afforded the same protections whether they live in urban or rural parts of our State,“ said Maysmith. “We will continue to seek to work with leaders who will prioritize the health and safety of Coloradans and listen to the concerns of Coloradans.”
The Colorado legislature is not even half way through its legislative session and a number of Colorado local governments have already taken the initiative to exercise well established authority to oversee heavy industrial activities, like drilling and fracking, within their borders.
“It is no secret that Coloradans are greatly concerned about the impacts of fracking and drilling in our communities. Many legislators have heard loud and clear from their constituents that someone needs to stand up for Colorado residents and our communities as we face increased heavy industrial oil and gas development,” said House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder). “Unfortunately, the rules passed by the COGCC today fall far short of protecting Coloradans. As the State legislature continues its work this session, my colleagues and I will be looking to pursue measures that put the health and safety of Coloradans first and pursue balanced energy policies that protect Colorado’s environment, public health and our unique quality of life.”