Last Wednesday, Jan. 9, despite testimony from a number of representatives from the North Fork Valley and Western Colorado, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) voted 7-2 that oil and gas operations can have a 500-foot setback near residences and a 1,000-foot setback from schools and other high-use buildings. The rule that is being revised permitted a 150-foot setback.
"The final version of the rule, which commissioners could approve in the coming weeks, would likely include many exemptions to the setback distances," Jim Ramey, director of Citizens For A Healthy Community states. "These exemptions would be made through grandfathering in existing surface use agreements and waivers for landowner consent, which would permit drilling closer than 500 feet."
Ramey has attended all of the COGCC public hearings on this issue, and has consistently called upon the commission to take action to protect public health by selecting a 2,000-foot setback.
"This is a completely squandered opportunity for Gov. Hickenlooper and his administration to take meaningful action to protect the public from the risks of oil and gas development," said Ramey,
"We're extremely disappointed with the setback rule," Ramey said. "However, this is just the start of a much longer conversation across the state about how we can improve the laws and regulations to fully protect public health and the environment. We look forward to working with our legislators at the statehouse to fully protect Coloradans from risks of oil and gas development."
Commissioners also heard from public health experts, including Dr. Theo Colborn, president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX), about why current public health science deserves important consideration when adopting new setback rules.
"I ask that in determining setback distances, the commission take into consideration the possible aggregate and cumulative health hazards posed by the non-methane Volatile Organic Compounds in the raw gas when issuing more permits to open a new well," said Dr. Colborn to the Commission on Wednesday. TEDX had previously recommended a one-mile setback, with exemptions only granted if the drilling company can provide adequate air monitoring results at the proposed well pad site demonstrating that toxic air pollutants from their activities will not contribute to an adverse health risk.
The Conservation Center partnered with Western Colorado Congress, Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and WCC of Mesa County for joint representation at the rule-making hearings.Conservation Center board member Sam Brown traveled to Denver to make a statement to the COGCC on behalf of their membership.
"The new rules are a huge disappointment and missed opportunity to provide meaningful protections to Coloradans concerned about drilling and fracking near their backyards and school playgrounds," Sarah Sauter, Conservation Center executive director stated.The Conservation Center requested a 1,000-foot setback.
"The Surface Use Agreement was expanded which allows for surface use agreements signed before June 2013 to trump the new setbacks. This means that if your neighbor has signed an agreement to allow industry to drill on his property, but 200 feet from your house, that surface use agreement trumps the setback requirement and may not be challenged," Sauter stated.blog comments powered by Disqus