"Existing setback standards of 150 feet in rural areas and 350 feet in urban areas are extended to a uniform 500 feet statewide," reads a press release from the State of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
The rules, which would apply to new wells, were preliminarily approved weeks ago. On Wednesday Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said if they pass the county will challenge them in court.
"We just will not abide by it," Kirkmeyer said. "We believe they're stepping over bounds on our land use authority, and they're not protecting the private property rights of our citizens."
Kirkmeyer says with so many wells in Weld County, the setback rules could be catastrophic for economic development in the future.
"40 percent of the oil and gas wells are in Weld County. It's a huge economic impact not only to Weld County but to the state of Colorado," she said.
Bob Winkler lives in Weld County and says he doesn't want wells anywhere closer than half a mile to his home.
"It should be at least a half a mile away, and there should be a ban on it until it's been determined that it's safe to the community and to the environment," Winkler said.
The issue is the most contentious, and complicated, ever to go before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, according to a spokesperson. Some groups have pushed for more distance.
Conservation Colorado is one of those groups.
"From day one, the Colorado conservation community has supported reasonable measures to create protective buffer zones between Coloradans' homes, schools and businesses and heavy industrial fracking and drilling," reads a statement from their executive director. "Our proposals of buffer zones of 1,000 ft for homes, 1,500 ft for schools and businesses are what is necessary to protect Coloradans and our air, land, and water. Those buffer zones, combined with landowner consent and involvement in the drilling process provide protections for Colorado residents while allowing energy development to proceed."
That commission was supposed to vote on the rules Thursday, but late on Wednesday they issued the following statement:
"The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission continued to receive a significant number of letters and emails from various parties since the rulemaking record was closed on January 9. To continue to ensure an open, fair and transparent process, the Commission will reopen the record for a limited period to allow parties additional written comment. The Commission hearing officer will clarify that after a date certain, no further communications will be accepted. The Commission will then reconvene at a later date for final deliberations. Because of this change, the Commission meeting scheduled for tomorrow (January 24) will be for the limited purpose of updating commissioners on the process and a final vote on the rules will not take place as previously scheduled."
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