Commission keeps oil rigs 150 ft. from homes |

Commission keeps oil rigs 150 ft. from homes

garfield county correspondent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission tentatively approved rules that would keep the oil and gas drilling rigs at least 150 feet away from residential structures.

Commissioner Tresi Houpt offered a motion to increase the minimum distance to to 400 feet, but it died on a 4-to-3 vote, with two abstentions.

The commission later endorsed a section of rules, which included the minimum setback distance, on a 7-to-2 vote.

Although Houpt’s measure failed, a stakeholder group is expected to meet in January and report back to the commission in April about possibly increasing setback distances.

Before a vote was taken on Houpt’s motion, Dave Neslin, acting director of the COGCC, said agency staff members believe further discussion and further investigation of issues surrounding setbacks “would be useful before the commission deliberates those proposals.”

Harris Sherman, a commission member and executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said the issue of setbacks was important and that the commission really needs to give “serious attention to it.”

“We need extra work and extra testimony,” Sherman said. “The stakeholder group would be helpful in getting us there.”

But Houpt said it was a mistake to defer the question of setbacks.

“I want to be very clear on that,” Houpt said. “I am extremely disappointed. I specifically raised this particular concern (of setbacks) before this process started, and in my mind, I was ignored.”

Houpt said the drilling in Garfield County can be volatile and carry high impacts. She said a distance of 400 feet was a reasonable compromise distance, and questioned why setback distances were smaller in rural areas, as compared with more dense areas.

The current setback is 150 feet for rural homes and 350 feet for high-density housing and recreation areas such as hiking trails.

Michael Freeman, who represented the conservation and wildlife groups at Tuesday’s hearing, asked commissioners to increase the minimum setback distance, adding that a number of states require a distance of 1,000 feet. He sought a statewide setback of 400 feet.

But others at the meeting opposed such a move.

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