Leave drilling setback rules unchanged, Garfield County says

After hearing sharply different perspectives from homeowners and agricultural interests, Garfield County commissioners Tuesday decided to call on Colorado to leave its rules governing setbacks between drilling and occupied buildings largely unchanged.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is considering revising rules now allowing drilling as close as 150 feet from homes, and 350 feet in rural areas. Drilling could occur as close as 200 feet, but whenever it’s proposed within 350 feet or less the consent of all those owning buildings that are closer would be needed, and consultation with them would have to occur for certain greater distances.

Dick Buchan, a resident of Battlement Mesa, where Antero Resources has proposed drilling, said he’s disappointed in that proposal, which he labeled “anemic.” Leslie Robinson of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance said her group would like to see a 1,000-foot minimum setback requirement for health and safety reasons.

But Frank Daley, who owns a ranch where drilling has occurred south of Silt, said increased setback requirements would reduce the flexibility to locate well pads outside crop production areas and would prevent development on parts of his land, resulting in a possible taking of property.

“We feel that each well placement should be decided on its own set of circumstances by the (land) owner and the drilling company,” said Daley.

But Michael Meskin, who lives south of Rifle, said his home is 1,085 feet from a well, and that’s still close enough to be a major disturbance and hurt his property values.

“At 1,085 feet the well still smells. At 1,085 feet there’s light pollution when they work at night,” he said.

Commissioners noted that only six wells have been drilled within 500 feet of homes in the county since early 2009. They decided to generally support existing setback rules and oppose the idea of neighboring property owners having veto power over a drilling location. However, they supported the concept of energy companies having to notify and consult with such property owners within certain distances.

They also objected to a proposal to drop an existing state rule for Garfield, Mesa and Rio Blanco counties requiring drilling-related odor controls within a quarter mile, or 1,320 feet, of homes. Instead, the controls would be required statewide within 1,000 feet.

“Even at 1,320 feet you still get five, six complaints a month” about such odors in the county, Commissioner John Martin said.


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