Regulators may revisit drilling setbacks from homes, now as close as 150 feet

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff may reopen discussions about how close to homes drilling rigs should be allowed to operate.

Commission Director Dave Neslin told the commission Monday it may be worth starting a dialogue with interested parties on the issue, which the commission deferred action on during its rewrite of its rules in 2008.

Neslin said that doesn’t mean there’s an assumption that current setbacks are inadequate.

Rigs currently can be located as close as 150 feet to homes, or 300 feet in higher-density residential areas. However, a substantial majority are located more than 500 or even 1,000 feet away from buildings, particularly outside Weld County, and in some cases those buildings are outbuildings rather than homes, Neslin said. In other instances, closer setbacks may have been agreed to by the landowners, or may involve homes built after a well pad had been created, he said.

“Nevertheless, this remains an issue of concern to some local governments and the environmental community,” Neslin said.

He said it may be worth trying to educate parties about what the facts are, and then seeing if there are issues that need to be addressed.

During the 2008 consideration of the issue, local governments lined up on both sides, environmentalists wanted larger setbacks, and oil and gas companies and homebuilders asked for current ones to be retained, Neslin said.

Since then, some western Coloradans have continued to call for the matter to be revisited. Meanwhile, setback concerns have arisen in more parts of the state as drilling has spread to new locations.

Neslin said a discussion of setbacks could be useful as a response to local governments that are worried about oil and gas development, and talking of developing local regulations. Gov. John Hickenlooper recently argued against having a patchwork of local regulations rather than uniform state rules.


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