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Colorado’s Weld County Agrees on Rules For New Oil/Gas Operations Near School

The five-member elected board of commissioners in Weld County, CO, the state's top natural gas producer among 64 counties, on Wednesday unanimously approved a major oil/natural gas drilling operation proposed by Extraction Oil and Gas (EO&G) that is located close to a middle school east of Greeley, CO. Company representatives said the new wellsite eventually will add $70 million to the local economy.

All of the county commissioners, including board Chair Barbara Kirkmeyer, said they would not approve the project if they thought there was any risk to youngsters and others. "For 32 years I've lived in the middle of oil/gas, so please don't tell me that I wouldn't know how something like this would affect people," Kirkmeyer told local news media covering the commission meeting.

Many of the residents speaking against the project cited various medical studies that allege that oil/gas activity harms the lungs and minds of young children. They balked at the size of the project.

EO&G plans call for 24 wells, 18 oil tanks, two water tanks, 24 separators, two meter houses, four vapor recovery units, eight emission control devices and two vapor recovery towers. Both the county commissioners and EO&G representatives were contacted by NGI's Shale Daily for comments on the scale and scope of the project, but no one responded to the inquiries.

As part of the county's approval, EO&G has agreed to meet 24 conditions and 37 development standards outlined by the county, covering landscaping, noise mitigation and sound walls, and installation of emission control devices. As mandated by the commissioners, the company has agreed to stop traffic in and out of the drilling site within an hour of the start and end of classes each day at the school.

EO&G also will seek permits from the Colorado Department of Transportation to use nearby U.S. Highway 34, a business route, for its trucks in place of a street running next to the school.

In addition, EO&G Project Manager Blane Thingelstad told the county officials that advanced technology applied to this project will greatly mitigate its impact on the nearby community through such things as electric drilling rigs to eliminate noise and pollution, and an oil pipeline to eliminate most of the usual drill site truck traffic.

With the emergence of the Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin, Weld County has emerged as Colorado's leading producer and the DJ's core (see Shale DailySept. 22, 2015). Since January 2010, marketed volume of natural gas in Weld County has grown at an annualized trend-line rate of 8.6% but has declined by 4.1% per year throughout the rest of the state (see Shale DailyJan. 23, 2015).

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