Residents near Greeley, CO, with the aid of activist groups, have filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) contending that the state regulatory panel mistreated low-income people and a predominantly Latino school by allowing oil/gas drilling near the school.
Separately, the state Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee on Wednesday essentially killed a proposed bill seeking 1,000-foot setbacks from school campuses — not just from main buildings. Colorado’s oil/gas industry pushed back against the proposal (HB 1256), with the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) strongly opposing it.
The residents and their allies were seeking to expand setback requirements for oil/natural gas drilling from schools, and arguing discriminatory practices by the COGCC in the case of Extraction Oil and Gas Co.’s drilling location near the Bella Romero Academy (grades 4-8) middle school.
“HB 1256 was set aside, or basically killed,” a Senate committee staff member told NGI‘s Shale Daily.
Nevertheless, in their lawsuit, residents allege that COGCC was wrong in granting drilling permits for a site east of Greeley in a project approved by the Weld County Commission last year on a location called the Vetting 15-H Well Pad just outside the city boundaries.
Some of the groups involved in this legal action were also pushing last year for a statewide ballot initiative to require setbacks of up to 2,500 feet or longer, but they were unable to get their measure on the November ballot.
Also in the Colorado legislature on Wednesday, 18 Democratic members sent a letter to the head of the state Department of Public Health and the Environment (DPHE) questioning a recent department report that found little evidence of harm to people living near drilling sites.
They told DPHE Chief Larry Wolk that the report is “dismissive of public health risks” for Colorado citizens. “It was done in-house with no significant outreach that we are aware of to external experts,” they said.
Currently, Colorado’s requirements call for all oil/gas drilling to be at least 1,000 feet from schools and child care facilities. In pushing HB 1256 at an earlier state House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee hearing, proponents used photos of a high school in Greeley, CO, in which oil/gas wells are within a few hundred feet of the school’s football stadium, even though they are 1,000 feet from the school buildings.
COGA CEO Dan Haley noted that the state’s setback requirements were more than tripled when they were revised in 2013. “That was done after an exhaustive stakeholder process.”
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