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Environmentalists & Drilling Companies Upset Over New Distance Rule

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has made a decision that has upset both environmentalists and drilling companies.

The commission says new wells have to be farther away from homes, but it’s not far enough for some.

Before Monday’s vote the state’s minimum distance to drill in a rural area was 150 feet. In an urban setting it was 350 feet. Now there is a uniformed setback at 500 feet across the board. But some environmental groups wanted to see the setback much farther out.

The commission says they tried to find middle ground with their 8-1 vote with some people concerned about noise and if there are health effects associated with drilling. But others, like the oil and gas industry itself, and even farmers, say they don’t want a setback.

The new rules have a suite of provisions, including operators cannot drill within 1,000 feet of high-density buildings such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals without a hearing before the commission first.

Environmental groups like Erie Rising say they’re pleased with the vote but it’s not enough.

“The new setbacks are great but the existing wells that are very close to people’s homes and schools are still there, so it doesn’t really address everything,” Andrea Roy with Erie Rising said.

“This was the single most challenging issue that Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has ever dealt with. It was that complex, because as soon as you go to address one person’s concerns you then sort of set off a string of impacts to other parties,” Todd Hartman with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources said.

The commission hopes the new setback will not drive business out of Colorado, yet helps address public concerns.

The setbacks go into effect Aug. 1 for operators applying to drill from that date forward.

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