GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4)– Some people living in Greeley are fuming after the city approved up to 18 oil and gas wells to be built near a school. The city said it had little choice.

“I think people are concerned we’ve tipped the balance between saving the character of neighborhoods and the quality of life for residents,” said neighbor Sara Barwinski.

Barwinski lives near six of the 500 wells located within the city limits.

This week the Greeley Planning Commission approved up to 18 wells and 20 tanks near a high school, hundreds of homes and a wetland area.

“I want the city to think through a plan on how much to have the best mitigation and how much is too much,” said Barwinski.

Greeley Assistant City Manager Becky Safarik said it’s not that simple.

Twenty years ago Greeley tried to stop drilling and took the fight all the way to the Supreme Court. The city lost.

“There’s a legal right for an applicant to access their minerals in this case and we have to find a way to balance that,” said Safarik.

That’s one reason the city groups the wells together, to lessen the impact on the city as a whole.

“If we don’t do that we risk having oil and gas tanks on every corner,” said Safarik.

She said the planned wells meet required setbacks from neighbors and the school. The city can only control land use and the State of Colorado regulates the rest.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission said neighbors’ concerns are one reason it hasn’t approved the wells yet.

Barwinski admits stopping the drilling is unlikely but she hopes to give the city pause in the future. She is also asking the state for the best air quality controls.

“Cause a lot of money is to be made I’d like them to spend a fraction of that on being state of the art,” said Barwinski.


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