FIRESTONE, Colo. (CBS4) – After the house explosion in Firestone that prompted company Annadarko to close more than 3,000 vertical wells, CBS4 looked into regulations regarding development and proximity to wells.
The fatal April 17 blast in the Weld County town happened near a gas well, and its cause is still under investigation.
There are currently no state laws regulating how far away developers should build homes from a gas well, and lawmakers in Colorado are cautioning that not enough is known about the explosion to draw any conclusions at this point.
Those on both sides of the oil and gas debate agree that the explosion shouldn’t be used to further any political agenda.
While the state controls setbacks for oil and gas developers — new wells can’t be drilled within 500 feet of a house — local governments determine how far a new house can be built from an existing well.
In the case of the Firestone incident, the well was present about 22 years before the house was built.
While Republicans and Democrats disagree on how far apart wells and houses should be, at this point neither side is suggesting the state should make decisions about where housing developments should be built.
“When it comes to figuring out land use, nobody better knows that then the local residents, and they’re the ones who should make the decision. Not the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, not the state legislature,” said Republican state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, who represents Sterling.
“Of course, the burden should be on all the parties. It shouldn’t be on just one of the parties. But the bottom line here is that wells shouldn’t be that close to houses. And so whatever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen on all sides is something that’s appropriate,” Democrat state Rep. Mike Foote, who represents Lafayette.
Even if the investigation into the house explosion finds the gas well is to blame, CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd said there isn’t really any more time for new legislation during this Colorado legislative session. There are only two weeks left before it wraps up.
Boyd said she expects there will be a push to have some measures related to development and distance from gas wells put on the ballot during the next election cycle.
A special section of the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission website allows anyone to see if wells are in their neighborhood.