By Kelly Werthmann

FORT LUPTON, Colo. (CBS4) – An oil and gas company has its eyes on the Colorado skies in Fort Lupton.

Halliburton is in the final stages of getting a permit for a heliport at its Weld County facility in Fort Lupton. The company wants to use two Bell 212 helicopters to transport crews to and from drill sites, claiming it’ll be safer and cut down commute times for the staff who travel by bus.

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“We strongly believe that strategy will consistently deliver well-rested employees to location, alleviate exposure to over the road incidents, and allow employees to spend more time at home with their families,” Corey Wood, a Halliburton facility supervisor, wrote in a letter to the Fort Lupton Planning Department last September.

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Yet, some residents who live near the company’s facility and others around Weld County are criticizing the proposed heliport. Their concerns range from noise of the large aircraft to impacts on livestock, property values, the environment and public safety.

“This isn’t what we signed up for,” Gin Stoneback told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann.

Stoneback lives just a couple miles from Halliburton’s facility. She supports the oil and gas industry and says she is grateful Colorado has the natural resource, but believes Halliburton’s plan will be dangerous for her animals.

CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann interviews Gin Stoneback. (credit: CBS)

“If I’m out here riding my horse by myself and he feels threatened by the percussion noise,” she said of the helicopters, “he can do anything from freeze, rear up, buck, take off and injure himself or injure me.”

The proposed plan calls for flights from Halliburton’s facility between 4 a.m. – 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. – 10 p.m, at least six times a day. Per a noise study by the company, the helicopters would emit noise about as loud as a car when flying at 1,000 feet before reaching altitude of 2,500-3,000 feet.

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Halliburton already has a conditional permit from the FAA, the agency that would regulate the company’s helicopters if they are approved by the city.

“Is this truly a necessity?” Stoneback wondered. “What about the safety of the entire community?”

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At the request of the Fort Lupton Planning Committee, Halliburton conducted a test flight last month. Their decibel meter showed levels below zoning requirements and some city officials reported they couldn’t hear the helicopter.

“No horses died. No windows broke. No roofs got blown off. No devastation happened,” Paul White with Era, the company Halliburton has contracted to provide the helicopters, said during the meeting.

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Yet, rancher Mike Brashear believes the helicopters will disturb livestock, especially if they are flying several times a day.

“That worries me because that’s my livelihood,” he said before the committee. “I’m not anti-oil and gas… but I don’t want to deal with helicopters.”

Despite the community’s concerns, Halliburton is one step closer to getting what they want. The planning committee unanimously voted to pass the proposal on to city council. That meeting is scheduled for Aug. 6.

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Halliburton declined an interview with CBS4 at the meeting, but the company’s spokesperson in Texas sent this statement:

We are pleased that the planning committee has approved our proposed heliport project and sent it to the Fort Lupton City Council for review and vote. Halliburton’s number one priority is safety, and we believe this project will reduce the roadway traffic in the Fort Lupton area for the benefit of both the local community and our employees.

Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team as the morning reporter in 2012. After serving as weekend morning anchor, Kelly is now Covering Colorado First for CBS4 News at 10. Connect with Kelly on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KellyCBS4.

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