Proposed new state rules that were supposed to give communities relief from oil and gas impacts have instead become a mechanism to ensure that industrial-scale operations are allowed within neighborhoods, according to groups representing residents of the Garfield County gas patch.
Grand Valley Citizens Alliance (GVCA) and Battlement Concerned Citizens (BCC) expressed disappointment at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s draft rules to govern oil and gas drilling in neighborhoods.
“We’re getting thrown under the bus here,” said GVCA president Leslie Robinson. “We saw this process as an opportunity to address the problem of big oil and gas facilities being sited close to homes and communities. Instead, the Commission is proposing to basically enshrine companies’ right to keep doing exactly that.”
At a “stakeholders’ meeting” in Rifle at the end of July the two groups urged the COGCC to put the burden of proof on the operator to prove that it needed to drill near homes, rather than on citizens to convince the COGCC that a proposed facility near their home was inappropriate. They also recommended adjusting the rules to require mitigation of impacts in lower-density neighborhoods, requiring operators to disclose their long-term development plans, and providing direct channels of communication and resolution for impacted residents.
The draft rules released yesterday by the COGCC do encourage the disclosure of operators’ long-term plans for development within municipalities, but otherwise did not address GVCA and BCC’s recommendations.
For residents of Battlement Mesa, a planned community facing a 53-well proposal within its boundaries, the proposed rules are especially disappointing. They were hoping for new rules that would force Ursa Resources to move its pads further away (one is currently proposed to be built within 600 feet of homes) and require additional mitigation measures.
Dave Devanney, chair of Battlement Concerned Citizens, said the drilling proposal for Battlement Mesa perfectly illustrates what’s wrong with Colorado’s current oil and gas rules.
Under these draft rules, he explained, the requirement to mitigate impacts does not kick in unless two things occur: eight wells are proposed and the proposed well pad is within 1,000 feet of 22 buildings. If both of those thresholds are not met, then no enhanced mitigations are required. In keeping with the arbitrary nature of this policy, one of the proposed well pads in Battlement Mesa would trigger the state’s mitigation requirements, while another nearly identical one would not; some residents would get relief, others within the same community will not.
“Overall, this entire process has proven to be a huge disappointment” Robinson concluded. “We came to the table in good faith to help solve this problem and none of our ideas were taken seriously. Drilling in neighborhoods spurred the recent controversies about oil and gas development in Colorado. These draft rules fail to address this root problem.”