Colorado regulators support 2,000-foot buffers between drilling, homes

    A well head is seen on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, in a fenced off area near a house that was destroyed in a deadly explosion in Firestone, Colo., April 17. A state commission this week endorsed new, longer setback requirements for gas production from homes and buildings. (Matthew Jonas/The Daily Times Call via AP)

    DENVER  |  All but one member of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voiced support for large buffers around well drilling sites.

    The majority of the five-member panel said Wednesday they endorse setbacks of 2,000 feet, significantly larger than those proposed by commission staff, The Denver Post reports.

    Homeowners, community and environmental activists and some elected officials have urged the commission to require large setbacks from schools and homes.

    Industry representatives have said extensive setbacks will drive up costs and substantially limit where companies can drill.

    The commission will not vote on the regulation until the completion of hearings on all proposed rules, which is expected in late October.

    The current setback regulation is 200 feet (61 meters) from a well, 500 feet (152 meters) in certain residential areas and 1,000 feet (305 meters) from schools.

    Proponents of putting more space between fracking sites and the places where people live and work argued a 2019 law mandated an overhaul of oil and gas rules by requiring that the public’s welfare be prioritized when regulating development.

    Dave Neslin, a former commission director representing the industry, said larger setbacks “exponentially increase the amount of land that is off limits to oil and gas developments” and increase the likelihood of conflicts with local governments over well locations.

    Commission Chairman Jeff Robbins acknowledged conflicting interpretations of health studies and reports by experts and advocates supporting larger setbacks and those who have said there is no credible evidence of harmful effects within a certain distance.

    Robbins referred to a 2019 report by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment outlining short-term health impacts for people living within 2,000 feet (610 meters) of fracking sites.