Posted by the Denver Business Journal:
A group of Broomfield residents are recommending the city implement a quarter-mile buffer zone between oil and gas wells and homes, parks, schools and bodies of water.
The 1,320-foot buffer zone, if adopted by the Broomfield City Council, would apply both to new wells being drilled in the fast-growing community and also to new development that might encroach on existing wells, according to a draft of the recommendations posted to the city’s website.
KATHLEEN LAVINE | BUSINESS JOURNAL
The recommendations take aim at many of the issues, conflicts and concerns that have risen as oil and gas operations in Colorado have grown in size and scale, and in some cases moved nearer to northern Front Range suburban communities and neighborhoods in the last few years.
They include suggestions about lights, noise, the quality of the air, water and soil, traffic and setbacks.
They’re expected to go to the city council in late August or early September.
The Denver Business Journal has written a series of stories about how Broomfield is dealing with oil and gas issues related to a proposal by Denver’s Extraction Oil & Gas Inc. (Nasdaq: XOG).
The committee said the recommendations are intended to support the goal of eliminating as many older walls as possible, push drilling as far from residential areas as possible and ensure that oil and gas is done “in a manner that prioritizes the protection of human health, safety and welfare.”
The committee also said it recognizes the rights of the people who own the minerals, but said the health and safety of Broomfield residents “is paramount.”
“While recognizing that mineral owners have property rights, the health and safety of Broomfield residents is paramount, and maintaining the qualities Broomfield is known for is integral to our position," the committee said.
The 14-member committee has spent months working on a update to the city’s existing master plan via a new chapter on how oil and gas development might occur in the city.
The 13-page set of draft recommendations include proposals on setback that would:
The opposite issue, how close new homes can be built near older wells, was thrown into sharp relief after the April 17 home explosion in Firestone that killed two men.
That explosion was caused by raw natural gas that leaked into the home through an old pipeline that was supposed to be abandoned. The home, built in 2015, was 178 feet from the well, drilled in 1993.
The setbacks of new homes from old wells vary widely: 150 feet in Firestone and Dacono, 200 feet in Frederick and Broomfield, 350 feet in Louisville and Lafayette, and 750 feet in Longmont, according to survey of municipal codes by the Boulder Daily Camera.
Whether the recommendation, as it applies to new oil and gas wells being 1,320 feet from existing or planned development, is legal, is questionable.
Colorado law says the state has authority over oil and gas operations, including the location of those operations. The state’s buffer zone is 500 feet between new oil and gas wells and existing homes.
But the state doesn’t have authority over how close new homes, schools are parks can be to an existing oil and gas well — meaning Broomfield’s elected officials can choose to widen the city’s existing buffer zone to 1,320 feet.
The 14-member committee noted in its draft that the recommendations were a work in progress and that some of the action steps might “be beyond [Broomfield’s] current legal authorities.”
But, the committee said, the recommendations are based on the “collective judgment” of the members of the committee and “may be used to pursue state and federal regulatory changes.”
A public meeting on the recommendations is scheduled for 6 p.m., July 20 at the Paul Derda Recreation Center, 13201 Lowell Blvd. The city council will have the final say on the update to Broomfield’s master plan.
Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, a trade group, said there are legal concerns around the recommendations — but he noted the draft recommendations are just that, a draft.
“There are legal concerns around the draft recommendations put forth by the Broomfield Oil and Gas Comprehensive Plan Update Committee, but there is still time within their process for a thorough legal and technical review in order to reach a workable plan,” Haley said.
“My hat goes off to the members of the committee for all their hard work over the past several months," Haley added. "If we can be helpful to the committee’s ongoing efforts, we want to be."
The committee was set up after an outcry by Broomfield residents and officials to a plan by Denver’s Extraction Oil & Gas Inc. (Nasdaq: XOG) to drill in the city.
The company’s current plan calls for 99 horizontal wells to be drilled from four pads scattered across two miles of the Northwest Parkway east of I-25, plus 40 wells drilled from a fifth pad a few miles north of the parkway in unincorporated Weld County.
Extraction executives have sat in on the committee’s meetings, which has had presentations from state and federal officials on industry regulations and practices.
“We are thrilled that the task force has come out with the draft recommendations and is nearing the completion of the process,” Extractionspokesman Brian Cain said.
The company is planning to start negotiating an amendment to its existing memorandum of understanding with the city soon, Cain said.
“We recognized that the language [in the recommendations] is only a draft and is meant to apply to oil and gas development over the next 20 years — there’s a lot to be done yet on this draft,” he said.
The draft recommendations also included:
I am a real estate professional, serving Boulder and Denver, Colorado. My extensive knowledge of the market, coupled with my commitment to provide extraordinary service, has resulted in hundreds of successful transactions. Let me help you buy or sell your home.