“The new oil and gas regulations are failing to protect neighborhoods,” said Lowell Lewis, speaking on behalf of his family and dozens of residents who live in a Greeley neighborhood. Last Friday, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state agency in charge of regulating the oil and gas industry, approved one of the largest oil and gas locations in the state– 22 wells and 22 oil tanks in the middle of his residential neighborhood. Extraction Oil and Gas is expected to begin their operations within the week.
The wells proposed for the Triple Creek site are not only large – they are record- breaking. The 22 wells that Extraction is proposing will reach minerals 2.5 miles away. They will be the longest horizontally-drilled wells in Colorado.
“The COGCC’s new rules are meaningless,” stated Lewis, whose home overlooks the approved well site. “With this precedent, there is no neighborhood on the Front Range that is safe from industrial- level oil and gas development.”
Initially, the group of neighbors that calls itself “Neighbors Affected by Triple Creek” were hopeful. In June, the COGCC announced that its new “Large Urban Mitigation Area” rules (a.k.a. “Neighborhood Drilling rules”) would be applied to Extraction’s proposed “Triple Creek” site located in a residential neighborhood in Greeley. The new rules passed in January were the most substantive result of the Governor’s Oil and Gas Task Force and were meant to ensure that large oil and gas facilities (more than 6 wells at a location) may only be located in residential areas as a last resort. The rules require 1) an alternative location analysis to determine if locations farther from homes is available and 2) the use of “best available technologies” in the event there were no better options and the facility has to be located near homes.
In this case, the COGCC did not enforce its requirement for an alternative location analysis nor did it require the use “best available technologies.”
During the public comment period, a record-number 70 public comments were submitted to the COGCC in opposition to this location. Most comments requested that the COGCC at least require pipelines and other “best available technologies” that are already being used in other areas in the state.
“Our biggest concern is the tanks and the amount of truck traffic that is going to be coming and going from the site for the next 25 years.” said Nelly Morales, a nearby resident. “Extraction initially promised us they would use oil pipelines to limit the number of tanks on the location. Even though other large and small companies are using pipelines to limit their impact on nearby residents, the COGCC staff told us that they do not believe they have the statutory or regulatory authority to require Extraction to use pipelines,” she said.**
One resident will be personally affected by all the truck traffic that will be accessing the location. 60- year old Dawn Stein has lived on her 3.6-acre property for the past thirty years. In December, she learned that the industry bought an easement from her next door neighbor that would place the new oil and gas access road 35 feet from her bedroom window. Extraction estimates there will be over 205,000 heavy truck trips to and from the site over the expected 25-year life of the wells.
(See chart below***).
“Extraction’s proposal has wrecked me emotionally and financially,” Stein stated. “I fail to see how their ‘mitigations’ of cement barriers and hay bales around my house will protect me from the noise and smoke of thousands of trucks rumbling past my bedroom.”
“Since my husband died four years ago, this property has become too much for me to keep up. I was hoping to sell it this year but who would buy it now? The stress of this is killing me. I am not against the oil and gas industry, but they should not have the ability to destroy a person’s home and life.”
** Colorado’s largest operator, Anadarko Petroleum, has committed to using pipelines throughout its operations in Colorado. A smaller company, Synergy Resources, publicly admonished Extraction for its bait-and-switch on the Triple Creek location. Synergy’s CEO Lynn Petersen criticized Extraction in an industry publication for refusing to use pipelines in Greeley because the lower price of oil.
“Well shame on us as an industry if that’s really the way you feel… You can’t go in and tell residents you can’t do these things because it costs you money. You don’t tell the residents, ‘sorry, but you have to deal with it’. That doesn’t fly.”
“Synergy Resources CEO Lynn Peterson: an Exclusive Interview with Oil and Gas 360®”, Oil and Gas 360®, Feb. 24, 2016. Available online at: http://www.oilandgas360.com/syrg-synergy-resources-ceo-lynn-peterson-an-exclusive-interview-with-oil- gas-360/
***From page 8 of Extraction’s Triple Creek Traffic Impact Study.