GREELEY – A large neighborhood in Greeley is getting a very large new neighbor.
Extraction Oil and Gas received approval from the city and the state to build 22 oil and gas wells in the neighborhood’s backyard.
It’s the first project in the state that must follow a new set of rules to ensure the local government and residents have a say, but many neighbors like Dawn Stein don’t feel those rules are being followed.
Stein has lived off of 71st Avenue for 30 years.
“If you see where the stakes are, right by the fence, is where the road is coming in right by it,” Stein said. “My bedroom is the back corner right here.”
The dirt road behind her home is the proposed entrance to Extraction Oil and Gas’ Triple Creek Project.
“I keep saying, I am going to have a fatality happen right in front of my house. I know it,” Stein said. “There will be more than one. This is just a stupid place to pick for an entrance.”
The area is zoned residential, but mineral rights owners can’t be denied the oil that lies beneath the surface, and Extraction Oil and Gas has the permits needed from both the city of Greeley and the state to drill.
So the Triple Creek project is likely coming about 1,000 feet from some homes.
The big concern now is how the facility will operate; it’s not just traffic that Stein and other neighbors are concerned about.
“We always knew there was going to be some sort of development, but not in our wildest dreams did we think it was going to be an industrial UMA (Urban Mitigation Area) site,” 16-year resident Rick Gerner said.
His concern is not just aesthetics — even though the project will be visible from his back deck. He’s also concerned about the volume of the many trucks that will transport oil and gas from the site as well as the vapors from extraction.
Earlier this year, the state adopted a new set of rules to minimize the impact on homes near new oil and gas wells. Perhaps the most talked about provision is a requirement for projects to use “best available technology.”
To neighbors, that means a pipeline to limit the release of vapors, potential spills, not to mention less local trucking.
“If they would put a pipeline in here and do that approach, which they did promise us in 2014 they would do, I don’t think there would be a problem,” Gerner said.
This is where neighbors and the state disagree on how to define best available technology.
Matt Lepore is the Director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
“The way I think about it is, is that technology available. And, yes, it’s available theoretically. It’s available in some circumstances. It’s not available all the time,” Lepore said.
He says the state also prefers that pipelines are built, but that the cost, time and legal requirements make it unreasonable to require the operator, Extraction Oil and Gas, to build a pipeline. The circumstances make the best available technology, unavailable, he says.
“Again, a significant focus of that task force recommendation was getting the local government involved and that happened here,” Lepore said of the new rules’ purpose.
The city of Greeley held public forums where residents who oppose and oil and gas workers who support had their say. The planning commission had originally denied the project but the city council ultimately overturned that decision.
The neighbor’s concerns prompted the state to require noise and pollution reducing measures from the operator, not steps explicitly required by the new rules. But many neighbors don’t think that will be enough.
“It’s pretty devastating. Especially when you get to the age I am,” Stein said. “And now that I am alone, and to have to deal with this and not have the enjoyment of my home.”
Extraction Oil and Gas sent 9NEWS this statement:
“Our Triple Creek location will be a flagship energy development facility that utilizes some of the best technologies available to our industry. Throughout this two-year permitting process, we engaged in the regulatory consultation process, working extensively with state and local governments, as well as our neighbors, to implement measures that will help reduce inconveniences that could result from the development process. We are pleased that the Triple Creek site permits have been approved and we look forward to responsibly developing the energy resources we all use each day.”