(Glad to exercise my waning obligation in promoting a strong West Slope and Colorado voice, the esteemed DukeCo1 – promoted by ClubTwitty)
It’s Your Water…Pay Attention
On the morning of Monday, Jan. 7th, at 9:00 o’clock (as of this writing), the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will continue hearings involving the minimum distance that should be required between oil and gas wells and facilities, and occupied structures. This “setback” has historically been 150 feet in rural areas and 350 feet in urban areas. The damage that can be done by mishaps in the O&G business can be disasterous. The truth is well documented.
This setback distance needs to change. I will be testifying, on behalf of the thousands of members of the Western Colorado Congress, at the hearing on Monday and I encourage every Coloradoan who cares about the air they breathe and the water they drink to ATTEND the hearings and SPEAK during the public comment period. The Commission needs to see a crowd that fills the hallways and stretches to the street The hearings will be held Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at the Sheraton Denver Downtown at 1550 Court Place.
My submitted testimony I have pasted after the fold…
BEFORE THE OIL AND GAS CONSERVATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF COLORADO
IN THE MATTER OF CHANGES TO THE ) CAUSE NO. 1R RULES AND REGULATIONS OF THE OIL )
AND GAS CONSERVATION COMMISSION ) DOCKET No. 1211-RM-04
OF THE STATE OF COLORADO )
COGCC SETBACK RULEMAKING 2012 )
TESTIMONY OF DUKE COX
When I sat down at the computer and began to consider my testimony, my mind went to a question. I reflected upon how many times I have taken the opportunity, and have been honored, to be a part of the decision making process each of you, Commissioners, now faces. I simply don’t have the inclination nor the energy to figure it out, but I began to speak to this issue in 2005. When you add in all the other commissions, committees, and councils, before which I have appeared, I have asked hundreds of decision makers for the same thing…fairness and honesty.
The decisions facing this commission are not trivial…nor are they technical…they are filled with humanity. The decisions you make affect real human beings in very real ways. The judgments you must make are filled with the anguish and disenfranchisement of the many living human beings that wind up on the losing end of the “play”; the thousands of Colorado citizens that drew the short straw when it comes to their dealings with a chemically intense industrial company that wants to take up residence, literally across the street, and yet bear no actual responsibility for the impact of their presence. Ask anyone who lives in the gas patch…those impacts are profoundly unpleasant and dangerous.
Those humans are the ones for whom I speak; the ones whose story is not bankrolled and broadcast by the most powerful industry in the world. The ones’ whose homes I hope you will choose to protect.
I am a builder. I build homes, among other things. I know how important a home can be. I also know far too many people whose homes have become an unhealthy trap, or an unlivable liability. Now, as the industries’ appetite for oil and gas profits continues to accelerate, more and more thousands of Colorado homes, and the people they hold, are going to be put at risk. It is imperative that this commission move decisively to establish rules that clearly put public safety as their priority. It is unfair to ask Colorado residents to live with significant risk, when that risk can be so easily reduced.
The setback rule is a critical marker in letting companies know that Colorado only welcomes the best companies; those committed to using the best available technology and incorporating the very best management practices. Companies who want to produce oil and gas in Colorado should willingly utilize the remarkable reach capability of modern directional drilling. As we all know, both oil and gas are taken from pools with no distinct underground property lines. This reality greatly improves the flexibility of decisions about location. The industry lobbies’ who claim that surface property rights are a hindrance to drilling are not being honest. Companies who want to do business in Colorado must honestly and respectfully consider the need to protect our people and the homes they inhabit.
It is not too much to ask, in view of the remarkable new technologies that are here and still emerging, for Colorado’s oil and gas companies to admit that theirs is what Duane Zavadil of Barrett Resources once referred to as an “intrusive” industry. It is within your authority to recognize the increasing threat to Colorado’s public health as drilling, fracking, and production operations creep ever closer to thousands more Colorado homes.
A new setback rule requiring operators to remain at least a thousand feet from homes is a good start in the right direction.
The developers and Homebuilders Association are being disingenuous when they claim that somehow they will be prohibited from developing new subdivisions if greater setbacks from homes are required. Clearly this is not the case. The proposed rules by the COGCC staff, and the rules proposed by the conservation community, both include the ability for a landowner to waive the setback requirement. The developers own the land they are developing. As landowners, they can waive any setback requirement – whether that setback be 350 feet, 1,000 feet, or 2,000 feet.
With a 1,000 foot setback, developers will still be able to develop land as they choose. My guess is what the developers are truly concerned about is how they will market homes in subdivisions where they have waived the setback requirement.
You all have a lot on your plate in protecting the public health, safety, welfare, and environment (including wildlife) while simultaneously promoting the oil and gas industry. You do not have to worry, however, about how developers and homebuilders will market homes that may eventually be closer than 1,000 feet from an oil and gas facility.
Colorado’s rulemaking process has been lauded by many people across the nation. Justifiably so. We have created a very comprehensive and workable set of rules that many consider to be a model for the nation, and we should all take pride in what we have created. But, as technology advances and as oil and gas operations inexorably move closer and closer to more heavily populated areas, those rules need to be updated.
Now is the time to do that, and the people of Colorado are counting on you to represent them. Your mission to represent the people of Colorado and to help protect their health and well being is not secondary to your responsibility to promote development. HB1341 made that clear in 2009. Nothing has changed since then…the people of Colorado, the cities and towns in which they live, and the glorious Colorado environment that envelopes us all are under your stewardship. Please… for all the people in all the communities across our beautiful state…don’t forget that trust.