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Colo. oil, gas regulators complete new draft rules

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 31, 2012 at 7:40 pm •  Published: December 31, 2012

DENVER (AP) — A new draft of drilling regulations released by Colorado oil and gas regulators Monday would boost the minimum distance between wells and buildings to 500 feet, up from the 350 feet buffer it had floated earlier this year.

That's raising concerns from not just energy companies but also the real estate and agriculture industries, among others.

Homebuilders and farmers are among those pushing for a smaller distance, or setback, while some environmental groups and residents concerned about potential health effects of being near rigs are seeking larger setbacks.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said the draft rules also would make the state the only one to require sampling of water wells near drilling sites both before and after drilling to show whether drinking water aquifers have been tainted. They also would require more mitigation measures for drilling within 1,000 feet of homes.

The commission plans to consider the proposals in hearings Jan. 7-9.

"These proposed rules reinforce Colorado's role as a national pacesetter in the comprehensive and progressive regulation of oil and gas exploration and production," said commission director Matt Lepore in a written statement. He acknowledged the rules won't leave any set of interests completely satisfied.

Current rules require setbacks of 150 feet in rural areas or 350 feet in urban areas. Raising that to 500 feet could leave chunks of land unavailable for new buildings, affecting builders' profits, said Colorado Association of Home Builders CEO Amie Mayhew. A developer's costs of leaving land near rigs untouched could be passed on to other buyers in a subdivision, boosting costs for home buyers, she said.

Mayhew contends there is little scientific evidence to support increasing the setbacks, though her association was open to working with the earlier proposal of 350-foot setbacks.

"Clearly what's being done is being done because of political pressure, and that's frankly the wrong reason to do what we're doing," Mayhew said.

Colorado Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Chad Vorthmann said loan values dependent on the potential for development could be hurt by larger setbacks. The larger buffers also could push rigs further into fields and put them in the way of irrigation operations.

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