By CATHERINE TSAI Associated Press – September 24, 2012
DENVER—The director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission says it’s time to consider statewide rules on baseline groundwater sampling and monitoring at new well pads, which could show when drilling operations have contaminated groundwater supplies and when they haven’t.
For the last several months, the state has been holding meetings with oil and gas industry representatives, community leaders and other stakeholders to discuss revising the state’s so-called “setback” rules on how far wells must be from buildings.
Late Friday, commission director Matt Lepore emailed stakeholders an early outline of suggested revisions, based on the meetings. But he said there’s much more discussion to come.
The outline represents a starting point for more discussion with parties affected by drilling activities, whether it’s the companies themselves, farmers, homebuilders, environmentalists, mineral rights holders, communities or developers.
It includes the new groundwater sampling proposal but also a proposed requirement for a public hearing and commission approval before wellheads can be placed within 750 feet of schools, hospitals, or other high-occupancy buildings.
It also generally suggests keeping wells at least 350 feet away from other buildings. Wells today must be at least 350 feet from buildings in high-density areas or 150 feet away in rural areas.
“We’ve been pushing for at least 1,000 feet,” said Frank Smith of Western Colorado Congress, which supports environmental stewardship.