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In this April 22, 2008 file photo, a natural gas well pad sits in front of the Roan Plateau near the Colorado mountain community of Rifle, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
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A Colorado energy-producing county says ‘no thanks’ to bigger drilling buffer

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Some of the most vocal supporters of pending legislation to create extra breathing room between schools and nearby oil and gas operations are those who live in the shadow of the drilling rigs. Yet, not all neighbors of drilling sites see things that way.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports that the county commission in energy-rich Garfield County — site of much oil and gas exploration — passed a resolution this week opposing House Bill 1256, which passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives last week and was just introduced in the GOP-run Senate. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, would increase the distance oil and gas operations must be from schools to at least 1,000 feet from the property line. Currently, they can be as close as 1,000 feet from a school building itself.

The commissioners, siding with the statewide lobbying association for counties, Colorado Counties Inc., said all sides had weighed in on the current rules through a protracted process that shouldn’t now be discarded in favor of arbitrary new standards. As the Daily Sentinel reported, the commissioners said:

…the state’s current setback rules applying to homes, schools and other buildings were the product of a robust Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission rulemaking process that included a lot of stakeholder input. Garfield Commissioner John Martin said Colorado Counties believes changing rules through that regulatory agency is a more manageable process than a change in law, which can be harder to revisit later if needed. A legislative change could take a year, or perhaps years, Martin said. The state Legislature is in session for just part of each year.

The news report also took note of local support for Foote’s bill.

The Grand Valley Citizens Alliance in Garfield County and the Western Colorado Congress say the measure is just a common-sense clarification to assure that schoolchildren are protected from fumes, explosions and other dangers of oil and gas development while on ballfields and playgrounds, not just in classrooms.

“Really a thousand feet is just a block, a city block, so we’re really not asking a lot,” Leslie Robinson of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance told Garfield commissioners Monday.

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