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Fracking history flares as Colorado Rep. Foote plans bill to ‘clarify’ setbacks

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Rep. Mike Foote plans to throw the latest punch as early as Tuesday in the ongoing fight over fracking near schools in the northeast metro region.

After courts have upheld existing laws allowing wells to operate within 1,000 feet of schools, home sand other public buildings, Foote wants to “clarify” that that means the property line, not the front door.

The Democratic lawmaker from Lafayette, who also is a deputy Boulder County district attorney, carried legislation last year to give local governments more control over fracking operations. When the bill was voted down, Foote said then that the issue wasn’t going away.

Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Monday afternoon responded to Foote’s latest proposal by citing the layers of government the 1,000-foot setback already has endured, starting with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

“It was only four years ago that the COGCC rulemaking on setbacks more than tripled the distance for operations near high occupancy buildings to 1,000 feet,” he said. “Then, in 2015, the governor’s oil and gas task force debated the issue at length and found further increases to be unnecessary. Nothing has changed since then to merit a new debate.

“In fact, scientific air quality analysis presented in a recent report by the state health department further concluded that operations are well within healthy limits.  Keeping Colorado’s air clean is of utmost importance to all of us, and the science does not justify changing a standard that is achieving that result.”

Told of Haley’s comment, Foote also cited recent history.

“Just six weeks ago a well near Hudson blew out of control for two hours, spewing 28,000 gallons of oil, gas and drilling waste in an area 2,000 feet long and 1,000 feet wide,” Foote said in a text message.

“In 2016, 112 spills occurred within 1,000 feet of an occupied structure.  Does anyone really think we should have these dangerous heavy industrial operations just 1,000 feet away from a school or child care center?”

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