Greeley mayor: Greater oil drilling setbacks will set city back

A proposal by the state of Colorado to expand minimum distances between oil and gas wells and occupied buildings will hurt future land development, Greeley Mayor Tom Norton said Tuesday.

Norton presented the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission with a Greeley City Council resolution that expresses concern with proposed oil and gas setback regulations at a hearing in Denver Tuesday.

The commission approved stricter groundwater regulations Monday. Hearings on setbacks will continue Wednesday.

The state agency has proposed increasing setbacks from 350 feet in urban areas and 150 in rural areas to 500 feet. Producers would not be able to operate within 1,000 feet of buildings such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals without a hearing before the commission.

Greater setbacks would block 25 percent of land in and around Greeley from urban development, according to a statement from the mayor’s office. A total of 1,127 existing and permitted wells lie within the city’s boundaries and its long-range growth area. Approximately 425 of these currently exist within Greeley’s city limits.

A plan to require all landowners’ approval within 500 feet of a proposed well would essentially allow veto power from one person, Norton said.

Prohibition of development within 500 feet of an existing well would have stymied construction of the Leprino Foods cheese processing plant, Norton said.

Increased setbacks would affect the $3.2 million in annual city revenue from oil and gas, and the $900 million of royalties projected over 25 years to Greeley residents and institutions such as the school district, Norton added.

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