Oil commission to resume setback hearings

DENVER — The state oil commission will pick up deliberations Thursday on new rules that would expand space between homes and oil and natural-gas drilling operations to at least 500 feet.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission gave preliminary approval to the regulations earlier this month. Under that draft:

• Existing setback, or buffer, standards of 150 feet in rural areas and 350 feet in urban areas will be extended to a uniform 500 feet statewide.

• Operators wanting to drill within 1,000 feet of an occupied building would be required to meet new and enhanced measures to limit the disruptions a nearby drill site can create. Those measures include closed-loop drilling that eliminate pits, liner standards to protect against spills, capture of gases to reduce odors and emissions, as well as strict controls on the nuisance impacts of noise, dust and lighting.

• Drilling operations cannot operate within 1,000 feet of buildings housing larger numbers of people, such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals, without a hearing before the commission.

• Operators must engage in expanded notice and outreach efforts with nearby residents and conduct additional engagement with local governments about proposed operations. As part of this, operators proposing drilling within 1,000 feet must meet with anyone within that area who asks.

The hearing begins 8 a.m. Thursday at the Wells Fargo Building in Denver.

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