Weld County says it will defy state’s new oil drilling buffer rules

Weld County commissioners on Wednesday demanded that Colorado regulators withdraw their decision to increase distances between oil and natural-gas drilling activity and buildings, and said they would disregard the state’s new rules.

Commissioners have “no intention of changing Weld County’s setbacks,” according to a resolution that commissioners passed at their meeting.

Commissioners criticized recent rulemaking by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

“The process we witnessed last week at the hearings was government at its worst,” Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said. “To rush this rule change through in the manner they did, without allowing the public to view and analyze the language and the impacts of the change, is irresponsible.”

County and municipal governments as well as oil and gas companies worked together for decades to develop Weld’s setback regulations, said Commissioner Douglas Rademacher.

“The proposed change, which is not based on science, will have a substantial negative impact on our farmers, our ranchers, our schools, our fire districts,” Rademacher said.

The state oil and gas commission gave preliminary approval to increased setbacks of a uniform 500 feet statewide, up from 150 feet in rural areas and 350 feet in urban areas.

Additionally, drilling activity cannot take place within 1,000 feet of buildings housing larger numbers of people, such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals, without a hearing before the commission.

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