Activists concerned about downtown Greeley wells

GREELEY – Activists say they are concerned about a group of 37 wells planned by Mineral Resources Inc. on five acres in a downtown Greeley neighborhood.

Activist group Weld Air and Water, an outspoken group fighting oil and gas development in Greeley, is opposing the wells planned near the intersection of 16th Street and 3rd Avenue because of their proximity to residential area, including an apartment complex 350 feet away, A&R Rentals.

A&R Rentals owner Gary Arndt said he isn’t concerned.

“It’s far enough away that it doesn’t affect me at all,” Arndt said.

Weld Air and Water contends the wells would be located 1,300 feet from a mobile home park, 640 feet from University of Northern Colorado family housing and 2,000 feet from UNC’s campus. The activist group says it has concerns about noise, fumes and truck traffic as well as explosions and fires that can occur at well sites.

“If there were a fire at this location it could be catastrophic,” said Weld Air and Water member Wendy Highby, who lives 13 blocks from the proposed well site.  
Arlo Richardson, president of Mineral Resources, declined to comment.

The activists say they are informing residents in the neighborhood about the wells and making sure they have the opportunity to comment on the proposal to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

The state agency “is supposed to be watching out for the health, welfare and safety of the residents of Colorado,” said Carl Erickson, chairman of Weld Air and Water. “But they’re still a very pro-industry group: It’s drill and drill wherever you can.”

The state agency in May last year approved the location of the wells before regulators approved new buffers of 500 feet between buildings and wells, said Todd Hartman, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the state oil commission. Hartman noted that Mineral Resources had worked with the city of Greeley and the state agency on the wells since 2011, when a 350-foot setback was allowed in highly populated areas.

“Additionally, the operator received waivers from some building/property owners as part of its effort to develop this location, which is why some of the buildings are within 350 feet,” Hartman said.

Mineral Resources is now seeking drilling permits for the location. Regulators plan to require the company to take steps to reduce impacts from noise, dust, light and other issues, he added. The city of Greeley also had asked for an extension of the public comment period as part of the state agency’s rules, allowing for additional citizen input on the proposal.
Along with approval from the state, the city must agree to Mineral Resources’ proposal before the company can move forward.

Mineral Resources’ use-by-special-review application had not met requirements when the city last reviewed the company’s proposal in December, said Brad Mueller, city of Greeley community development director. The company could win approval if it makes changes to its proposal.