Denying project in west Greeley smacks of favoritism
The Triple Creek Directional project was the first multi-well oil and gas project denied by the Greeley Planning Commission in recent memory. We have no idea why. What was it about this project that made it so offensive to those on the planning commission? Well, we have a pretty good idea, and it’s an idea that leaves us disturbed.
But let’s take another look at the project first. The facility would be on a 69-acre piece of property surrounded by nine existing well sites. The setbacks would be 1,000 feet, twice the minimum distance required by the state. The company planned to use electric drilling rigs, which eliminate the loud noises that come from the diesel engines of other drilling rigs. The company hoped to put up berms and a sound wall while the wells were drilled and employ a new tool that would help suck up emissions.
We see nothing wrong with the project there. Maybe it’s the fact the project would be near a residential neighborhood.
Oil and gas facilities have no place near residences, right? Well, actually, in 2013, the commission approved up to 18 wells and 20 tanks near Northridge High School. Another one features 40 wells near 35th Avenue and 4th Street, a location in the heart of residential neighborhoods. In 2014, the commission approved 58 wells on an existing pad near U.S. 85 and U.S. 34, even with neighbors complaining about the pad being too close to a new school and a new subdivision.
OK, so maybe it’s that this is a new thing to Greeley, and we just haven’t grown used to seeing oil and gas wells. We hope you’re laughing at that last argument. Yes, Greeley is an oil and gas town, just like the county where it sits.
There are around 450 wells throughout Greeley. That’s why we have such a problem with the planning commission rejecting this site.
Extraction Oil and Gas went well beyond what we’d call reasonable measures to appease the residents who were understandably concerned about their homes. And yet the commission rejected it anyway. Why?
Well, we can’t find a reason, save for two speculations that leave us troubled. The first is the fact
100 people showed up to squawk about it
and the second is the fact this facility is in an area full of middle-to-upper-class homes. It’s a much nicer area, or at least a richer one, than the site off 11th Avenue near Island Grove Regional Park, where 22 wells were approved in 2011, or the 58 wells near U.S. 85 and U.S. 34. Check out the comments of Planning Commissioner Eddie Mirick, who seems to be making our argument for us, even while he rejected the site.
“It would be very detrimental to the community in and around the area, who have lived there a long time, enjoy their homes and environment, and contribute greatly to the city and have for years in many ways.”
So these people apparently don’t deserve to have wells near their homes because they contribute greatly to the city. So apparently people who contribute greatly to the city, financially or otherwise, should get more of a say about what goes near their homes.
We disagree. Greeley is an oil and gas town. We’ve enjoyed millions in tax dollars from the boom. There’s already several precedents. Therefore, if a company turns in a good proposal for oil wells, one that goes well beyond the state’s requirements to make life easier on the residents,
the commission should approve it, regardless of the influential people who live nearby.
Otherwise we’re inconsistent, and that’s dangerous.
Inconsistencies encourage homeowners to file lawsuits and inspire hard feelings, and they tend to hurt people with lower incomes the most, because they don’t have the financial resources or the back-slapping connections to shoo away things they don’t want near their home.
The planning commissioners seem to be playing favorites here. We almost hope Extraction will appeal the decision to the Greeley City Council, where the constant threat of being voted out of office helps keep them focused on the whole city, not just those who want special treatment.
— The Tribune Editorial Board