Residents fight multi well sites in city

Greeley Tribune, June 13, 2013 by Analisa Romano

 A group of Greeley and Weld County residents are up in arms over a plan to drill a potentially record number of wells on one pad in south Greeley and on another off of U.S. 85. Mineral Resources Inc., a Greeley-based drilling company, received approval from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to locate 67 wells on a pad behind the 23rd Avenue Wal-Mart and 37 wells near 16th Street and U.S. 85.

 Logan Richardson, president of Mineral Resources, said the company’s permit applications with the city will only be for half that number of wells. Todd Hartman, spokesman for the COGCC, confirmed the site locations have been approved, but each well must be permitted individually, a process which Mineral Resources has not yet gone through.

 Still, Weld Air and Water, a group of about 100 residents that has vocalized concerns over the proposed projects, say the well pads are too close to schools and homes. The south Greeley project is less than 1,000 feet from Frontier Academy Elementary School, and the downtown project less than 500 feet from the nearest home, they say..

 In addition, the projects highlight the need for more stringent emissions standards, said Julie Boyle, a member of Weld Air and Water who lives north of Gill. Boyle said Weld Air and Water wanted to get the word out as soon as possible about an upcoming hearing with the state’s Air Quality Control Commission so that they can participate in the process. The commission will consider new air quality regulations for the oil and gas industry, including standards that require lower emissions, at a hearing on Nov. 21, said Chris Dann, spokesman for the state’s air pollution control division.

 He said the hearing is a product of a series of stakeholder meetings earlier this year for revision suggestions. A request for the rulemaking hearing is set for a meeting in August. Therese Gilbert, another member of Weld Air and Water who lives in Greeley, said she is particularly concerned by ground-level ozone and the portion of pollution here caused by oil and gas activity. She and Boyle said they would like to see more research done on the subject before more drilling is allowed, especially in city limits.

Gordon Pierce, technical services program manager for the Air Pollution Control Division, said in an email that the emissions related to oil and gas development comprise at least 55 percent of the total for the northern Colorado area. But he said it is important to remember that the chemical reaction between oil and gas emissions and emissions from motor vehicles, other industries and sunlight are what create ground-level pollution — not the VOCs from oil and gas activity alone. The ozone monitor in Greeley went into violation of air quality standards in 2012, but air concentrations of VOCs south of the Greeley area (near the Wattenberg Field) have declined over the past several years, he said.

 Richardson said Mineral Resources practices green completion techniques and captures as much flaring gas as possible, which is above and beyond the requirements in a state with the most stringent oil and gas regulations. “We are willing to do whatever the state wants us to do,” Richardson said of possibly more emissions rules. “That is up to them.” In the meantime, he said Mineral Resources has continued to keep an open door policy for anyone with concerns. Despite recent outcries from residents on the company’s proposed sites, Richardson said he still feels Mineral Resources gets a great deal of support from the community.

Richardson said the COGCC applications were for so many wells because the company wasn’t sure whether to drill more vertical or horizontal wells. With plans to drill horizontally, Richardson said there is no need for so many wells. Brad Mueller, Greeley’s director of community development, said both sites will go through the city’s Use by Special Review permitting process. Once a company gets approval from the COGCC, Greeley officials review the site and recommend to the planning commission whether to approve the permit, which holds a public hearing.

 Mueller said the city can also require neighborhood meetings before the hearing goes before the planning commission, which will likely happen in this case. Following a highly contentious appeal of another well site by Mineral Resources near the west Greeley neighborhood of Fox Run, Gilbert said she feels city officials won’t change their attitude about drilling in city limits. That’s why she said it’s important to her that the state implements more stringent emissions rules.

Gilbert said she and the other members of Weld Air and Water understand the importance of oil and gas to Greeley’s and Weld County’s economy. “We get it,” she said. “But you cannot put a price on public health.” Source: Greeley Tribune - Weld residents fight two well site proposals in city

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