Bill to move O&G farther from schools passes |

Bill to move O&G farther from schools passes

Western Colorado Congress community organizer Emily Hornback stands 1,000 feet away from an URSA well pad to give an example of the distance they are asking for in House Bill 1256.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

Community organizations such as Western Colorado Congress and the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance rejoiced Wednesday as the Colorado House approved a bill to impose stricter guidelines regarding the distance oil and gas operations can be from schools.

House Bill 1256, which now moves to the state Senate, passed 37-28, with Democratic representatives providing the support.

“Our members in Parachute thank the representatives who voted for this common-sense bill to protect our kids’ health and safety,” said Leslie Robinson, chair of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance.

The bill, proposed by Longmont Democrat Mike Foote, would ensure that the required 1,000-foot setback is measured from the school’s property line, not the school building.

During the bill hearing, Foote displayed a photo of Northridge High School in Greeley. In the photo, oil and gas operations could be seen just outside the school’s football field.

“You see a drill rig that is a mere 100 feet from the property line. It’s about 1,300 feet though from the door of the school, so it is within the current rules we have,” he said. “These are issues that we need to address because we see that the rules really aren’t working as they should.”

The vote came a week after Western Colorado Congress and Grand Valley Citizens Alliance invited media to visit a proposed natural gas well pad in Battlement Mesa to see its proximity to the nearby Grand Valley High School. The proposed well pad is one of five in the state that would have to be pushed back if the bill were to pass, according to WCC organizer Emily Hornback.

“Western Slope parents and landowners alike applaud the passage of HB 1256 in the House,” she said. “This is a common-sense bill that will ensure protections are applied uniformly across the state. We now call on our Western Slope Senators to support HB 1256 in the Senate.”

Though the bill made it through the House, it has been met with harsh criticism from those industry supporters who feel it unfairly regulates oil and gas operations in Colorado.

“We have the most strictly regulated oil and gas profession in the country and yet this bill wants to assert new regulations on the industry,” House assistant minority leader Cole Wist said at the hearing.

In a letter sent to the Western Slope Delegation and stakeholders, West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Associate Executive Director David Ludlam called the rhetoric and WCC and GVCA’s campaign-syle flyers “political theater.”

“Exploitation of schools for political gain is different than actually working constructively to safeguard them,” he said after Wednesday’s vote. “And you can see from our members’ recent efforts with Grand Valley High School that we focus on the latter. Recent collaborations between our members and local educators show we care about safeguarding people and working with them to create safe operations.”

While the bill passed through the House, it may face a tougher road ahead as it goes to the Republican-controlled Senate.

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