- Associated Press - Saturday, July 19, 2014

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) - A group of Frontier Academy parents who fought in the spring to stop a proposed drilling site near the school’s elementary location are back at it after a new application for a drilling permit on the same site was filed with the state.

The company behind the drilling says its doing everything it can to accommodate those parents.

“In an effort to be neighborly and because it was possible to do at this location, we accommodated the request to increase the setback distance to 1,000 feet,” said Logan Richardson, vice president of Mineral Resources in charge of land and business development.

“Consistent with the original application, we will install temporary 32-foot walls around the site during construction to reduce sound and all workers will enter the property off of 29th Street from 35th Avenue and will not drive near Frontier Academy. In addition to increasing the setback distance, our application continues to place a premium on safety and environmental protection beyond state standards which standards are likely the toughest anywhere in the nation.”

But the group circulating an email asking residents to comment against the proposed South Greeley Directional application says it’s still too much.

“The Frontier Parent Group plans to stay involved throughout the process and have reviewed the new proposal,” said Trisha Golding, a parent with the group. “We continue our stance that this is not an appropriate location for this large industrial site.”

In April, Mineral Resources pulled its original application, although it was expected to get approval from the Greeley Planning Commission to place 19 wells, 19 separators and 24 tanks on a new well pad about 500 feet from Frontier’s playground property line and 800 feet from the school building.

New drilling setback rules set by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission last year require operators to seek permission from the COGCC if they want to drill within 1,000 feet of a school. Mineral Resources received initial approval for the site before the rules took effect last August but pulled the permit after the group argued parents at the school were not notified properly and were concerned over the proximity to the school.

At that time, Tyler Richardson, vice president in charge of real estate for Mineral Resources, said despite already having approval from the state, his company would look at the proposal and see if another configuration was possible.

The new application is for 19 wells and 20 tanks 1,512 feet away from the school and more than 1,000 feet away from the playground. The application, which was filed in June, has a target date for approval and permitting by the state of Sept. 1. It is in the public feedback phase. All comments must be received by the COGCC by July 28 to be considered.

The informational flier attached to the email cites health, safety, traffic and noise concerns. The group issued a statement that summarizes their concerns.

“City Code states that a business should not be detrimental to the health and safety of the community,” the statement says. “In the last six months, there have been at least six oil and gas related fires, explosions and/or blowouts in Weld County. This raises concern for the health and safety of our children, neighboring businesses and homes.”

Despite no general consensus that drilling causes increased health risks, the group also points to concerns over the long-term health effects from vapors.

“Children spend hours at their school each day trying to learn and enrich their lives,” the statement says. “They work to diligently focus, study, and read in an environment that should be free of distraction and extreme noise. They should be able to run in playgrounds without the worry of harming their health from toxic emissions and (volatile organic compounds). They want to feel safe without adding an additional oil explosion/emergency evacuation drill to the multiple ones they already have to practice.”

Logan said nearly all land use applications have opponents. His company is not expecting anything different for this application, adding that while some try to tell a negative story of the oil and gas industry, Greeley has been supportive.

“Greeley, for good reasons, overwhelmingly supports oil and gas development,” Logan said. “We are proud that we have earned the trust of our hometown and we understand the responsibility we have to honor its residents including the thousands of Greeley mineral owners who have entrusted us to safely develop their property rights.”

Brad Mueller, Greeley’s community development director, said it would be September or October before the city would hold a hearing on it. He said he doesn’t know whether this application would get a recommendation from his office to city planners, but added the new setbacks are much farther than previously planned and, all other things being equal, it was possible.

“We can’t be sure if (the planning commission) will approve it until it goes to a hearing, and that didn’t happen last time,” Mueller said. “But if it looks very similar to the last one, that one met the codes.”


Information from: The Tribune of Greeley, Co, https://greeleytribune.com

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