Commissioner Sean Conway gets it wrong on new drilling setback rules

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway made a blatantly false claim in a 9News Denver story that ran Thursday evening. In an effort to push back on the state’s efforts to provide “setback” protections for local homeowners near drilling and fracking sites, Conway claimed that new requirements increasing minimum setbacks would have prevented a cheese factory from opening in Greeley.

A little background: The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) has preliminarily agreed to increase the minimum distance between an active drilling operation and an occupied building to 500 ft. Conservation groups have urged the commission to go beyond this.

Yesterday, Mr. Conway wrongly stated that the new setback rules would have prevented the Leprino Cheese Plant from opening in Greeley because of three existing wells on the property. This is blatantly untrue.

The law allows new construction to proceed within 500 ft. of existing or proposed oil and gas development with an agreement between the landowner and the mineral owner.

Here are the relevant portions of the new rule:

604.a.1: …No Well or Production Facility shall be located five hundred (500) feet or less from a Building Unit except as provided in Rules 604.a.(1) A and B, and 604.b.

604.b.2: A Surface Owner and mineral owner or lessee may agree to locate future Building Units closer to existing or proposed Oil and Gas Locations than otherwise allowed under Rule 604.a…. [ Read the full rule]

There is a question whether 500 ft. is enough to keep residents safe from the effects of drilling operations, but that’s another discussion. To ensure Colorado is embracing a truly balanced approach to energy development, we need to guarantee that our elected officials make accurate statements.

Commissioner Conway either didn’t read the new rule before giving his sound bites, he didn’t understand the rule – in which case he probably shouldn’t pretend to be an authority on it – or he was simply looking to create a false example regardless of the truth.