The threat of a natural gas drilling operation under Standley Lake and Rocky Flats might have gone away for now, but neighbors of the proposed projects said they're nervous they came up in first …
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The threat of a natural gas drilling operation under Standley Lake and Rocky Flats might have gone away for now, but neighbors of the proposed projects said they're nervous they came up in first place.
“There is still a lot of work to do, and it's important for to gather and learn about what we can do going forward,” environmental group Candelas Glows founder Michelle Gabrielof-Parish told a group of Metro North residents in Westminster Nov. 15.
The community meeting opposed to fracking and drilling at Rocky Flats Nov. 15 drew 61 people — about half from Westminster and Arvada and the rest from Broomfield, Superior and Denver — to Westminster's College Hill Library.
Earlier that day, Highlands Natural Resources announced that they were withdrawing all permits to drill for oil or gas under Rocky Flats. Last week, the company announced a similar decision to at two spots adjacent to Standley Lake, the water supply for 300,000 Metro North residents.
Meeting organzer Gabrielof-Parish announced the company's decision to the meeting and was met by cheers and applause.
“But we need to figure out how to make sure that this sticks,” she said.
The British oil and gas company announced their proposal for 31 wells around the area in October. Westminster City officials learned on Nov. 7 that the area under Standley Lake and the city's Westminster Hills off-leash dog park were included in the plans and began directing public comments to the application site hosted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the group that oversees drilling operation on private and state-owned land.
The company withdrew the Westminster applications on Nov. 8. By the time the commission stopped taking public comments on the Standley Lake permit the morning of Nov. 9, the website had received 1,055 negative posts, urging the commission not to allow the drilling.
By Nov. 15, the company had withdrawn all the permit applications for the remaining 31 locations at the northern end of Indiana Street and State Highway 128, just east of McCaslin Boulevard in Superior.
At the College Hill Library meeting, Mike Leonard, community relations manager for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said the public comments helped sharpen the state's review of the project. Leonard came to the Westminster meeting to explain the commission's review process and then answer questions from residents.
“When people called me up and said `Did you know this location is 240 feet from the drinking water intake?' That's something good to comment,” Leonard said. “We have maps of the area and other things; We would have figured it out eventually. But knowing it up front starts a different conversation.”
Once a drilling company begins the process with the state and the commission allows it to proceed, all decisions are up to staff based rules the the commission set. Completed applications — like Highland's application for Rocky Flats and Standley Lake — are posted to the commission's website. Local governments are supposed to be notified and residents can register their comments.
Three staff groups review each application, Leonard said. An engineering group and a permitting group study a well's impact on the local aquifer and structural integrity. Meanwhile, the Location Assessment group studies the above-ground impact on surface water, open areas and neighboring houses and businesses.
If those groups decide the project meets the commission's criteria, they approve it.
The staff does not have any room to require anything that's not spelled by the commission.
“It's rule based, and we live in a litigious society,” he said. “Our commission can say no.”
Residents can petition the commission to change the rules through a formal process. That's happening now as the commission considers a rule change increasing drilling setbacks around schools.
Companies can appeal staff decisions to the commission if they disagree, which can be the beginning of a long process.
“If our commission makes a ruling that a company doesn't like, they can appeal it to district court,” Leonard said. “And then that gets appealed to the appeals court and that gets appealed to the Supreme Court.”
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