Addressing an ongoing controversy, members of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission are expected to vote next week on new rules that will limit the amount of land that can be used for oil and gas exploration.
The commission has already approved a 2,000-foot setback between any drilling and a residential dwelling, while also taking into consideration the proximity of communities that have been historically impacted by past drilling activity.
Those communities include Native American, minority, and low-income neighborhoods where drilling may have taken place.
Now members of the commission are expected to decide on a proposal that will additionally ban drilling activity within 500 feet or more of riparian areas, up from the current 300 feet.
In 2018 Colorado voters rejected a state proposition that would have increased by 2,000 additional feet the then existing 500-foot drilling setback.
But last year Colorado lawmakers approved a bill changing the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation from one of basically promoting drilling, to one that looks at such activity more critically.
The change of the commission’s purpose has been met with criticism by the state’s oil and gas drillers, as well as the Denver-based Common Sense Institute which recently claimed that such proposed setbacks, or buffer zones, could eliminate up to $2 billion in drilling, costing the state and local governments $130 million in tax revenue.
Last year, Colorado was the fifth largest oil-producing state in the country at 187 million barrels per year, behind New Mexico’s 339 million and Texas’ 1.8 billion barrels.
By Garry Boulard
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