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Tracee Bentley's Testimony Before Senate On Location of Oil & Gas Facilities near Schools

As Prepared for Delivery

Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee Testimony
Regarding HB17-1256
Presented By:
Tracee Bentley, Executive Director Colorado Petroleum Council
April 12, 2017

Thank you, Mr Chair, Members of the Committee. My name is Tracee Bentley, and I am the Executive Director of the Colorado Petroleum Council. CPC is a division of the American Petroleum Institute (“API”), which represents members operating in all segments of the oil and natural gas industry. API/ CPC’s mission is to promote safety across the industry, and to support the responsible development of the Colorado’s oil and natural gas resources. I appreciate the opportunity to testify on HB 1256.

We believe that the current setback established just four years ago by the COGCC – with extensive stakeholder involvement – is working well, and avoids some of the pitfalls this bill would create. Therefore, we strongly encourage the committee to entrust the COGCC – and CDPHE – with the responsibility for balancing protection of human health and the environment with development of the state’s oil and gas resources. My colleague, Jill Fulcher, will explain those setbacks and the COGCC process.

Let me explain why we oppose this bill. First, in the current regulations the default setback is 1,000 feet from school buildings, but an operator can request a variance if the conditions warrant. If the Commission were to grant such a variance it would be accompanied by mandatory mitigation measures for the well site. This bill would take the existing default setback of 1,000 feet from school buildings, and make it mandatory – with no ability for the COGCC to make adjustments in those cases where that might be necessary. That is a big change in and of itself.

Second, it would measure the setback distance not from the school, but from the edge of the school property.

We looked at the school property sizes in Weld County, just to give us an idea. We chose Weld because that is where 90% of Colorado’s oil is produced, along with 35% of Colorado’s gas. In Weld County, there are 86 school properties, and 35 of them are 10 acres or larger (including 17 that are 20 acres or larger). Based on the large sizes of school properties and number of schools in Weld County alone, you can see the significant impact this bill will have on oil and natural gas development.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that by prohibiting oil and natural gas development 1,000 feet from a school property line, the bill would consequently be pushing oil and gas development towards other building units or land uses. For example, if the bill is passed, an operator may be forced to locate its wells closer to a subdivision or open space in order to stay 1,000 feet from the edge of a school’s property line---even if the school’s facilities are only periodically used. By keeping well site location decisions in the capable hands of the COGCC, we can avoid this type of negative consequence.

As I mentioned just a minute ago, this bill would substantially increase the acreage in Colorado that would become off limits to location of wells and production facilities, and could have substantial negative impacts by taking discretion away from the COGCC.

Now I would like to turn it over to Jill Fulcher, CPC’s outside consultant.

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