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Fort Collins Council Votes To Increase City’s Oil, Gas Well Setbacks

Jim Hill/KUNC
An oil and gas well on the outskirts of Erie, east of Boulder, Colo.

Fort Collins is close to increasing the minimum distance it requires between new developments and oil and gas wells within its borders.

The city council voted on Aug. 21 to change minimum setbacks from homes from 350 feet to 500 feet. It also created a new 1,000-foot buffer for more populated buildings like schools, hospitals, nursing homes and daycare centers.

The rule must now pass through a second reading on Sept. 4 before it can go into effect.

Rebecca Everett, a development review manager for Fort Collins, said the city had 16 active wells and at least 30 abandoned or “orphaned” wells within its growth management area.

All active wells are in a cluster on an undeveloped swath of land northeast of downtown, she added.

“One of the reasons we’re doing this is because we’re starting to experience more development pressure on the areas of our community where we have existing oil and gas operations,” she said.

Everett added that the larger buffer zone brings Fort Collins’ setbacks to a distance that matches state-level regulations of 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from populated buildings.

The new measure also includes a caveat. Developers can apply for a special reduced setback distances of 150 feet around plugged and abandoned wells, but only if it meets a list of environmental safety standards.

Fort Collins’ decision comes as the Colorado Secretary of State’s office is reviewing a question for the November ballot that would increase setbacks for oil and gas companies statewide. Initiative 97, if passed, would increase setbacks for new wells to 2,500 feet from both homes and populated buildings.

I cover a wide range of issues within Colorado’s dynamic economy including energy, labor, housing, beer, marijuana, elections and other general assignment stories.
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