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Fracking, Home Construction, Collide In Colorado

February 17th, 2015

The scenic suburbs of Denver have become the site of battles between oil companies and local residents. Oil and gas drillers have found new reserves in the mountain shale deposits, largely thanks to the technique of hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”). Local residents, who have moved to the newer subdivisions just outside the city, are encountering problems with noise, lights and vibrations from the round-the-clock operation of the fracking wells.

Growth Industries In Conflict

The core of the problem lies in a collision between the growth industries of oil exploration and home construction. Landowners in areas that were once sparsely populated sold their mineral rights to oil companies looking to explore the oil-rich Niobrara Shale deposits. As the area’s economy flourished, residents moved into the fast-growing suburbs north of Denver. From 2010 to 2013, six counties in suburban Denver added more than 100,000 residents. At the same time, the state granted almost 5,000 drilling permits in the same area.

Vibrations Shake Homes

Hundreds of residents have complained about the constant noise and vibrations from the drilling rigs. Joe Zintel, 75, told the Denver Post that the drilling rig behind his home gave off noise, lights and vibrations equivalent to “a rock concert light show” at all hours of the day and night. Angela Waldrop, a 38-year-old mother of two daughters, told reporters that the noise was like “a high power generator” and that the vibrations “just never stopped.”

Cities Battle State Over Fracking Bans

The conflict between the oil companies and residents has expanded into a turf war between the state government and local municipalities. Smaller cities, such as Lafayette and Fort Collins, have enacted drilling bans to deal with the complaints of their residents. The state government, and its powerful oil and gas commission, have filed lawsuits claiming that the municipal bans overstep the cities’ authority. Governor John Hickenlooper has appointed a task force to recommend changes to state laws that will resolve the disputes.

Rules Without Enforcement?

A major complaint of both residents and local community leaders is that the state oil and gas commission does little to nothing to penalize violators of its rules. State inspectors examined wells in the Vista Ridge area eight times in the month of December 2014 in response to complaints from residents. Encana Corp., the drilling company that managed the site, was found in violation of the noise limit on at least one occasion.

However, the state did not fine or penalize Encana for the excessive. According to current state law, drilling companies are not penalized if they can show that they are attempting to remedy the situation. Matt Lepore, the executive director of the Colorado’s oil and gas commission, has promised to remedy the situation.

Source: Denver Post

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