On the first day of the COGCC July Hearings, the Commissioners voted 6-3 to grant a petition put forth by the League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans (LOGIC) at the end of 2017 to have the COGCC engage in rulemaking regarding its 1000 foot setback rule from schools. Currently, this distance can be measured from the door of a school building but LOGIC proposed that the 1000 foot setback should be measured from the school perimeter, including outdoor activity areas and modular units. The COGCC rulemaking process will seek input from many stakeholders and usually takes about 6- 9 months. During the hearing, COGCC Director Julie Murphy recognized that the measurement of school setbacks was a “passionate issue” for the public.
Testifying on behalf of the school setback rulemaking petition were LOGIC Director Sara Loflin, Adams County School Board Member Laura Mitchell, Colorado Association of School Boards Director of Public Policy & Advocacy Matt Cook and LOGIC Attorney Matt Samuelson. Ms. Mitchell argued that it was the duty of the school district to protect the health and safety of all students and that was just as important during their outdoor activities as in the school building.
In general public comments that concluded prior to the hearing on the rulemaking petition, Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) Director of Communications and Public Affairs Scott Prestidge stated that schools could use existing COGCC rules to apply for school grounds to be considered as Designated Outdoor Activity Areas (DOAAs) which would lead to greater setbacks. When a few commissioners brought this idea forward during the rulemaking petition hearing, COGCC Director Julie Murphy pointed out that there was currently no mechanism in the rules to require that an operator notify a school about a proposed oil and gas development nearby to alert them to apply for DOAA status. Commissioner Ager stated that the burden of applying for a DOAA designation should not fall on a school district.
Commissioner Overturf said that she supported LOGIC’s petition and that the “presumption should fall in favor of the 1000 foot setback from schools.” In order to secure votes to move the rulemaking forward, Commissioner Overturf put forth a motion to grant a petition for rulemaking to consider LOGIC’s proposal and other alternatives, including expansion of the DOAA designation and any other rules that the COGCC Staff would need to have included.
Previous attempts to pass related 2018 legislation were successful in the House and died in the Senate. HB 18-1352 was sponsored by Rep. Mike Foote, Rep. Matt Gray, Sen. Matt Jones and Sen. Irene Aguilar.
You can also see coverage of the school setback petition hearing on Fox Denver 31 by Joe St. George https://kdvr.com/2018/07/30/how-close-should-drilling-be-to-schools-state-taking-closer-look/