Residents form action group as oil drilling moves into their backyards

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THORNTON, Colo. -- Oil development is creeping into more Colorado communities and Thornton is just the latest to see big oil on its doorstep.

Synergy Resource Corp. plans to drill 15 to 20 oil and gas wells in the Wadley Farms Subdivision in 2017, just beyond the backyards of several residents.

Jerry Nelson is one of the many residents who is concerned.

“It is absolutely my worst nightmare to have that for a neighbor,” Nelson said.

Nelson has special-needs children. He’s worried about the impact the noise from the drill site will have. He’s also worried about air quality. Other residents such as Jacky Kowalsky are worried about traffic and water quality.

“You put in 20 wells, we’re all panicked about our water quality,” Kowalsky said.

There are currently no laws on the books to prevent companies such as Synergy from drilling in communities, so long as the pad itself is 500 feet away from homes.

That’s something residents hope the legislature addresses. They’ve created an action group called Adams County Communities for Drilling Accountability Now to address concerns and try and bring about change.

“If this were to be drilled we would drill as though we were living in the homes most impacted. We’re being very open. We’re not trying to be big bad oil and bully our way in there,” said Craig Rasmuson, Synergy’s chief operation officer.

“It's the ‘NIMBY’, not in my backyard. If we move it to somewhere else we're going to impact someone else's backyard."

Rasmuson also said those impacts are minimal. The oil in Thornton will be piped from the site, meaning little to no truck traffic. A sound barrier and berms will also built around the drill pad. The company is also looking at alternative sites, but said there’s a reason they selected the site they did.

“It’s the orientation of the wells. You want to intersect the natural fractures in those units in a certain way and we’re drilling north to south looking at others that have been drilled in that general area and we have had great success drilling them north to south,” Rasmuson said.

However, residents like Nelson aren't buying it.

"It doesn't fit. It's a no-brainer," he said.

“It is precedent setting and the rest of the front range of Colorado needs to be aware this could happen in their neighborhood,” Kowalsky added.