Proposed plans by Extraction Oil and Gas in Broomfield create controversy

BROOMFIELD, Colo. -- Oil and gas wells are popping up in urban developments next to homes, schools playgrounds and ponds.

Extraction Oil and Gas is creating major controversy in northern Colorado and along the Front Range, and is now facing the community.

A town hall meeting Tuesday night in Broomfield is expected to draw hundreds who want to know what could be happening in their backyard.

The homes of Dawn Stein and Lowell Lewis are near the Triple Creek project in Greeley. They are in close proximity to 22 new wells being drilled by Denver-based Extraction Oil and Gas.

Extraction specializes in shoehorning in neighborhoods that sit on top of the Denver-Julesburg basin, a mineral-rich area underlying some of northeast Colorado’s largest cities.

“This could happen in any subdivision, as long as they're 1,000 feet, you know,” Stein said.

Three months ago, a 32-foot wall went up less than 40 feet from her bedroom window.

"They did not tell me they were doing it until it was up,” Stein said.

It was put up as a barrier between her home and the access road Extraction built to get to its 22 wells.

"With this wall, it gets real dark over here and depressing. You feel like you’re closed off from the world,” Stein said.

Her view is blocked, but she said she can feel the hundreds of trucks that go in and out every day.

“When they bring weighted trucks in, you can actually feel it bounce in the house,” Stein said.

Lewis said this will be the new norm for subdivisions like theirs.

“It’s the same process. They are going to squeeze into sites between homes,” Lewis said.

In June, Weld County commissioners approved Extraction’s plans to build up to 24 wells on a pad east of Greeley. Neighbors say it's just 500 feet from an elementary school playground.

“This does not belong in a residential subdivision, it just doesn’t,” Stein said.

In Broomfield, Extraction is fighting to put in 139 new wells on four pads.

“That playground would stay there and that’s where my kids would play,” said a woman who lives about 500 feet from one of the proposed sites.

It’s something Broomfield city county member Kevin Kreeger worries about.

“There’s no way I could support an industrial operation of that size right next to homes,” Kreeger said.

Residents say they want more than reassurance.

“There’s no guarantee their pollution would stay on their pad. It will be in the air we’re breathing,” a resident said.

Extraction said it’s committed to being the safest and most responsible operator, citing its use of electric-powered drilling rigs, quiet completion technology and air quality equipment designed to capture 99 percent of emissions.

The company also said it’s committed to tankless sites, installing a pipeline and spending $4 million on landscaping before operations begin in Broomfield.

But in Greeley, Lewis said the company also promised a pipeline.

“We are still fighting to get back to the point where we were first promised the pipeline by Extraction 2 1/2 years ago,” Lewis said.

So far it hasn’t been built and where there isn’t a pipeline, spills have occurred. There have been eight spills in the past two years, documented at wells in Weld, Adams, Broomfield and Boulder counties.

Extraction hasn’t been fined for those spills but has paid more than $100,000 for regulation violations.

The largest, $62,000, was for failing to install sufficient stormwater and sediment control on wells in Weld County and $27,000 for drilling 11 Weld County wind wells too close to an above-ground utility line.

That $100,000 is a drop in the bucket for Extraction, which in October became the first oil and gas company to go public in more than two years.

The offering raised hundreds of millions of dollars in one day and gives Colorado a new public company worth more than $3 billion.

“They are going to make a ton of money off of it,” Stein said.

She realizes drilling is happening all over Colorado; she just doesn't want the profits coming at such a high price

“I realize I’m only one deaf, disabled old woman, but you know what, my life counts too and it ticks me up that they are able to get away with this and affect so many people’s lives,” she said.

The community meeting in Broomfield is being held at First Bank Center at 6 p.m. A panel of speakers, including representatives from Extraction, will answer questions.