Greeley City Council overturns planning commission, backs 22-well facility

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GREELEY, Colo. -- A Colorado community that has long welcomed oil and gas development is blocking a proposal to drill more wells within city limits. But the oil company isn't going down without a fight.

Denver-based Extraction Oil and Gas wants to drill 22 new wells in west Greeley. The site is surrounded by homes on three sides.

In January, the Greeley Planning Commission denied the project by a 6-0 vote after residents raised numerous concerns about the impacts on the neighborhood.

On Tuesday night, Extraction Oil and Gas appealed that ruling before the full Greeley City Council and a crowd of about 300 people attended the meeting.

After six hours of testimony, the council voted, 5-2, to overturn the planning commission and will allow a 22-well oil and gas facility.

 

Similar conflicts are popping up in communities in Colorado as communities try to determine how to deal with oil development as it encroaches on residential neighborhoods.

"Cities like Longmont are saying no to all drilling. Cities like Fort Collins have a five-year moratorium. Greeley is welcoming it," said Lowell Lewis, one of the homeowners who would be impacted by the project.

Lewis said he is most concerned about the added traffic the project would bring to his neighborhood, especially with a school nearby. He's also concerned about the environment and health risks drill sites pose.

"The quality of the air and water. The potential for explosions. The drop in real estate values is a real concern," he said.

Supporters also turned up for the meeting in large numbers. They applauded the company's efforts to mitigate the impacts of the drilling.

Extraction Oil and Gas plans to use only electric drilling rigs, eliminating much of the noise most drill sites emit. The company also plans to drill 1,000 feet from any homes, twice as much as required under state law.

Supporters also cited the economic benefits that oil and gas bring to Weld County.

"We have over 100,000 residents in Greeley and it's the oil and gas industry that puts food on the tables of most," Sandra Marino Meyer said.

But homeowners like Lewis weren't convinced, worried about how the project just beyond his backyard will impact his life and also his neighbors.

"Of course, it's going to be an eye sore. Look at all these decks along these homes. BBQ's are not going to be the same anymore," he said. "But we're most worried about all the traffic."

Three new initiatives being proposed at the state level could mean more regulations for oil companies hoping to drill in Colorado communities. Among them, a proposal to prohibit drilling within 2,500 feet from buildings or environmentally sensitive areas. Right now regulations prohibit drilling within 500 feet.

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