JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. – Controversy is once again surrounding Rocky Flats, because an oil and gas company wants to frack near what was once a nuclear weapons plant.
Highlands Natural Resources is applying for up to 31 drilling permits for the land next to Rocky Flats and Standley Lake in Jefferson County.
For decades, Rocky Flats was home to a plant that made nuclear weapons.
In 1989 the federal government raided it, shut it down, cleaned up the area and turned it into a national wildlife refuge.
The Department of Energy has said there’s a small amount of plutonium still buried in an area inside the refuge, but repeated tests show the level of it does not pose a danger to people or animals.
But not everyone agrees.
“I was shocked and in awe,” said Gina Hardin, the president of the environmental group 350 Colorado, when she saw the drilling application. “I couldn’t believe it was true.”
Hardin, and other environmentalists, are concerned that drilling and fracking near Rocky Flats could kick up soil – that they believe – could be contaminated with plutonium and potentially put people at risk.
But Scott Surovchak, the energy department’s Rocky Flats Legacy Site Manager told FOX31 any fracking would be thousands of feet below Rocky Flats.
And right now, it’s not known if Highlands plans to frack the area under the former plant or the refuge.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will have to review the site-specific drilling plans to see if the department has any public health or environmental concerns.
A CDPHE oil and gas liaison told FOX31 the agency does not know if Highlands’ plan is to frack the area underneath the former plant.
Highlands would not say what direction the company hopes to drill and frack, but sent FOX31 a statement that reads, in part:
“Understanding the sensitivities and public concern with oil and gas development around the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, Highlands carefully reviewed and surveyed the area and intentionally located proposed oil and gas locations outside the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge boundaries.”
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has not reviewed Highlands’ applications, but sent a statement that said:
“COGCC recently received these spacing and permit applications. Because we haven’t had a chance to review the applications, any comment would be premature.”