BRIGHTON, Colo -- People crying, yelling and begging. It was all part of the Adams County Commissioners public hearing comments that took place Wednesday evening, over whether to approve a proposed oil and gas site near homes and schools.
It is just the latest example of Front Range communities raising red flags about large-scale oil and gas drilling facilities near their neighborhoods, even though local governments' hands are usually tied.
Dozens of people spoke out, mostly against the proposed Ivey Oil and Gas well pad site, which would include 26 wells near the corner of 152nd and York in Adams County near Thornton.
Despite the opposition, the development was approved 4-1 with more than 23 conditions suggested to mitigate impact to nearby communities.
The site is within about a half-mile of hundreds of homes, and many neighbors expressed concerns about health, safety, property values and traffic impacts.
"Think again about what you’re doing to our neighborhoods," said one neighbor. "A lot of people’s dreams are just going up, hopefully not literally in smoke."
But the operator, Ward Petroleum, has worked with the County and neighborhoods, relocating the site further from homes and agreeing to noise, dust and traffic reduction measures, including adding a turning lane on 152nd.
"I do support their drilling," said Phil Mocon, one neighbor who spoke in favor of the site, which many consider to be responsible energy development. "They have bent over backwards. I think we all need to realize oil and gas is the lifeblood of our economy in this country, like it or not."
Ward Petroleum said that it has no unresolved complaints spanning 350 operated wells, many in populated areas, and pointed out that the relocation exceeds state-mandated setbacks for residences.
The company committed to best management practices and the highest safety standards, including noise levels quieter than state regulations, reduction in truck traffic by using transportation pipelines and leak detection assessment that exceeds state requirements.
The bottom line though, is that the state had already issued permits for the site, so there was little the county could do other than mitigate the impact and listen to people's concerns.
Staff recommended more than 20 conditions for the drilling, and commissioners asked for more during the hearing, including specifying a locked gate and meeting regularly with community members.