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Residents can't ignore drilling

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Just for a moment, imagine the first oil and gas wells drilled in Colorado Springs would be 350 feet from The Broadmoor and 350 feet from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. What rules would be put in place to protect these gems in our community?

Those same rules should be adopted to protect the rest of us.

I was an alternate to the City Oil and Gas Committee, which had two objectives: 1) Gather and study information related to oil and gas development, including best practices in Colorado and around the country; and 2) involve the public in discussions about oil and gas development and possible city regulations (springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=4301).

As an alternate, I read committee materials and all the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) regulations, sat with the public at meetings and, like the public, was not allowed to comment. Having attended 11 of the 13 meetings and participated in the field trip to Greeley ("Greeley: Dealing, and thriving, with reality," City Sage, March 22), I suggest the time for public comment is long overdue.

The committee briefed City Council on its work Monday, May 21. The public could be there but was not allowed to speak. The citizens get to speak at a town hall meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 24, at the City Administration Building, 30 S. Nevada Ave., #102, with public input sought on areas the Oil and Gas Committee wants to bring forward to City Council at its June 26 formal meeting.

Our City Council and Mayor Steve Bach face two crucial decisions regarding city oil and gas development. The first is where to allow oil and gas exploration and production. Will they allow it in residential zones and other zones that include residential neighborhoods, such as Mixed Use and Traditional Neighborhood Design areas?

If they decide that residential areas are acceptable places to drill for oil and gas, it will mean that every neighborhood within the city with the requisite open space is a potential drilling site. Whether you live near The Broadmoor, in Rockrimmon, Briargate, Wolf Ranch, Banning Lewis Ranch or any other neighborhood, no place will be off-limits to drilling.

If you think oil and gas drilling is just an east-side issue, think again. If you think your HOA covenants can prohibit drilling under an Oil and Mineral Operations clause, you are wrong.

Second, the City Council and Mayor Bach will decide what, if any, City of Colorado Springs oil and gas rules to adopt. From the PowerPoint slides for the May 21 Council presentation, the Oil and Gas Committee has identified eight areas for potential regulation: "Adherence to the City Pre-Application and Site Plan Process, Water Quality, Impact Fees & Revenue Generation, Land Use Setbacks — Public Notification, High/Low Density Considerations, Zoning Districts, Operational Conflict and Copy of COGCC Approved Permit."

There are numerous other areas the committee eliminated from its list or failed to consider, but they deserve consideration. Four members of the public sent a 22-page matrix with issues and suggestions to the committee, along with a two-page memo, on April 11. On May 15, we sent the entire City Council and the mayor a 26-page document with concerns and suggestions.

Those documents addressed many issues, including open waste pits; local inspectors (COGCC has fewer than 20 inspectors for more than 40,000 wells); waste-disposal practices that currently allow road spreading of some wastes; increased setbacks for wells from structures including homes; special mitigation for noise; air quality monitoring; and COGCC's lack of reporting to the city under a number of circumstances.

If you want to read the COGCC rules (and I hope the City Council and Mayor Bach have done so), go to cogcc.state.co.us and select "Rules," on the left side of the page.

If you have concerns, go to meetings, e-mail every City Council member and the mayor, and talk to officials. If you don't want drilling in our neighborhoods, speak up. If you want adequate local controls on all oil and gas operations that minimize impacts to the community, speak up.

Mary J. Talbott, a Colorado Springs resident and Air Force veteran with a master's degree from the University of Arizona, retired in 2009 from El Paso County Public Health.

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