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Some Colorado communities fighting oil companies as oil and gas industry begins recovery

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As Colorado’s oil and gas industry begins to recover from one of the hardest downturns in recent memory, some communities have launched fights against proposed projects that they say are larger in scale.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, residents of Garfield County and the cities of Greeley and Broomfield have launched fights against proposed projects.

Residents say there’s something different about the new projects: Drill pads are larger in scale. Whereas companies used to drill two to four wells per pad, technology now allows as many as 40 wells per pad. Since 2012 large facilities – those with eight or more wells - jumped to 43.06 percent, compared to 7.65 percent in 2012.

“I don’t think anything this size belongs with homes around it like this. I mean, that’s just nuts,” Greeley resident Dawn Stein said.

Industry representatives say more wells per pad is a good thing and is the result of a technological advancement known as horizontal drilling. Since pads are becoming more concentrated with wells, that means fewer disturbed acres of wildlife habitat in rural areas, where most wells are located, and more untouched land near urban areas, meaning fewer homes with a well close by.

So far, just a number of large pads have been located inside neighborhoods.

“The minerals are where they are,” said Dan Haley, president and CEO of the industry trade group Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “If we’re in a spot where we can be farther away from a community, we definitely want to do that.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed a task force to address the issue and in Jan. 2016, the state approved rules to implement Task Force Recommendation 17, which adds extra considerations when companies build large facilities inside neighborhoods, but Greeley and a western slope community have said the rule’s vague language and forgiving state and county regulators are giving companies a free pass, while regulators insist that operators are following the rules and that the complaints are from s small group of residents.

They have also said that they have required companies to take measures to cut down on noise, sound and light disturbances and to monitor air and water quality.