Letter, Feb. 20, 2014
Date posted: February 20, 2014
Increased setback rules for energy rigs needed
Re: New wells in state
I believe there is an urgent need for the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission to take action on the citizen rule making petition submitted by Powder River Basin Resource Council on behalf of citizens from across the state that calls for increased setback distances for oil and gas drilling rigs from homes, schools and businesses. The current regulations allow an oil and gas well to be drilled only 350 feet from your home, school or business. The citizen petition calls for a new increased setback distance of 1,320 feet (¼ mile). I believe even this is too close and here is why.
Aided by the legal doctrine of split estates that allows one party to own mineral rights and someone else to hold the rights to soil and surface, and the 350 foot setback rule, the oil and gas industry is showing little restraint in where they drill. Citizens must confront the daunting impacts with almost no regulatory or legal precedents to protect them from having industrial activity in their back yards. Drill rigs, open pit containment ponds, increased truck traffic, toxic chemicals, all-night lights, round-the-clock operations, noise pollution, heavy equipment, noxious air emissions, flaring of excess gas from wells, surface and groundwater contamination, not to mention a general decrease of ground water supplies, are some of the liabilities for landowners.
The financial risks posed by drilling are real and substantial. Banks and insurers are adopting guidelines that forbid mortgage loans or insurance coverage on properties affected by drilling.
Researchers found that oil and gas production “significantly affect the sale price for rural properties. Oil and gas wells and other structures in nearby lots can significantly degrade a property’s value.
Medical bills and vet bills often increase when family members and their livestock get sick from chemical spills, contaminated water and air pollution from constant truck traffic.
There are over 5,000 new oil and gas wells planned just in Converse County and more drilling rigs proposed in Campbell, Johnson and Laramie Counties, and in other areas around the state. It is essential that Wyoming protect the health and safety of its citizens and their property values by increasing setback distances from oil and gas wells.
I wouldn’t want any oil and gas drilling site to be within five miles of my backyard, or that of my neighbors.