Commission to vote in April on proposal to widen minimum space between homes, oil, gas wells

IndustriesAssociated Press

Wyoming oil and gas regulators said Tuesday they will take another month to review public comments before voting on a proposal to increase the minimum distance separating homes from oil and gas wells.

Air pollution, noise and truck traffic have encroached on some neighborhoods along with a recent surge in drilling in eastern Wyoming over the past couple of years. Drilling has decreased so far this year — Wyoming's weekly rig count is down more than 40 percent since January amid a downturn in oil prices — but concerns remain.

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The situation has prompted the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to look at increasing the minimum distance between oil and gas wells and occupied structures to 500 feet from the current 350 feet.

At Tuesday's regular monthly commission meeting, Commissioner Bridget Hill said the panel would review dozens of written public comments on the change before voting on the proposal at its April meeting. The commission moved on to other matters without discussing the proposed setback distance change.

At a public hearing on the issue Monday, petroleum industry officials said wider setbacks increased costs by reducing options for locating oil wells. Industry officials, including John Robitaille with the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, voiced support for the 150-foot increase as not too burdensome, however.

Environmental and landowner groups said the distance should be 1,320 feet, or a quarter of a mile. Some cities in Texas have adopted a 1,500-foot setback without overburdening oil companies, said Jill Morrison with the Powder River Basin Resource Council.

Other states including Colorado also have looked at wider setback distances while techniques including directional drilling have made oil production more feasible near populated areas.

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