Commission Proposes Increased Distance Between Drilling, Homes

Nov 19, 2014

A pump jack sits in front of a house in northern Colorado. An oil rig sits behind it.
Credit Stephanie Joyce

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has proposed increasing the buffer, or “setback,” between oil and gas wells and places like schools, hospitals and homes.

The current setback distance is 350 feet. Under the proposal that would increase to 500 feet. Companies would also have to comply with a new requirement to notify people living within 1000 feet of a well of any planned drilling activity and come up with a plan to mitigate potential impacts.

Landowner groups expressed disappointment with the proposed rule, saying that it doesn't go far enough. “I certainly don’t think they are factoring in the scientific data showing impacts to people’s health and safety and impacts to people’s property value and homeowner insurance,” said Jill Morrison of the Powder River Basin Resource Council. That group had proposed a setback of a quarter mile (1320 feet) and landowner notification before a company is issued a permit to drill.

Oil and Gas Supervisor Mark Watson responded to the criticism by saying that the state has an obligation to minimize waste of oil and gas resources. He said a larger setback would force companies to leave minerals in the ground.

“The average of every state is 500 feet, so you can’t say that we’re any different from any other state," Watson said. "But I think the mitigation and communication is something landowners will appreciate.”

The Commission is taking public comment on the proposal for the next 45 days.