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Cheyenne Residents Question Proximity, Impact Of Proposed Oil And Gas Development

Samson's approved drilling and spacing units near Cheyenne
Wayne Lax

Cheyenne homeowners are raising concerns about a proposed oil and gas development that would drill close to the city.

Samson Energy Company acquired land this month where it hopes to drill 10 to 15 wells starting as soon as April of next year.
According to the company, the closest development would be within 1,000 feet of someone's home. Wyoming mandates that development occur at least 500 feet from an "occupied structure" or residence.

But Wayne Lax, Vice President of the Cheyenne Area Landowner's Coalition, said he and residents he's heard from are still concerned about the potential health and safety impacts.

"You've got the health studies that have just come out of Colorado that mentioned anyone within 2000 feet of these things has greatly increased dangers of getting health risks. You've also got studies coming out of Colorado that talk about property values and how living close to these developments does adversely hurt your property values," Lax said.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released a report this October that found people living within 2,000 feet of fracking sites could face elevated risk of short-term health impacts including nosebleeds, headaches, and dizziness.

"At some point, common sense needs to take over and large, dangerous industrial developments just weren't meant to go into this densely populated a residential area," said Lax.

Steve Trujillo, the public information officer for Samson Energy Company, said it does not plan to drill right nearby anyone's homes and that it would never place a location in an unsafe area. He said the company's drilling would occur well beyond Wyoming's minimum mandate of 500 feet, in addition to two miles below the ground.

He said the company already has several developments around Laramie County at a similar distance to residences and that they did not prompt a similar response.

Trujillo said less people will see or feel the development than it may have seemed by the volume of legal notices. He said Samson had to send notifications to anyone who lived within or overlapped with the recently acquired drilling and spacing units. That amounted to about 2,000 people. But he said the wells would touch only a fraction of that.

Even so, Wayne Lax said this level of development close to this densely populated an area is unprecedented and that his organization would like to see the plan stopped for the sake of health and safety.

Trujillo said Samson has already held community outreach meetings and plans to have more. It's required to hold one if a home is within 1,000 feet of a well.

The company is looking to get its applications for permits to drill by January or February. While it's number of wells will likely be higher next year than this one, Trujillo said it's about maintaining production, not increasing it.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Cooper McKim, at cmckim5@uwyo.edu.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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