Wyoming Increases Setback, But Not Far Enough For Landowners

Apr 14, 2015

A drilling site adjacent to Northridge High School, in Greeley, Colorado.
Credit Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

 After months of deliberation, Wyoming has increased the so-called setback distance for oil and gas wells--how far they have to be from occupied structures like houses and schools.

The Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted unanimously and without debate Tuesday to increase the setback from 350 to 500 feet.

In the lead-up to the vote, the state and industry called the increase a compromise, but many landowners argued that 500 feet was not nearly far enough, and asked for a quarter-mile (1320ft) or more. 

Alex Bowler, with the Cheyenne Area Landowners Coalition, said the Commission's final decision prioritizes development over the health and safety of nearby residents.

"We think that Wyoming really had a chance to be a national leader by addressing this in a difference manner and coming to a different conclusion, but they came up short with their decision today,” he said.

In addition to the 500 foot setback, the rule requires companies to notify residents who live within 1000 feet of a well and draft mitigation plans for things like noise, light and dust.

State deputy oil and gas supervisor Tom Kropatsch said those measures will help protect the interests of residents, companies and mineral owners. He said the Commission found no evidence in the public comments submitted for a bigger setback distance. 

“The Oil and Gas Commission concluded there was no definitive data or science with regard to effects on human health,” he said.

The new rules give the Oil and Gas Supervisor final discretion over many aspects of the rule, but Kropatsch said the documents and data used in making decisions would be publicly available, so that all parties could follow the Supervisor's logic. 

The rule now heads to a legal review before it can be filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

You can see the full rule here