How close is too close?
Nov 13, 2018 | 3139 views | 0 0 comments | 564 564 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by Ryan Mitchel Collins

Some of our readers may have read Jame Ogle’s letter to the editor in the paper last week and noticed the BLM public comment period article on the next page.

In Mr. Ogle’s letter to the editor, he poses the question of how close is too close? He also describes the black eye and potential poor image a new oil well in the Wilson Arch area would create.

Upon visiting the area and talking with a few residents myself, I learned the proposed well would, in reality, be 300 feet from one resident’s house, according to him.

The man also described the personal investment he has put into his property over the years, and it seemed to me the main concern centered around water contamination.

It’s my understanding there have been many rigs in that area in the past and that was expressed at the County Commission meeting last week. It was also stated in the commission meeting that there have been lots of phone calls received by the county from concerned citizens of the area, one of them a former tourism director.

Upon talking with the BLM on the subject, it was interesting to find out their point of view on the well. According to Lisa Bryant, the BLM has done their due diligence on the subject and is seeking the public’s input on the well in order to get a better understanding of resident concerns in addition to implementing some of those suggestions.

Most I had the opportunity to speak with were not presently at the resort community and were either on vacation or were unable to meet in person.

There was a decent amount of misinformation that seemed to be floating around between residents and the media. I was told via a press release that the well is, in actuality, 1,700 feet from the nearest residence.

Between Mr. Ogle’s distance of 2,200 feet and one resident’s claim of 300 feet, I was confused at the actual distance for the proposed well. It also dawned on me that the well is not there yet, and it is early in the process. Even if a well goes in, there’s no gurantee it will produce and remain.

If residents are truly as concerned about the prospect of having an oil well as a neighbor, then they absolutely need to submit their concerns to the BLM and be active in the process.

But, if the well does produce and it stays there for the foreseeable future, then there is a legitimate question at stake here and that is how close is too close?

It’s a simple question in theory, but one that has the dependent factor of whose house it is close to in the first place. If it is not my house, then the distance may be altogether different.

For example, if it is my house, then a half mile is too close. But if it is someone’s else’s house, then they are welcome to have it 300 feet from their residence if they don’t mind.

It’s their property, and it should be their choice, or at least there should be some kind of systematic approach to this question.

Colorado just attempted to pass a proposition that required all wells to be 2,500 feet away from any residence, but the residents of that state unilaterally rejected that proposition.

Currently, there is no regulated distance for a rig from a household. That isn’t to say it isn’t a good idea to have a commonly held distance.

Mr. Ogle, in his letter last week, brings up a very valid point of the black eye this rig may bring to the location. However, it is important to point out the fact that nobody would see the location if it wasn’t for the convenience of the highway that runs right next to the arch.

It’s also important to point out that nobody could run on that highway (unless you prefer a peddle bike as your main mode of transportation) if it wasn’t for gasoline derived from petroleum, which is what they are drilling for there.

It’s even easier to say no houses would be there if it wasn’t for that black stuff they are wanting to drill in the location.

It’s also very easy to see both sides of the debate on this one, but I can say there are some reasons for concern if you believe a rig threatens your water and everything you worked for in a lifetime. I don’t know a single sane person that wouldn’t have concerns about possible negatives near their resort community.

It seemed to me that nobody hates oil and gas production in the community, they just want to ensure that everything is done properly and responsibly. I even had one resident tell me it was the haste and need to turn profits quickly that concerned him. That it was when corners are cut that the real problems are created.

What needs to happen in this circumstance is there absolutely needs to be clear open communication between the BLM and the residents now, during, and after drilling and construction. It appears that is the case as the open comment period is having the intended affect.

Operators (in this case Wesco) must be held to their conditional use permits regulating smells or other problems such as noise, and that means really holding them to the terms, not halfway or not at all.

There also needs to be actual consideration of input by the BLM, not just lip service that they will listen when the rig is already approved and will go in regardless of what any residents might have to say on the matter.

This, after all, is just my opinion, like our readers have their opinions and it must be remembered that I don’t have any skin in the game here. So unlike the residents that live nearby, Wesco, or the BLM, I don’t have a horse in this race.
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