Quiet on the Broomfield front: Night work ban could be just a start

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Posted 1/21/20

As I have said before, Broomfield is the poster child when it comes to fracking. The battle over the extraction of oil and gas in the City and County of Broomfield seems like a never ending battle. …

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Quiet on the Broomfield front: Night work ban could be just a start

Posted

As I have said before, Broomfield is the poster child when it comes to fracking.

The battle over the extraction of oil and gas in the City and County of Broomfield seems like a never ending battle. The area is blessed — or cursed, depending on your perspective — with an active set of well site operations which in turn generate public outcry and consternation.

City officials have worked with and fought with Extraction Oil and Gas, Inc. for years. The latest issue which has come to a head has to do with noise mitigation, especially during night time operations.

Noise complaints from drilling soar

In 2019, the city received a total of 299 noise complaints arising from operations near residential communities. Recently, the complaints have intensified with the city receiving 198 noise complaints since December 1. In particular, residents were complaining about the noise impact on their ability to sleep.

According to city staff, “Immediate action is needed to preserve the public peace and to protect the health of residents.”

Governor said “no” and city council takes action

Broomfield officials met with Governor Polis on January 7 seeking state assistance in the fight over noise levels impacting their residents.

To make a long story short, Broomfield had requested:

Reduced operating hours to 7 a.m. to 10 pm; The creation of a rapid response team made up of representatives of Broomfield, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the operator; Collaboration, access and data sharing among this same group; and support for additional resources from appropriate state agencies.

The Guv declined and told them to work out the problem with the oil and gas operator. According to the Broomfield Enterprise, Extraction representatives put up bales of hay in an attempt to reduce the noise level, but otherwise rejected Broomfield’s requested actions.

This response led to the city and county escalating their actions to consider adoption of an emergency ordinance establishing reduced hours of operations from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. if the noise level exceeds specified levels. Keep in mind these limited hours of operation applies to all industrial-type operations located in non-industrial zoned districts and which are outside of a fully enclosed structure — not just oil and gas.

Stage is set for next move by extraction

The 11-member Broomfield City Council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance which sets the stage for Extraction’s response. Enforcement of the provisions of the emergency ordinance could well end up in district court.

Broomfield officials should be commended for their action.

This latest effort by Broomfield to attempt to assist their impacted residents reminds me how fortunate we in Westminster are not to be faced with these issues. Noise levels, air quality issues and drilling operations that make the ground shake simply are not conducive for residents living close by.

It does make me wonder where the City of Westminster stands on the drafting of fracking operations standards to protect its citizens. You will recall there was a scare from a different exploration company when it announced it was planning to drill under Standley Lake. City officials had been caught flat footed and said that new, specific regulations would be developed and enacted.

The last I knew, an attorney who specializes in oil and gas law had been retained. So, where do things stand?

Round #1 on the Pillar Of Fire’s “Farm”

The Uplands development proposal (Pillar of Fire “farm”) received its first “baptism of fire” this past Tuesday evening. The Westminster Planning Commission held a public hearing on just a small portion of the overall 235-acre development proposal.

The requested actions pertained to three amendments to the City’s Comprehensive Plan which would allow an increase in density from 3.5 to 5 dwelling units per acre on Parcel B, change the use from office to 8 dwelling units on Parcel D and convert Parcel E from private park to open space.

The standing room only crowd at Westminster’s Council Chambers was mostly seeking rejection of the proposed changes. Petitions against the development containing an alleged 5,500 signatures from all over the area were submitted which are indicative of an “anti-growth” sentiment which has been bubbling up in various parts of the Denver metro area including Westminster.

Let’s not let this development proposal become the whipping boy for everyone’s frustration, anger and opposition regarding the accelerated rate of growth which is seducing just about every mayor and city council in the Denver metro area.

Action on the Uplands plans should stand on their own two feet. Planning Commission unanimously found the amendments in compliance with city criteria and approved all amendments.

Deja vue with aircraft noise

Do we have another case of Deja vue in the making? Remember Stapleton International Airport and all of the residential development close to the airport? Remember all of the complaints and the years of litigation over the aircraft noise?

Well, the City of Aurora may be going down that same road. While DIA officials have attempted to convince Aurora officials to not allow residential development within a half mile of a planned runway, it seems the city is full speed ahead.

Aurora’s next phase of the High Point at DIA development, which is a 1,152 acre mixed-use community just southwest of the airport, would have hundreds of new homes which would be affected by aircraft noise. You would think that the Stapleton Airport experience of 25-plus years ago would still carry some validity and angst for the Aurora City Council!

Christmas decorations were stellar

Before I forget it, I want to thank and congratulate the area city governments, Hyland Hills Park and Recreation District and the other organizations which made the Christmas holiday season all the “merrier and bright” with the their stellar, sparkling outdoor Christmas decorations. They added a certain magic to the season.

The work of Christmas

Speaking of Christmas, I want to share a sentiment entitled “The Work of Christmas” written by Howard Thurman. It is an outstanding reminder for all of us.

“When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and the princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among brothers and to make music in the heart.”

Amen.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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