Regulators hear from critics

DENVER – Colorado drilling regulators got an earful Wednesday from critics who want more say in how natural gas and oil can be drilled in their jurisdictions.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was meeting to consider expanded rules for sampling and monitoring of groundwater near new wells. The commission also was looking at tougher rules for how close wells can be to buildings.

No decisions were made, but the meeting turned into something of a public hearing on the overall mood of those affected by drilling.

It was the commission’s first meeting since Longmont residents voted overwhelmingly to ban hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” despite warnings from state officials including Gov. John Hickenlooper that a single statewide drilling regulatory scheme is necessary.

The commission meeting was charged from the start, when eight environmental activists seeking entry were wrongly told the hearing was closed to the public. They eventually were allowed in, but not with their signs decrying fracking as dangerous to the public.

One of the testifiers was Jonnie Westerop, who handed commissioners photos of a playground with wells visible in the background.

“Do you think the citizens are just going to sit back and say that’s fine? ... What are we doing to our state? Beautiful Colorado?” she asked.

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