What are setbacks?

“Setback” is a common term here in Colorado, but not many people know what setbacks are or why they are so important to understanding fracking and the laws governing responsible oil and natural gas development. Here are the facts.

Setbacks are the required distance set by law between oil and natural gas development and homes, schools, and other buildings and are a big part of why Colorado already has some of the toughest energy regulations in the nation.

For almost a decade, Colorado elected officials, environmental groups, community leaders, and the hardworking people who make up our energy industry have come to the table to have real discussions with real actions to not only make our state’s oil and natural gas regulations some of the strongest in the nation, but also work for our citizens. That’s how we prosper–together. As a state, we succeed when Coloradans are allowed to access our state’s vast natural resources in a way that best supports our communities.

 

What are Colorado’s current setback regulations?

Currently, Colorado law defines oil and natural gas setback distances at 500 feet statewide and 1,000 feet from high occupancy buildings. The setbacks are enforced by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), that is charged with regulating Colorado’s oil and natural gas development (Source: COGCC setbacks rulemaking (2013)). The current setback rules keep the environment and communities surrounding oil and natural gas development sites safe, while supporting a strong economy and allowing Coloradans to tap into our state’s natural resources. But there’s more to our state’s strong regulations than setbacks.

Our state’s first-in-the-nation energy regulations require companies to work with local governments when planning oil and natural gas development. Just in the last decade, Colorado has had fifteen rulemakings to ensure the safety of the public and the environment. Here are just a few examples of how Colorado’s oil and natural gas regulations are leading the way:

  • Colorado was the first state to require water sampling before and after drilling to ensure our water remains safe (Source: COGCC, 2013).
  • In the last few years, 26 studies – including one from Colorado State University – have found that fracking doesn’t contaminate groundwater (Source: Studies listed here).
  • Colorado was the first state in the nation to pass methane regulations requiring the capture of air pollutants released during oil and natural gas operations (Source: NPR, 2014).
  • Colorado’s regulations are more protective than federal methane rules issued by the EPA. Cutting-edge technology and strict regulations have cut leakage rates by 75% in Colorado, according to Climate Wire (Source: Newsweek, 2017).
  • Colorado rules require that 95% of pollutants from oil and natural gas operations are captured, which decreases methane emissions by over 60,000 tons (Source: E&E News, 2014).

 

What is at stake?

This year, new setback initiatives are being pushed by an extreme minority trying to force their reckless agenda on Coloradans. If this sounds familiar, we saw the same thing in 2018. By submitting these new setback ballot initiatives, their supporters are ignoring the 1,371,284 Coloradans that voted ‘no’ on Proposition 112.

Colorado is one of the largest natural gas producers in the U.S. In addition to supporting over 232,900 good jobs across Colorado, our vibrant oil and natural gas industry contributed $839 million to K-12 schools in 2015 and 2016. Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry also generates more than $1 billion annually in revenues to state and local governments, school districts and special districts—funding schools, parks, and roads across the state. And, according to the Colorado State Land Board, “[Oil and natural gas] leases resulted in approximately $1 billion earned for trust beneficiaries — Colorado schoolchildren — in the past decade.”

All of this would be at risk if the reckless setbacks initiatives succeed.

“[Oil and natural gas] leases resulted in approximately $1 billion earned for trust beneficiaries — Colorado schoolchildren — in the past decade.”

—Colorado State Land Board (Colorado.gov)

 

What happens if the new setback initiatives succeed?

If the new, reckless setback initiatives succeed, communities across Colorado will lose.

It is very clear that these setback initiatives are not about protecting public health or safety. The proponents of these setback initiatives want to over-regulate the Colorado oil and natural gas industry out of existence. But don’t just take our word for it. Earlier this year, The Aurora Sentinel Editorial Board released an editorial condemning the new setback initiatives as, “rushing back to voters with something not only unneeded but rightfully unwanted is a waste of time, resources and the public’s attention.” The editorial board also said, “There’s dangerous folly in trying to accomplish critically needed goals in addressing climate change by cloaking such efforts in public-health regulation.”

Bottom line, Coloradans voted no in 2018.

“Rushing back to voters with something not only unneeded but rightfully unwanted is a waste of time, resources and the public’s attention.”

—Aurora Sentinel Editorial Board (2020)

 

Take Action

Share the facts on how setbacks would impact Colorado and hurt our communities with your family and friends. We need your help to get the word out and push back against these reckless setback initiatives.

 

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