Oil and gas industry trying to crush local governments

Some of the most interesting news lately in oil and gas development centers around the hard work being done by local governments to update their rules in order to best protect their citizens, their communities, and their quality of life. For example:

  • Routt County, Colorado, requires natural gas producers to sample and test all domestic water wells and springs within a project area and up to two miles beyond the furthest gas well prior to the start of any drilling and monthly thereafter for the life of the well. Companies have to use a qualified, independent water sampling firm and test for inorganic and organic contaminants. I think this is the best baseline testing and ongoing monitoring program in the country.
  • The city of Grapevine, Texas prohibits any wells within 1,000 feet of a home, school, fresh water well, public park, religious institution, public building, or hospital building. These are the safest setbacks that I know currently exist.
  • The city of Longmont, Colorado has banned pits of any type, a very important step in reducing the dangers of toxic oil and gas waste.

In what appears to be a backlash at these local protections, the oil and gas industry and its allies in state government are now pushing legislation in states across the country to prevent municipalities from protecting their citizens:

  • The Pennsylvania legislature just passed a bill that restricts the ability of local governments to zone drilling oper­a­tions. Instead, munic­i­pal­i­ties would be required to allow drilling in all areas except for the most densely-populated res­i­den­tial areas.
  • A bill pending in the Colorado senate would preempt all local regulation of oil and gas operations.
  • A bill passed by the Idaho house restricts the power of counties to limit drilling or the building of oil and gas infrastructure such as pipelines, dehydration plants or compressors within their borders.

As more local governments work to catch up to the threats posed by oil and gas operations and address the concerns of their constituents, we'll see more efforts to crush these local government efforts. NRDC believes that communities should instead be allowed to protect themselves and their future by restricting dangerous oil and gas operations and establishing strong rules that require the highest environmental standards.

About the Authors

Amy Mall

Senior Policy Analyst, Land & Wildlife program

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