Quality of Life
Oil and Gas extraction from the Niobrara Shale formation began in Arapahoe County in 2012. Arapahoe County has a diverse landscape and many residents have sought a rural lifestyle in the eastern portion of the County where oil and gas drilling primarily occurs. Solutions included in draft regulations aim to balance quality of life as development occurs. The following are issues that were raised from community feedback.
Please refer to the Glossary of Terms for clarification.
Light emitted during drilling and fracking, while temporary, is intense and can disrupt sleep cycles and increase anxiety for neighboring community members. When multiple wells are drilled consecutively, round the clock lighting can last several months.
Solutions: Light mitigation options include the use of LED bulbs, light shields and mounting lights on shorter poles or inside sound walls. Light mitigation is balanced without compromising worker safety.
Noise generated during drilling and fracking can be disruptive, especially at night. Individuals with sensitivity to low frequency noise can experience disruptions to sleep cycles. Industrial-level noise can last for several months. Historically, noise has been regulated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), not local land-use rules. State rules currently allow drilling- and fracking-related noise at industrial and semi-industrial levels in residential areas. The current state-regulated levels can be exceeded by ten decibels for 15 minute intervals. Inconsistent levels of noise can be disruptive.
Solutions: Require sound walls or other noise mitigation during both drilling and fracking phases. Solutions include: sound walls; hay bales; electric drilling rigs; electric motors and covers for shale shakers and/or other noisy equipment that can be safely and reasonably covered.
The visual impact of oil and gas well development can be temporary (weeks or months) or last the entire life cycle of a facility (estimated at 20-25 years). Multiple-well facilities typically have a more significant visual impact from the production equipment. Storage tanks range in height from 16’ to 30’. Equipment is generally 30’ in height and pumping units can exceed 30’ (roughly the level of a second story window in a two story residential home).
Solutions: Implement berms, fencing and tree plantings to reduce the visual impact of a well site.
Residents living near oil and gas operations can be impacted by odors generated from diesel-based drilling muds and from diesel-fueled motors. Odors can be a temporary nuisance, but in some circumstances a health issue.
Solutions: Require operators to use drilling muds with minimal vapors. Encourage operators to use electric equipment, when feasible. Require capture of odor producing gases during well completion.
WILDLIFE & NATURE
Wildlife breeding, nesting and migration can be adversely affected by the noise and light associated with oil and gas development. Facilities in close proximity and those with multiple wells can have a greater impact on wildlife.
Solutions: Set limits on construction, drilling and fracking activity during mating and nesting seasons. Require consideration of migratory routes and mating and nesting seasons early in the site selection and scheduling process. Require an evaluation of cumulative impacts of more than one pad in an area.
With any new development, comes an increase in traffic. Traffic associated with pad construction, drilling and fracking generates noise, road congestion and additional wear and tear on roadway surfaces. Multi-well pads generate traffic for longer periods of time and multiple well pads in close proximity have greater cumulative impacts on local residential traffic.
Solutions: Require the industry to provide advance notifications of all phases (construction, drilling, fracking and completion) to the public. Require submission of traffic impact reports to the County with development plans. Encourage the use of pipelines to reduce truck traffic. Restrict traffic during commuting and school bus hours.