Wilson Ranch wells approved

By Rudy Hemmann
The Surveyor

The Berthoud Board of Trustees held a regular business meeting Tuesday evening and approved a “conditional use by special review” request by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation for 30 oil and natural gas hydraulic fracturing (fracking) wells to be drilled on a portion of the Wilson Ranch property.

Wilson Ranch is located east of Interstate 25 in Weld County. According to maps and other information presented by Anadarko, the drilling sites are to be located approximately one mile south of Weld County Road (WCR) 44 (Highway 56 extended) and about the same distance east of I-25.

During an introduction of the agenda item, interim Town Planner Sherry Albertson-Clark stated oil and gas exploration and production are allowable uses under terms of the Planned Unit Development agreement for the property, although a special use review was required. She also outlined the five criteria enumerated in the town’s development code section regarding oil and gas exploration and production. According to a staff report document provided the five criteria are:

  • Site plan for well site applications comply with the requirements of the code.
  • Vicinity maps for well site applications comply with the requirements of the code.
  • The narrative for well site applications complies with the requirements of the code.
  • When applicable, compliance with the provisions for geologic hazards, floodplains or floodways as specified in the code.
  • When applicable, compliance with the provisions for wildlife mitigation procedures as specified in the code.

Town staff, in conjunction with the seated town board at the time, came to the conclusion approximately two years ago that the town’s requirements for the above items needed to mirror those of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, rather than attempting to apply more stringent standards and risk lawsuits.

The staff report provided states that if the application meets all of the above criteria the application for the exploration and production operations must be approved by the town board. Albertson-Clark stated the application met all of the requirements for the operation and therefore the staff recommendation to the board was to approve the special use request.

The planning commission heard the Anadarko proposal at its Feb. 12 meeting, and also recommended approval.

At the beginning of the applicant’s presentation Anadarko spokesperson Tracy Colling stated that while the presenters in attendance at the meeting worked for Anadarko, they were actually representing the wholly owned subsidiary Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Onshore LP.

The pad site closest to the Northmoor Acres rural subdivision is more than 1,000 feet from the nearest residence and will be located in a depression or valley, which should lessen the light and noise pollution for residents of the subdivision according to Colling.

She stated during the drilling process, which may take up to 18 months, the total number of acres which will be disturbed is approximately 50 acres. Once the wells are drilled and producing they are expected to remain in production from 20 to 40 years, and will give access to oil and gas under 1,900 total acres.

Access to the well sites will be from the south. Heavy truck traffic will travel along Weld County Road (WCR) 38 and then north on the I-25 frontage road until reaching an unimproved access road.

Colling stated all reasonable methods would be employed to mitigate noise and light pollution.

Representatives from Anadarko hosted a community forum for the residents of Northmoor Acres as well as the residents of properties adjacent to the propose drill site on Jan. 15, 2015. According to a summary report of the forum, which was produced by Anadarko and included in the information packet presented to the board, “approximately 80 community members” attended the forum.

One resident of Northmoor Acres took the podium to speak against the Anadarko proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.

During board discussion Trustee Paul Alaback made a motion to continue the public hearing because it was his opinion there wasn’t enough residents present at the public hearing. He stated the opinion that the town staff had not done enough to get more town residents to attend the public hearing. Alaback’s motion was seconded by Trustee Mike Henning.

During discussion before a vote on the motion, Trustee Suzie White said, “My thought on this is that this company has followed every rule that was set out for them; they followed the application process and did everything they were supposed to. They are here tonight asking for a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and for us now to say, ‘No, we don’t want to vote on this because we don’t think enough notice is given,’ is not fair to this company.”

Town Administrator Mike Hart and Attorney Greg Bell warned against making changes to town policy “on the fly” during their comments on the matter.

In the end, the motion was defeated 6-1.

A second motion to adopt a resolution approving the Wilson Ranch oil and gas Conditional Use by Special Review, finding that the request meets the town’s review criteria, was made, seconded and approved unanimously.