U.K. firm files applications ahead of vote on stricter well setbacks
As a decision looms by Colorado voters on more stringent siting requirements for oil and gas drilling, an energy company has applied to drill up to 31 wells near the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant.
Highlands Natural Resources Corp., registered in the United Kingdom, applied this month to the state for a spacing plan for wells on a 2,560-acre site where it has leased minerals in the area of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.
Rocky Flats, between Denver and Boulder, was converted to a wildlife refuge after a $7.7 billion Superfund cleanup of a plant that produced plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs from 1952 to 1989. The Department of Energy retains control of a 1,300-acre fenced core where contaminated waste is buried.
“Although similar propositions have failed in the past, the Company has been advised that by filing the permits prior to the ballot it has minimized the potential risk posed by Proposition 112,” the post on the company’s news site stated.
Proposition 112, if adopted by voters, would require wells on private lands be at least 2,500 feet from homes, schools, waterways and other areas considered vulnerable, such as public parks and open spaces and irrigation canals. The current required setback is 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from densely occupied buildings, like hospitals and schools.
Concerns about Rocky Flats through the decades led to protests calling for its closure. Plans to convert the site to a national wildlife refuge were opposed by those who said the cleanup of the site was inadequate. The opening in September of 11 miles of hiking and biking trails on the refuge sparked objections from environmental and other groups that said activity will stir up particles of plutonium that, if inhaled, can cause cancer.
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