By: Associated Press

DENVER (AP) — Urged on by industry and business groups, a Republican-led Senate committee voted along party lines Wednesday to defeat a proposal to extend the required distance between Colorado’s schools and its oil and gas wells.

For safety reasons, Colorado currently mandates that drilling operations be located at least 1,000 feet (300 meters) from schools and other high-density buildings. It also requires a 500-foot (150-meter) distance from residences.

The state regulations were adopted in 2013, prompted in part by a boom in oil and gas drilling, especially in areas north and northeast of Denver. That area also has seen explosive residential growth in recent years.

The bill by Democratic Sens. Matt Jones and Irene Aguilar would have applied that 1,000-foot (300-meter) buffer zone to the property lines of a school or a child care center, instead of the building itself. It would have applied to playgrounds and athletic fields as well, but would not force existing drilling operations to move.

Jones cited the prospect of industrial accidents or exposure to methane, which can be emitted from oil and gas wells, in urging passage of the bill. He also argued that the ability of energy companies to drill horizontally underground would make it relatively easy for those firms to comply.

“The least we can do is protect the young people by passing this modest measure,” Jones said.

A host of groups ranging from the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce to the Colorado Farm Bureau testified against the bill, arguing, among other things, that the state’s regulations on drilling are among the toughest in the U.S.

The Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee voted 6-5 Wednesday to kill the bill, with all six Republicans on the panel voting against.

The vote came as residents in the northern Colorado city of Greeley sued regulators over a drilling operation near a middle school.

The lawsuit contends the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, a regulatory body, approved a drilling permit for Extraction Oil and Gas for a site only 500 feet (150 meters) from the Bella Romero Academy.

Extraction Oil and Gas says the site is more than 1,300 feet (390 meters) from the school building and about 1,200 feet (360 meters) from a playground, The Greeley Tribune reported.

Reported on the Coloradan

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