New oil and gas rules can’t help my family — but they could help yours

Dream home surrounded by energy development in Greeley

An oil pump jack is pictured in the middle of a traffic circle at a new residential development in Weld County on June 24, 2020. (Andy Bosselman for Colorado Newsline)

By Dawn Stein

In 1985, my husband and I bought what we expected to be our retirement home on our own little piece of heaven. I lost my husband in 2013, and after a long standoff with the city of Greeley was told I would be losing my home to eminent domain.

To make matters even worse, Extraction Oil and Gas bought a strip of land from my neighbor for $600,000, and the city of Greeley told me they wouldn’t actually be taking my whole property, just a strip in front of my house so they could widen the road. The Extraction strip became an access road for a 22-well pad 1,000 feet from my back door, and the expanded city street left me literally surrounded by oil and gas development.

My dream of a peaceful retirement was dashed, and my dream home is in shambles.

My dream of a peaceful retirement was dashed, and my dream home is in shambles. Extraction’s access road was 30 feet from my bedroom window, and as they drilled these 22 wells 1,000 feet from my house, 300 heavy trucks a day drove past my bedroom window. Between the fracking and the traffic, I am spending my retirement holding my former dream home together with hope and prayers.

Extraction continually shirked responsibility for the harm caused by truck traffic, going so far as to blame the numerous broken windows on my house and car on neighborhood children. When I asked someone from Extraction why they hadn’t just bought my whole property, and they said they legally didn’t have to.

Since the fracking started, I have suffered endless migraines, skin rashes and sinus infections. I couldn’t see a doctor for six months during this pandemic, but the drilling activity never stopped. My migraines were unbearable.

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My home value has plummeted and I had nowhere to go. At 63 years old, instead of retiring to the country, I am sleeping with earplugs and doing what I can to keep fumes out of my home. That includes towels under doors and around windows and other increasingly creative solutions.

I am deeply grateful that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission finally voted to preliminarily approve new rules that would prevent what happened to me from happening to anyone else. A 2,000-foot setback would prevent operators like Extraction from drilling so close to homes, and would require consent from those most impacted, like me.

Oil and gas regulators signal support for 2,000-foot setbacks

It’s too late for me. I wish we could go back in time and get my retirement, health and property back from the oil and gas industry. But we can ensure that no one else has to go through what I have been through in the past several years. The industry has already started to use their money to complain that they will be harmed by these rules. But what about us? What about the people they harm?

To those who say we need to allow them to drill to help our state, I want to know just who it helps? They caused irreparable harm to my property, harm to my health, and harm to my future. Who would trade what I’ve been through to help an industry that cares nothing about those they devastate but only their bottom line.

I applaud the COGCC for their commitment to putting people over profits. The Colorado way depends on these new rules and the personal lives of so many do also.

Dawn Stein lives in Greeley.