DENVER – Noise is the biggest source of oil and gas complaints among residents in the state of Colorado.
During the past eight years, as houses and well pads inched closer across the state, complaints to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission boomed, especially complaints about noise.
In 2010, state regulators fielded 240 complaints. By 2013, that number had risen only to 252, the Denver Post reported. But last year, 419 complaints were filed with the state. Through July of this year, the tally is already higher – 704 complaints. This year in La Plata County, six noise complaints have been filed. Last year, only two noise complaints were filed in La Plata County.
The biggest reason for the jump in statewide complaints is not concern about water safety or fear over explosions. It’s noise. More than one noise complaint per day on average has been filed so far this year.
“It’s intrusive; it really is,” said Matt Lepore, the director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which is in charge of regulating oil and gas production in the state. “You feel like your house is being violated in some kind of way.”
But the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission often does not punish noisy oil and gas operators, in part because there is only so much companies can do about it.
The commission’s rules set baseline noise levels that operations aren’t supposed to exceed. But they also provide exemptions for the noisiest activities, such as drilling, that allow for higher levels.
Regulators have no ability to punish companies that repeatedly violate limits for the most pernicious kind of industrial noise – the low, basslike rumblings that are felt as well as heard. The strongest action the rules allow the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to take is ordering a company “to obtain a low frequency noise impact analysis by a qualified sound expert.”