|In this Tuesday, May 31, 2016 file photograph, Nelly Morales, from left, Michelle Young and Dawn Stein are photographed on Stein's property next to an oil well complex in Greeley, Colo. Residents of the neighborhood sued the state of Colorado on Friday, May 19, 2017, saying oil and gas regulators have not done enough to protect them from the disruption and danger of the big energy facility being constructed in a pasture surrounded by homes west of Greeley. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)|
DENVER (AP) — An energy company will build a pipeline to transport crude oil from a huge well complex inside a Colorado city before production starts, officials said Monday, easing the anxiety of nearby residents who feared noisy trucks would haul away the petroleum around the clock.
Extraction Oil & Gas spokesman Brian Cain said the company always planned to build a pipeline to the 22-well Triple Creek project in Greeley, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of Denver.
He said the plans are now complete after two years of engineering, contracting and other preparations.
Neighbors disputed that account, saying Extraction first promised a pipeline but later backed off, citing costs.
Triple Creek is one of multiple oil and gas disputes boiling over in Colorado, where booming communities and lucrative oil fields often overlap, triggering lawsuits and heightening fears about health and safety.
In April, unrefined and odorless natural gas leaking from a small severed pipeline caused a house explosion that killed two people, investigators said.
Separately, the state attorney general asked the Colorado Supreme Court last week to settle a dispute over how much weight regulators should give to health and safety when making rules and approving projects.
The Greeley wells are in a pasture surrounded by homes, some as close as 1,000 feet (305 meters). An access road passes within 50 feet (15 meters) of one neighbor's bedroom window.
Neighbors sued the state last year, alleging regulators did not do everything the law required to protect them from the disruption and the dangers of the project, including noise, spills and pollution.
They wanted the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry, to require Extraction to build a pipeline and take other steps.
Neighbor Lowell Lewis said the lawsuit will go ahead. Extraction's announcement does not change the residents' belief that the state failed to protect them as the law requires before regulators approved the project, he said.
"It established a terrible precedent by not applying the rules correctly," Lewis said. "That has not changed."
A commission spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. State officials declined to comment when the suit was filed.