Oil and gas drilling equipment is a common sight in Weld County. It’s now becoming a more regular sight closer to the Denver metro area.

(Grace Hood/CPR News)

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to increase the distance between new drilling operations and schools. 

New oil and gas wells now need to be placed at least 1,000 feet from school buildings. The new rule broadens the definition to include all school grounds, such as playgrounds and sports fields.

“We’re very pleased that you are considering doing this, what we consider that first sensible step toward really making things safer for our school children,” said Kathy Plomer, president of the Adams 12 Five-Star Schools Board of Education, in her remarks before the commission.

The move prompted a rare moment of agreement between oil and gas companies and conservation groups. 

“Today’s rulemaking is a direct result of good-faith compromise and collaboration, and we appreciate the partnership that helped move this effort forward,” Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley said in a statement.

Similarly, Sophia Mayott-Guerrero with Conservation Colorado called the move a “much-needed change.” Mayott-Guerrero went on to say in a statement that her organization expects the oil and gas commission under incoming Gov.-elect Jared Polis to go even further in protecting public health over concerns of the oil and gas industry.

The new, more broadly-defined 1,000-foot setback rule also applies to childcare centers. It takes effect at the end of January.

In November, Colorado voters rejected a ballot measure seeking to increase setback distances to 2,500 feet between new oil and gas wells and any occupied structure.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story misstated the proposed setback distance in Proposition 112.