Drillers get rules waiver under plan

Companies would detail effects on areas before exploration begins

With new state oil and gas rules not even finalized, energy companies in Garfield County are looking at a separate rules process that would streamline their drilling operations in exchange for mitigating impacts on communities.

Antero Resources is looking to be one of the first companies to participate by submitting a comprehensive drilling plan.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission intends to give companies the option of laying out their long-term drilling plans for an area,  identifying impacts and listing ways to minimize them. In exchange, drilling would be exempt from certain regulatory requirements.

“It makes a lot of people’s jobs so much easier,” said Jon Black, operations manager in the Piceance Basin for Antero.

Commission acting director Dave Neslin said the comprehensive drilling plan process might work particularly well for Antero because of its previous work with communities and residents in deciding where to put facilities. Antero voluntarily developed a community development plan for reducing its impacts between Rifle and New Castle.

Black said Antero needs to amend that plan as it moves operations north of U.S. Highway 6. In conjunction with that, it will begin preparing a comprehensive drilling plan for state officials.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission doesn’t expect to take final action on a major rewrite of its rules until December. But the commission has given preliminary approval to rules regarding comprehensive drilling plans.

Black said the plans are fairly common in Australia, where he used to work. They reduce conflicts with landowners over other land uses, he said.

He said plans can cover topics such as emergency response, weed control, spill prevention and traffic-related issues such as mud on roads. Under the comprehensive drilling plan process for Colorado, Antero would have to consult with wildlife and public health agencies and local governments.

Representatives with Williams Production RMT and Chevron said their companies also think the planning process might make sense for them, depending on the commission’s finalized rewrite of rules.

Susan Alvillar of Williams said the company already has done something similar by working with government agencies to cluster development to minimize effects on wildlife.

Kristi Pollard of Chevron said an impact assessment the company already has done for the De Beque area would be useful if it creates a comprehensive plan.


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