Gas board to delay rules on federal land

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is preparing to delay the May 1 deadline to implement its new drilling rules on federal land.

In addition, rules scheduled to take effect on private lands on Wednesday continue to await the signature of Gov. Bill Ritter.

The federal lands deadline delay is needed to allow time for negotiations with the Bureau of Land Management on the matter.

For commission members discussing the issue at their meeting in Denver on Monday, the question wasn’t whether to delay the deadline, but how long the delay should be. The commission majority rejected a suggestion of 30 days but the commission was considering one of 60 days.

“We’ve got to have time necessary to do it right. That’s important,” said commission chairman Harris Sherman, also director of the state Department of Natural Resources.

Meanwhile, Sherman told the commission members Monday morning that he believed Ritter planned to sign a bill containing the rules that day. However, Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said that hadn’t occurred as of 5 p.m. Monday, and that no signing was scheduled yet.

Sherman said Monday evening he didn’t know where things stood with the signing. Ritter pushed for the 2007 legislation that required the commission to rewrite its rules to strike a better balance between oil and gas development and protection of the public, environment and wildlife. His administration has said he plans to sign the bill authorizing the rules.

That bill cleared the Legislature when the Senate gave it final approval Wednesday.

Republicans criticized Democrat Ritter for the rules package, which they say is contributing to a significant slowdown in drilling in the state.

Regarding federal lands, oil and gas commission officials said Monday that a meeting with the BLM has been delayed because the agency in Colorado is waiting for direction from its Washington office, which itself is waiting to have its directorship and other key positions filled under the new presidential administration.

The BLM last year questioned whether some state oil and gas rules legally can be imposed on federal lands. The state insists it has that legal right.

Some oil and gas commission members worried that waiting on the BLM could result in a rules delay of even more than 60 days for federal lands.

The commission put off a vote on the delay Monday so it could issue a public notice that it plans to consider the matter in a teleconference in the next few weeks.


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