Group ends pit-liner rule fight

An industry group has ended its attempt to persuade state regulators to change a new rule governing disposal of oil and gas pit liners.

The Colorado Petroleum Association instead plans to work with state and local health authorities on a process under which companies could seek permission to bury the liners on site. As required by the rule, the burials would have to comply with solid waste disposal regulations.

“Obviously, this isn’t the outcome that we had hoped for,” Jep Seman, an attorney for the group, told the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Monday.

But he said Association members hope the outcome nevertheless will be a good one.

The group had contended oil and gas exploration and production waste was exempt from solid waste disposal rules, but the Environmental Protection Agency last fall disagreed.

Michael Freeman, an attorney with Earthjustice, cheered the news that the CPA is dropping the rules challenge and gave it credit for being willing to work within the existing rule. He said that rule simply makes the oil and gas industry “play by the same rules as every other industry in Colorado.”

The pit rule is part of the oil and gas commission’s 2008 rewrite of its overall rules. The CPA’s objection was based on the costs involved in complying and the difficulties in finding landfills that would accept the liners.

The CPA is in discussions with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Rio Blanco County officials regarding an on-site disposal certification process the group hopes also could be used in other counties. The permit process would be similar to what landfills undergo. Contaminant levels in soil and groundwater would have to fall below standards set by the oil and gas commission.

Companies previously could bury liners in place without meeting such standards.

Freeman said if solid waste disposal rules are followed, it doesn’t matter if the liners are buried in landfills or onsite.

“As long as they comply with those laws that should be a good outcome because those laws are designed specifically to protect our land, our communities and our drinking water,” he said.

Earthjustice had characterized CPA’s effort to overturn the pit liner rule as the first major attempt to roll back one of the new oil and gas rules. But CPA president Stan said the group simply was trying to inform the oil and gas commission about the problems its companies were experiencing in trying to comply with the rule, and was working to get them resolved.


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