Panel eyes revised plan to test groundwater

State regulators have revised their earlier proposal for groundwater testing near oil and gas drilling by recommending that more sites be tested around a well pad.

However, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff have dropped a proposal that the testing also be required for other facilities separate from well pads, such as treatment and processing facilities and tanks not on pads. They also are proposing separate testing rules for the Wattenberg oil and gas field, centered in Weld County.

The commission spent a full day Monday taking testimony as it prepares to deliberate on the testing proposal, something it now hopes to do Jan. 7.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association has been encouraging voluntary testing before and after drilling by its member companies, and it now occurs in the case of most wells being drilled. The commission is considering making Colorado the first state to mandate such testing, and much of the debate has centered on how many test sites should be required for each well drilled.

Commission staff initially recommended requiring sampling of two groundwater or spring sites within a mile of a well pad, preferably with one being upgradient and the other downgradient of the pad. It’s now proposing requiring testing of up to four available water sources within a half mile.

Its revised proposal comes after the Environmental Defense Fund conservation group and Shell Oil Co. jointly proposed requiring testing of all such sites within that distance. Its proposed four-site cap, however, comes in response to concerns from others in the industry about the costs involved in such testing.


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