Longer drilling permits a possibility

State oil and gas regulators will formally consider an industry request that oil and gas drilling permits be made valid for two years instead of one.

However, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff have recommended against reconsidering a new rule that is forcing energy developers to remove many liners when they close drilling-related pits, even though some landfills don’t accept the liners.

The commission is expected to consider the permit proposal in the next month or two.

“On reflection we believe this is a reasonable adjustment to make,” commission director David Neslin told the commission at a meeting Monday.

Neslin said the longer permit length makes sense because many companies are drilling multiple wells directionally from one pad, and it’s a challenge to get all the required approvals in place and the work scheduled.

Drilling occurs within a year in the case of only 40 percent of permits the state approves, Neslin said. Requiring new permits after just a year creates a lot of work for the industry and the state, he said.

Meanwhile, Neslin and his staff have looked into whether the new requirement regarding removal of pit liners should be revoked. He said local governments, particularly on the Western Slope, along with community and property groups strongly oppose any change.

The state previously required liners to be removed from irrigated cropland, but let them be buried in place elsewhere with property owner approval after they were cleaned to certain standards.

Now the liners must be removed unless an energy company is disposing them on its own land, or obtains the necessary county and state health agency approvals to dispose them on other property.

After the new rules took effect, commissioners in the drilling hotbed of Garfield County decided its landfill was incapable of accepting the liners. County staff are looking into how to possibly accommodate companies wanting a place to take the liners, but meanwhile, some county officials worry about the environmental consequences if liners with oil and gas residue are buried at drilling sites.

Oil and gas Commissioner Mark Cutright said he’s disappointed in the commission staff’s recommendation not to reconsider the new rule.

“We created this problem with this commission and there isn’t a good solution to it” short of dropping the requirement, he said.

Oil and gas Commissioner Tresi Houpt, also a Garfield commissioner, endorsed the requirement, and said many people only recently realized liners were being buried onsite.


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