Crunch may put off oil/gas decisions

When new Colorado oil and gas rules took effect in April, they failed to address some of the most controversial matters discussed last year during the rules’ drafting.

Instead, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission put off decisions on issues such as the minimum distance of drilling rigs from homes so they could be considered further this year in hopes of reaching compromise.

But now, thanks to a state budget crisis and agencies saying they face a long list of other tasks this year, the commission is trying to determine if it can get to its unfinished business this year after all.

“I think that it’s not pleasant to make these priority decisions, but that’s where we are today,”

James Martin, also executive director of the state Department of Public Health and Environment, told fellow oil and gas commissioners in Denver on Tuesday.

Commission Director David Neslin said a full agenda for his employees, including implementing those rules that already have taken effect, would make it hard for them to help in working through the deferred matters this year. Also deferred were interim reclamation standards for oil and gas operations and protections for riparian areas.

Commission member Richard Alward of Grand Junction voiced concern about further delays, saying the commission put off those issues with the understanding they would be high priorities this year.

Fellow commission member Tresi Houpt, also a Garfield County commissioner, was particularly alarmed about again postponing action on drilling setbacks from residences. The minimum setback is now only 150 feet, which she said raises safety concerns.

Neslin said employees are busy on tasks such as trying to reach an agreement for implementation of the new state rules on federal lands. They also are dealing with concerns about drilling safety, including in the Divide Creek area south of Silt and the vicinity of a 1969 underground nuclear blast site south of Rulison.

Oil and gas commission members plan to further discuss in July where the deferred rule matters should fall in their list of priorities.


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