Gas commission proposes new set of rules for drilling

As in 2009, when Colorado put in place the nation’s strictest rules regulating oil and gas extraction, the state appears poised to raise the regulatory bar once again with new, more-stringent rules.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — the state’s regulatory authority over energy development — on Monday released new draft rules that will be the focus of public hearings next week in Denver.

Among the proposed regulations: water sampling of wells before and after drilling activities, setbacks extended to 500 feet, exclusion from areas within 1,000 feet of schools and hospitals, and new community outreach requirements that drilling companies will be compelled to follow.

Enhanced mitigation by operators could be required as well.

Those mitigation requirements were called “unprecedented nationally” and “mark yet another step forward in fashioning a model regulatory framework that strikes a balance that’s right for Colorado,” said COGCC director Matt Lepore in a press release.

Colorado in 2009 adopted groundbreaking regulatory rules, then the strictest in the nation. Since then, a number of states have enacted oil and gas rules that have exceeded Colorado’s in terms of strict controls.

The new proposals were again called groundbreaking by the COGCC in terms of groundwater protection and the reduction of drilling impacts near people.

Last year, the COGCC agreed to re-open the details of the state’s regulatory framework, and held months of stakeholder meetings and presentations on the topic. The draft rules released Monday are the result of that process, COGCC said.

New setback requirements are central to the new proposed rules. Previous rules of 350 feet in urban areas and 150 feet in rural places would be extended to 500 feet.

Operators will have to meet enhanced requirements for mitigation, notice and outreach to residents within 1,000 feet of drilling,as well.

Also, drilling would be excluded from areas within 1,000 feet of buildings that house large numbers of people — such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes.

Further, Colorado would become the only state to require water testing both pre- and post-drilling, according to the proposed rules.

COGCC also said new measures “may include” strict dust and lighting controls, capture of gases, pit-less drilling, steel berms or underground liners.

The nine-member COGCC will hold public meetings on the new rules over three days, Jan. 7–9. The meetings will be held at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, beginning at 9 a.m. each day.

The commission said that during those hearings, the group can modify the proposal, or even pursue other options, based on the testimony.


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