Colorado Petroleum Association drops petition to roll back state’s pit liner rule

The Colorado Petroleum Association (CPA) today dropped its bid to get the state to roll back its rule for proper disposal of pit liners used in the oil and gas drilling process.

Rule 905 was one of the revised oil and gas drilling regulations most criticized by the industry after the new, more environmentally stringent rules went into effect in the spring of 2009. The CPA withdrew its petition at today’s Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) meeting, eliciting praise from the environmental community.

“CPA should be commended for its willingness to work within existing COGCC rules,” Earthjustice staff attorney Michael Freeman said. “Rule 905 simply requires oil and gas companies to play by the same rules that apply to other industries doing business in Colorado. Those environmental laws protect Colorado communities, our drinking water, and our land.”

Pit liners are large, dense plastic covers used to line pits that hold “produced water,” or water contaminated with some level of undisclosed chemicals used during the hydraulic fracturing process. That process injects mostly water and sand, with some chemicals, deep underground to force open, or fracture, tight geological formations and free up more gas.

Pit liners have been known to leak, spill and present a disposal problem when they’ve outlived their usefulness. Some landfills won’t accept them anymore, and the CPA wanted the state to drop Rule 905, which requires companies to dispose of the pit liners in accordance with state solid waste laws. Despite some success with recycling pit liners, companies wanted to be able to dispose of pit liners onsite of drilling operations, with fewer documentation requirements.

CPA’s petition was filed in March of last year and was opposed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Colorado Environmental Coalition and other Colorado conservation groups.

According to Earthjustice, “CPA’s petition argued that pit liners are exempt from federal environmental law, which is incorporated into Colorado state law, as ‘Exploration and Production waste,’ or E&P waste.” Earthjustice got a ruling from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finding that pit liners should not be considered “E&P waste.”

The CPA indicated to the COGCC that its members will work with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to dispose of pit liners under existing Colorado solid waste laws.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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