The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) has released its draft proposal on new oil and gas regulations today. Whether the new rules go too far or not far enough in addressing public health concerns, wildlife protection and chemical use in drilling practices will be debated until the final regulations are approved on July 1.The COGCC is a state agency that promotes the development and conservation of oil and natural gas resources. It also prevents and mitigates adverse effects that the drilling industry has on public health and the environment.
Since January, there have been five public meetings and approximately 20 stakeholder meetings held around the state to gather input on the pre-draft COGCC rules. At the Jan. 8 meeting in Parachute, acting COGCC Director Dave Neslin described the draft proposals:
First, we are proposing a new drill application approval-process that will be managed under a comprehensive plan.
Second, the state will collect new data and conduct health studies on air and water quality; and third, there will be additional regulations to protect the environment, wildlife and public health.
Special 2007 legislation in HB 1298 and HB 1341 directed the COGCC to write new regulations that would increase the state’s oversight on oil and gas drilling. For instance, one new proposal directs energy companies to notify public health officials about chemical compounds used in drilling operations, a problem that has recently become an issue in the chemical waste pit spills on the Roan Plateau near Parachute. Currently, drillers insist the chemical mixes are proprietary trade secrets.
In a guest commentary in The Denver Post on Monday, March 31, Meg Collins, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said the state is in danger of overregulating the energy industry.
If adopted in their current form, the proposed rules would undoubtedly result in less tax revenue to local and state governments, increase costs to state government, and (cause) unquantifiable delays and less production of the clean, locally produced natural gas….
In an informal rally on Sunday, environmentalists, hunters and landowners met in Denver to voice their support of tightening drilling regulations.
“As Colorado moves to a clean-energy economy, we need to require oil and gas drillers to use the latest technology to safeguard our water, wildlife habitat and the mountains,” said Elise Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “All we are asking is that oil and gas drillers leave our state as beautiful as they found it.”
Photo: Aerial photo of drilling activity between Parachute and Rifle along I-70. Photo by the Bureau of Land Management