Green groups challenge industry lawsuit against new drilling regs

After two years of at-times heated debated over new, more environmentally-friendly oil and gas drilling regulations, ratification by the State Legislature and a signature by Gov. Bill Ritter, it looked like the warring parties would finally lay down their arms when the regs went into effect April 1.

Wrong. A few weeks into the new regs, which require closer state scrutiny of drilling practices that might impact air and water quality and wildlife habitat, the Colorado Oil & Gas Association filed a lawsuit against the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which drafted the new rules.

This week, environmentalists and citizen activist groups fired back, filing a motion to intervene in that case in Denver District Court – a lawsuit in which the O&G industry claims the analysis done in the lengthy rulemaking process was flawed. And industry officials still claim the new regs will cost jobs and could have political consequences.

The recent motion was filed by the Denver-based environmental law firm Earthjustice on behalf of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, Western Colorado Congress, San Juan Citizens Alliance, National Wildlife Federation, Colorado Wildlife Federation, Oil and Gas Accountability Project and The Wilderness Society.

One of the elements of the new regs most objectionable to the O&G industry is a state requirement that in some cases companies need to disclose the exact chemicals being injected along with high-pressure water into wells to free up natural gas. Chemicals used in that process, called hydraulic fracturing, are considered industry trade secrets.

Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette, D-Denver, is preparing to reintroduce legislation she unsuccessfully brought least year that would remove an exemption for that practice from EPA regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.


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