The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation (COGCC) on Jan. 7 approved new groundwater protection rules that are said to be among the strongest in the country.
The new groundwater protection rules require that operators sample nearby water wells both before and after drilling activities as a way to provide assurance that water supplies are not affected by energy development.
Only two other states have mandatory groundwater programs in place, and no other state in the country requires operators to take post-drilling water samples, said a COGCC spokesman.
The new state regs are also intended to quickly identify potential problems in the very rare instances of impact.
"This new set of groundwater monitoring rules again puts Colorado in the forefront of thoughtful and progressive regulatory oversight of energy development," said Matt Lepore, director of the commission.
Approval of the rule follows months of stakeholder discussions designed to craft a rule that protects well owners and the industry. These rules will generate the necessary data to help regulators determine whether oil and gas activities have impacted drinking water or whether other factors could be affecting groundwater. The new rules follow a successful year-long voluntary sampling program designed by operators and regulators, the commission spokesman said.
Colorado's new rules will require sampling up to four water wells within one-half mile of a new oil and gas well prior to drilling, and two more samples of each well between six and 12 months and again between five and six years, a requirement unprecedented among other states.
In addition, the state program will exist side-by-side with other county regulations in the state.
The COGCC has long collected data on water wells adjacent to oil and gas wells, and the agency's online database already contains well over 6,000 such samples — a data set that will grow substantially with the new rule.blog comments powered by Disqus