The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Feb. 11 gave final approval to what it calls "the strongest rules in the country" for limiting the impact of drilling near residences and other occupied buildings. The new rules will take effect August 1.
These comprehensive new rules combine stringent protective measures, expanded notice and outreach to local communities and heightened distances (called "setbacks") between drilling and dwellings to further distinguish Colorado as a pacesetter nationally for model regulation of oil and gas development.
Colorado's new rules for setbacks and associated measures will strengthen protections for public health, safety, welfare and the environment. The rules also set a new standard for the Rocky Mountain West as they exceed in every aspect requirements in the neighboring states of Kansas, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Nebraska and Arizona.
Earlier this year, the Commission also approved rules that are among the strongest in the country for monitoring and protection of groundwater. Only two other states have mandatory groundwater programs in place and no other state requires operators to take post-drilling water samples.
"I am proud of this Commission for acting in a responsible fashion on a challenging issue that is of high significance to the people of Colorado," said Department of Natural Resources executive director Mike King. "This Commission has shepherded through a rule that once again makes Colorado an example for other states to follow."
"We've heard from so many Coloradans with important perspectives on a highly charged and complicated issue, as difficult an issue as this Commission has ever addressed," said Matt Lepore, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. "We believe it best addresses this tough public policy challenge by protecting the public welfare, respecting a variety of property rights and economic issues and allowing necessary development of our energy resources."
The new rules include a suite of important new provisions. They include:
• Operators proposing to drill within 1,000 feet of an occupied structure would be required to meet new and enhanced measures to limit the disruptions a nearby drill site can create. Those measures include closed loop drilling that eliminates pits, liner standards to protect against spills, capture of gases to reduce odors and emissions, as well as strict controls on the nuisance impacts of noise, dust and lighting.
• Existing setback standards of 150 feet in rural areas and 350 feet in urban areas are extended to a uniform 500 feet statewide.
• Operators cannot drill within 1,000 feet of buildings housing larger numbers of people, such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals, without a hearing before the Commission.
• Operators must engage in expanded notice and outreach efforts with nearby residents and conduct additional engagement with local governments about proposed operations. As part of this, operators proposing drilling within 1,000 feet must meet with anyone within that area who asks.
The Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have also announced the launch this summer of a significant study of emissions tied to oil and gas development. The project will provide information about how oil and gas emissions behave, how they travel and their characteristics in areas along the northern Front Range. A second phase would assess possible health effects using information collected in the first phase.blog comments powered by Disqus