Colorado regulators approve new oil, gas rules | AspenTimes.com

Colorado regulators approve new oil, gas rules

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” State regulators approved new rules for oil and gas development in an 8-0 vote Wednesday, in response to new laws that required them to consider effects development would have on water, wildlife and communities.

John Swartout of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association blasted the rules, which he said would turn Colorado into the most challenging state in which to conduct business for the industry.

“Not only is today a disappointing day for Colorado’s No. 1 economic contributor, it is a sad day for Colorado’s economic well-being,” said Swartout, senior vice president for policy and government affairs for the trade group.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved rules that create the “most expensive, time-consuming and burdensome regulatory environment in the nation, all at a time when Colorado should be fighting to keep jobs,” he said.

The Legislature still must approve the rules, which would then take effect on state and private land in April and on federal land in May.

Thousands of people commented on the rules during 12 days of hearings by the commission, and the industry also had input.

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“These rules truly reflect a responsible balance between our commitment to support the oil and gas industry and our need to protect water, wildlife and public health,” said David Neslin, the commission’s acting director.

Some oil and gas companies already practice what is required by the revised rules. Action on contentious issues, such as how much space must be between development and homes or interim reclamation standards for wildlife, were deferred.

The new regulations would establish protection zones around streams that serve drinking water supplies, require companies to tell state and emergency responders what chemicals they use in drilling operations, and allow state health and wildlife officials to consult on development.

Other rules would require odors to be reduced near homes and schools in northwest Colorado, manage erosion and reduce water pollution during storms and snow run-off seasons, and notify nearby landowners of public comment periods for development proposals.

“That’s absolutely fabulous,” said retired Bureau of Land Management employee Bob Elderkin, who lives near Silt. He helped write proposals that eventually became a bill aimed at minimizing development’s effects on wildlife.

“I want to see western Colorado still be a nice place to live when they leave,” Elderkin said. “It’s not about stopping oil and gas, and it never was. It was about making them do it in a responsible way. Hopefully with these new rules in place, they will.”

The oil and gas industry remains hot, even though it is expected to slow during the recession. State officials expect to have issued a record of about 7,600 drilling permits for 2008, topping the 6,368 permits issued last year.

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