Companies getting head start on new Colorado energy rules | AspenTimes.com

Companies getting head start on new Colorado energy rules

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Energy companies are leery of Colorado’s overhaul of oil and gas regulations, but they’re trying to get a head start on rules for protecting wildlife and the environment before they take effect.

At least 13 companies have talked to the state about what they need for a comprehensive drilling plan, one of the changes tentatively approved by regulators.

The measure is among dozens of rules the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will take final votes on during meetings Tuesday through Thursday in Denver.

The goal of a comprehensive plan is to look at potential impacts and activities over a larger area, giving a better picture of cumulative effects and streamlining approval of drilling permits.

“From our standpoint, we saw it as the ability to create some efficiencies, so that we’re not reviewing these environmental impacts on a well-by-well basis, ” said Dave Neslin, the commission’s interim director.

Denver-based Antero Resources is talking to state officials about putting together a comprehensive drilling plan for its operations in western Colorado.

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“We want to get through the process as quickly as possible. We know there’s a lot of work to be done,” Robert Mueller, Antero vice president of geology, said of the decision to start work now.

If the Legislature approves them, the rules will take effect on state and private land in April and on federal land in May.

Other areas covered by the new rules include management of waste pits, location of drilling rigs and protection of wildlife during birthing and mating seasons.

The proposals are in response to state laws approved last year that give more weight to health, wildlife and environmental concerns in oil and gas regulations. Decisions about development are to be made with input from state health and wildlife experts.

The makeup of the oil and gas commission, the main regulatory body, was also broadened to include landowners, local elected officials and conservationists. Critics had complained the panel was weighted in favor of the industry and that new regulations were overdue because of the state’s natural gas boom.

The state issued a record 7,225 permits through the end of November. In 2004, the total was 2,917.

But industry officials warn the regulations could drive up costs and dampen interest in Colorado, particularly as companies cut back amid falling gas prices and a tight credit market. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association and the Colorado Petroleum Association, both trade groups, financed ads during the summer to denounce the “job-killing rules.”

Although Antero isn’t waiting to try out a comprehensive drilling plan, the company is still concerned about how much work it will be, Mueller said. Antero likely will build on its agreement with three western Colorado towns to discuss the company’s plans and residents’ concerns.

“We’re already voluntarily doing many of the things that might now be required,” Mueller said.

Williams, the largest producer in western Colorado’s gas-rich Piceance Basin, has consulted with state wildlife officials on drilling in big-game habitat. The Tulsa, Okla.-based company uses pipelines to ship water rather than trucks to reduce traffic in some areas.

“We have done aerial surveys on a very, very large scale. Hopefully that will help our process,” Williams spokeswoman Susan Alvillar said.

There’s concern, though, about how much time consultations on comprehensive plans will take and how far it will tax state agencies, Alvillar added.

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