Colorado, feds to hash out oil, gas regulations |

Colorado, feds to hash out oil, gas regulations

Judith KohlerThe Associated PressAspen, CO Colorado

DENVER State and federal officials plan to sort out questions about how Colorado’s proposed new oil and gas regulations will apply to federal land.Last year, the Colorado office of the Bureau of Land Management said it believed some of the state regulations would be pre-empted by federal laws. Industry officials say they wouldn’t know which regulations to follow on federal land.The Legislature is considering the rules, which will take effect April 1 in most places if they’re approved. They would take effect May 1 on federal land.State officials will talk to the BLM about the regulations, said Dave Neslin, acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the drilling industry. He said the staff will recommend delaying the start date of rules on federal land if the two sides don’t settle issues by May.”We expect to be sitting down with the (commission) in the very near future,” BLM spokesman Jim Sample said last week.The roughly 100 rules moving through the Legislature would enact two laws requiring more consideration of the environment, wildlife and public health and safety when approving oil and gas development.Last summer, Colorado BLM director Sally Wisely urged the commission to consider updating a long-standing agreement between Colorado and the BLM on oil and gas development to resolve any conflicts.BLM officials have said many of the federal regulations are stronger. Wildlife advocates who support the state rules have argued that while some federal laws might be tougher, the BLM often waives requirements when companies ask.Colorado Petroleum Association President Stan Dempsey said having two sets of regulations on federal land puts the industry in a difficult position.”This is very serious for us. We’re not going to be able to rectify which rules apply to us,” Dempsey told a legislative committee last week.Dempsey said he doesn’t believe the state has the authority to impose state rules on federal land.Neslin said the state already issues drilling permits on federal land. About 15 percent of the oil and gas permits approved are for drilling on federal land.Court decisions support a state’s right to apply environmental laws on federal land, Neslin said.Energy companies have also questioned rules requiring the Colorado Division of Wildlife to consult on drilling in sensitive wildlife habitat. Doug Hock, spokesman for EnCana Oil & Gas USA, said the company has agreements with nearly all the landowners where it drills on a split estate when one party owns the surface and another owns the minerals underneath.Hock said EnCana worries that injecting the DOW into the process will undermine agreements between the companies and landowners.”If landowners are in a sensitive wildlife area, they don’t have the discretion of working with the operator to determine the place and timing for drilling,” Hock said.Neslin said the oil and gas commission has the final say on permits or restrictions on development. He said other measures would be considered if the property owner disagrees with the restrictions.Most of the proposed wildlife protections would apply to the Piceance Basin in western Colorado, home to some of the country’s largest deer and elk herds and native Colorado fish.An analysis of public records released last week by the Colorado Wildlife Federal and National Wildlife Federation said 11 oil and gas companies own nearly 28 percent of the private land in Garfield County, a drilling hot spot in the Piceance Basin. That means in some cases, companies drilling won’t deal with a separate surface owner, they said.

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