Groups rally in support of new Colorado oil, gas regulations | AspenTimes.com
YOUR AD HERE »

Groups rally in support of new Colorado oil, gas regulations

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Lisa Bracken, describing the experience of natural gas development near her home “as a rotten mar­riage,” joined hunters and environmentalists Sunday to call for new regulations to protect air, water, wildlife and public health during Colorado’s record-breaking energy boom.

The groups rallied a day before the planned release of the state’s proposed, comprehensive rewrite of rules for the industry. The rules would implement new laws requiring that decisions about oil and gas development give additional weight to public health, wildlife and the environment.

Bracken and other speakers at the news conference at a downtown Denver hotel said the state is relying on out­dated regulations while going through an unprecedent­ed energy boom.



Bracken said about 40 gas wells are planned within a mile radius of her home near Rifle in western Colorado. She said area landowners already have had problems with just a few of the wells in production.

“It’s like being in a rotten marriage. You’re stuck with it, you just have to make it work,” Bracken.




The problem, she added, is that existing regulations give landowners little leverage with an industry that wields great financial and political clout.

“They’re capitalizing on very old codes that are written in their favor,” Bracken said of the oil and gas industry.

Complaints like those led to last year’s passage of two laws revamping the regulation of the industry. One law expanded the number of members on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the main regulato­ry body, and required more members come from outside the industry.

The laws also require input from state wildlife, health and environment experts.

A preliminary proposal implementing the laws has fueled intense debate since its release in January. State officials unveiled what they called “pre-draft” rules in five public meetings across the state. Various interest groups, including several oil and gas companies, hashed out the proposals during more than 30 sessions intended to help shape the draft rules.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, a trade group, has assailed the preliminary proposals as flawed and a one-size-fits-all approach that will drive up costs, create delays and dampen the industry’s interest in Colorado. The association didn’t immediately return requests for comment Sunday.

With hunters in blaze-orange vests and caps standing behind her, Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass), said dur­ing the news conference that everyone should wait to see what the state proposes before condemning it. She and other speakers pointed out that regulators will review the draft rules and hold more public hearings before approv­ing anything.

Ivan James of the Colorado Bowhunter’s Association said it’s important to protect the state’s wildlife and habi-t­at.” Colorado’s hunting and fishing heritage runs deep,” James said. “Hundreds of thousands of state residents and visitors participate in these sports every year.”

Preliminary proposals included restricting drilling in some spots during some animals’ mating and birthing seasons. The largest impact likely would be in western Colorado, home to some of the country’s largest deer and elk herds and the greater sage grouse, whose plummet­ing numbers have prompted a push to have the bird declared an endangered species.

State officials have said if companies prepared in­depth development plans for large areas, approval of individual wells could be streamlined and restrictions on drilling during wildlife mating seasons possibly could be lifted in return for companies avoiding sensitive areas.

Another preliminary proposal was disclosure to state officials and local emergency personnel of the chemicals used in gas production. That’s not required now.

Regulators also suggested requiring notification of adjacent landowners whose property is within 500 feet of a proposed facility.

Colorado issued a record 6,368 drilling permits last year, six times the 1999 number. Currently, 34,000 wells are active statewide. Tens of thousands of new gas wells are expected on federal land alone over the next 20 years.

News


See more