Groups seek to defend Colorado oil, gas rules in court |

Groups seek to defend Colorado oil, gas rules in court

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Several conservation groups are asking to intervene on the state’s behalf in a lawsuit challenging Colorado’s new oil and gas regulations.

Seven groups filed a motion Wednesday in Denver District Court saying overturning the new rules would endanger the state’s air and water quality, hunting and fishing and the economy.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, a trade group, filed a lawsuit seeking to throw out the rules. The rules require regulators to give more consideration to the environment, wildlife and public health and safety when approving oil and gas development.

The industry group referred questions about the motion by environmentalists to its attorneys, who didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry from The Associated Press.

The rules took effect in most places in April after more than 18 months of meetings and deliberations by regulators, oil and gas officials, environmentalists, landowners and others.

The dozens of new or modified provisions were proposed in the midst of Colorado’s natural gas boom. They include protections for wildlife and waterways and give landowners more input into decisions.

State and federal officials are negotiating enforcement of the rules on federal land.

Industry officials have blamed the rules for dampening companies’ interest in Colorado, pointing to drops in the number of natural gas rigs drilling in the state. The lawsuit by COGA calls the new rules “the most costly and burdensome rules governing oil and gas exploration, production and development of any state in the nation.”

The trade group also contends that state regulators didn’t fully consider the effects or costs.

Those who support the changes say they were overdue because of the record drilling in Colorado the past few years. They argue the drop in drilling and production is due to low natural gas prices, the recession and tight credit, not the regulations.

Attorney Michael Freeman of Earthjustice, which is representing the environmental groups, said the new rules strike a balance between development and such concerns as the environment and public health.

“The industry had ample opportunity to participate in development of the rules,” Freeman said. “They filed thousands of pages of testimony and exhibits on the costs and benefits of the rules as well as a whole range of other issues.”

A judge will decide whether the environmental groups can intervene in the lawsuit.

The groups are the Colorado Environmental Coalition, Western Colorado Congress, San Juan Citizens Alliance, National Wildlife Federation, Colorado Wildlife Federation, the Oil and Gas Accountability Project and The Wilderness Society.