New bear rules for Colorado drillers? |

New bear rules for Colorado drillers?

Phillip YatesGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

GARFIELD COUNTY Late last summer, the Colorado Division of Wildlife reported some problems of bears foraging for food around man camps at natural gas well pads.Because of those problems, new draft rules for the states oil and gas industry – which are expected to be adopted in July – may include a new bear control measure.Buried deep within the new rules is a regulation that would require operators to “install and utilize bear-proof Dumpsters and trash receptacles” at all oil and gas facilities in areas of black bear habitat west of Interstate 25 and on the Raton Mesa east of Interstate 25, according to a text of the new rules. Rio Blanco and Garfield counties currently require bear-proof receptacles at county-regulated temporary housing facilities.When the state began formulating its new rules for the oil and gas industry, the DOW suggested requiring bear-proof receptacles, said Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the DOW.There are currently 8,000 to 12,000 black bears in Colorado. However, there is not a localized population estimate for black bears in northwest Colorado, Hampton said.The state is now drafting new rules for the state’s oil and gas industry because of legislation passed by the state Legislature, which required that the COGCC expand its focus to consider public health and wildlife impacts, and require the use of best management practices to minimize harm from oil and gas development.The proposed bear rule for the energy industry comes after the DOW received calls in late July from an energy company that wanted state officials to move a bear that was “bothering some workers” on a well site, Hampton said.”They assumed we would handle the situation similar to how we handle a bear that ends up in downtown Aspen or downtown Glenwood Springs,” Hampton said. “These wells are going into places where people haven’t been for thousands of years in some cases.”Hampton said there were some indications that people on the well pad were feeding the bear in that July incident, but that the agency did not want to get into “the situation of moving bears.””That is when we realized that we had some issues,” Hampton said. “We hadn’t realized how those issues were going to interplay, really. The (natural gas industry) has only been working around here for a couple of years. Now it is really ‘frontiering’ out into areas where it hadn’t been previously.”There have not been any reports of bears injuring energy workers in northwest Colorado, Hampton said.In the wake of those bear incidents last summer, the DOW then began working with most energy companies in the area to educate them about how to deal with bears, like not leaving any accessible refuse at the man camps and well pads.EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) and other companies began installing bear-proof receptacles at area well pads in the wake of the incidents last year.Doug Hock, a spokesman for EnCana, said the company workers and contractors had run-ins with bears at well pads near Parachute. A company wildlife specialist then worked “very hard” with the company’s contractors and its employees last summer to teach the “do’s and don’ts” around bears, like not leaving food in their trucks and to leave the bears alone. The company even created a pamphlet and handed it out to all of its contractors, Hock said.”I imagine we will be doing the same kind of things this summer,” Hock said. “It is really about education. We didn’t have any serious issues, thankfully. But we did have people who had encounters with bears. Because of that, we wanted to be pro-active.”