Regulators deny industry request to limit new Colorado oil, gas rules |

Regulators deny industry request to limit new Colorado oil, gas rules

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Thursday voted not to grant a motion that sought to narrow the scope of its rule-making process for the state’s oil and gas industry. The commissioners’ vote also turned away a request to spread its rule-making out over time.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association made the requests in a motion filed about a month after the commission released its oil and gas draft rules in late March. The new rules are a result of house bills 1298 and 1341, which the state Legislature passed last year. They required that the commission expand its focus to consider public health and wildlife impacts.

The industry association (COGA) filed its motion because it says there isn’t enough time to analyze the proposed rules and that state officials have gone beyond the legislative intent that created the new oil and gas rules. The group’s motion sought to delay parts of the rule-making, which included proposals to protect drinking water, curtail odors and reclaim wildlife habitat.

The commission is expected to make a decision on the new rules in mid-August.

“While disappointed, we were somewhat prepared for this decision. COGA still believes ” and today’s vote only reinforces ” the likelihood that the current timeline is likely to force a “rubber-stamp” of the draft rules,” said Meg Collins, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, in a prepared statement. “The state is attempting to accomplish over the course of 12 days what previously took five years to complete during the 1994 revision of the Oil and Gas Act.”

Collins said while COGA does not assert this rule-making should take five years, the group does not believe that the state “will benefit from a short-circuited review of this important proposal.”

Commissioner Tresi Houpt, who is also a Garfield County commissioner, put forward the motion for the commission to deny the COGA motion. It carried on a vote of 6-3.

“I would just draw attention to the fact that we do have the authority during this process to defer any portion of the proposed rules for a later time, if we believe we haven’t received sufficient information,” Houpt said. “I think it would be premature to decide to set aside certain rules that are being proposed at this time.”

However, Commissioner Mark Cutright said the commission’s basic rules have always covered the public safety and welfare and that there “has been a little hysteria” about drilling activity and “that something needs to be done now.” He said has read through the proposed rules three times and has found several errors and conflicts.

“We just don’t have enough time to adequately address these rules,” Cutright said.

Dave Neslin, acting director of the commission, said deferring action on some of the rules before the rule-making process has begun is “particularly problematic given the current energy boom.”

The commission issued 6,368 permits in 2007, with 2,550 of those permits were for wells in Garfield County, the agency’s statistics show. The number of permits issued in the county last year increased by 38 percent from 2006, when 1,844 were issued.