State pushes back meetings on new oil, gas rules
August 7, 2008
DENVER ” State regulators have pushed back deliberations of proposed new oil and gas regulations to see if they can resolve some of the conflicts with the industry.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was set to start considering the proposals Tuesday, but won’t start until meetings set for Aug. 19-20. Two more sessions are scheduled for Sept. 9-11.
Mike King, deputy director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said Thursday that deliberations were delayed to give staffers more time to complete their recommendations for the commission.
The staff also will continue to meet with industry representatives, environmentalists and others to try to reduce disagreements over the rules, King said.
The new rules would implement two laws passed by the Legislature last year that mandate more weight be given to wildlife, environmental and health concerns when approving oil and gas development.
Proponents of the changes, including hunters, anglers and environmentalists, say new rules are overdue considering Colorado’s record natural gas drilling rates. The state issued a record 6,368 drilling permits last year, six times the 1999 total.
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The oil and gas industry says the proposals will drive up costs, possibly dampening companies’ interest in Colorado and reducing jobs.
Companies have complained that restrictions intended to protect wildlife during mating and birthing seasons would shut down drilling three months out of the year. State officials say that’s the worst-case scenario and could be avoided by comprehensive planning and consultation with state wildlife experts.
“If more time allows for a better product, that will be great,” said Meg Collins, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, a trade group.
Steve Torbit, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation, said he’s concerned the delay means more drilling permits will be issued under regulations considered inadequate.
“It’s uncertainty for the industry, it’s uncertainty for us,” Torbit said. “And this certainly doesn’t meet the legislative desire.”
Industry representatives have argued the state is trying to rush through comprehensive changes without enough study of the effects.
“This process has been a fast track,” Collins said. “I think the state needs to dig into what the industry has put forward.”
Thirty-one oil and gas companies and trade groups submitted alternative proposals in July after several days of hearings before the commission, a panel appointed by the governor.
State officials have said the rulemaking process has been thorough. They held five public meetings across the state in January on preliminary proposals, followed by dozens of sessions on specific topics before releasing the draft rules March 31.