Oil and gas rules will aid economy and workforce
By Jeff Robbins and Dan Gibbs
Last year, Colorado passed a new Oil and Gas Law, SB 19-181, that changed the mission of the state’s regulatory agency from “fostering” the oil and gas industry to “regulating” the industry, prioritizing public health, safety, wildlife and environmental concerns with necessary and reasonable regulations.
As members of the new five member professional commission, seated in July, we have representatives from industry, local government, wildlife and the environment, and public health, an extremely forward looking and timely addition.
The five full-time members are joined by the executive directors of the Colorado Departments of Natural Resources and Public Health and Environment as non-voting members. It is our responsibility to oversee the implementation of the new law.
As commissioners, we were encouraged by the incredible engagement from diverse stakeholders in which we had over 90 parties, hundreds of public comments and hundreds of hours of deliberation and discussion in the recent rulemaking. We were impressed with the thoughtful, balanced approach and dedication by COGCC staff throughout the rulemaking process.
The new rules provide an inclusive, protective, responsible path for oil and gas operations.
The rules bring many first time benefits to all parties involved. For the first time, Colorado communities and residents have opportunities to provide input on oil and gas operations occurring in their communities. Local governments can choose to have increased oversight over land use and nuisance related impacts such as noise and traffic.
The oil and gas industry will also benefit from improvements to new streamlined processes as well as the engagement of a full-time commission to provide prompt and thoughtful administration of the new rules and hearing of contested matters.
The new permitting process incentivizes operators to submit landscape-level development plans rather than one permit at a time, allowing the commission, operators and interested parties an opportunity to plan for and address the cumulative impacts from oil and gas development.
Additionally, these rules established reasonable and necessary protective setbacks and siting requirements for oil and gas development from residential building units, schools, and high priority wildlife habitat, including riparian areas. The rules also provide opportunities to locate within these areas based upon use of “offramps” that allow for creativity, innovative technology, landscape planning and equal protections to these important areas. The rules end routine flaring and venting.
They also increase protections for wildlife and our state’s water resources.
After years of battles at the ballot, the new law, SB 19-181, establishes workable rules for oil and gas operations that are a critical part of our state’s economy and workforce to be done in a protective manner. SB 19-181 is neither a ban nor a moratorium on Colorado’s oil and gas operations — and the rules adopted precisely reflect this legislative direction. The rules create a path forward for responsible, transparent, collaborative and protective oil and gas operations in our state, that allows all Coloradans to thrive.
The commission is ready to work with all partners as we implement these new rules to make sure everyone succeeds.