GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County is requesting the right to provide testimony as the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) prepares to enact new rules approved by the state Legislature earlier this year for reporting of spills at oil and gas operations.
“This is not an especially contentious issue,” at least not compared to the last round of COGCC rule-making related to well setbacks, said Kirby Wynn, the county’s oil and gas liaison, during the Monday Board of County Commissioners meeting.
“But it is something we want to watch and weigh in on as we see fit,” he said.
House Bill 13-1278, approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May, redefines the process for reporting spills and to whom, including local governments, Wynn said.
Specifically, it requires oil and gas operators to report any spill of one barrel (43 gallons) or more of hazardous liquids related to oil and gas exploration and production within 24 hours of the spill being discovered.
That’s already fairly standard operating procedure for operators in Garfield County for larger spills, Wynn said.
Existing rules require that spills of five barrels (215 gallons) or more be reported to the COGCC and to local jurisdictions within 24 hours.
The purpose of the new legislation was to create greater transparency for oil and gas operators and to address calls for spills to be managed with more adequate oversight, Wynn explained.
The rule-making is an attempt to put into code what has already been approved by the Legislature, he said.
“It’s more about how they choose to implement it,” Wynn said of the rule-making process.
Garfield County has had 65 reported spills to date this year, including 20 that were outside the on-site containment area, Wynn also reported. That’s up from 59 last year, but down from 123 spills reported in 2011, he said.
County commissioners agreed to send a letter to COGCC Hearing Manager Robert Frick requesting formal party status in the upcoming hearings.
The county will also provide pre-hearing statements by the Nov. 8 deadline. That’s also the deadline for the public to provide written comments as part of the rule-making process. Rule making hearings are slated for Dec. 16 and 17.