COGCC chair optimistic that operators will adjust to new regulations


Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Chairman Jeff Robbins assured Garfield County commissioners Monday that operators on the Western Slope will be able to successfully adjust to new regulatory rules that aim to prioritize public health and environmental protection.

Robbins presented an overview of COGCC’s recent mission change and rulemaking., The new rules include a 2,000-foot setback requirement for new wells between schools, homes and other occupied buildings, except for when COGCC approved protective measures are in place.

New statewide air quality regulations were also approved.

The regulatory rules stem from Senate Bill 181, a reform bill passed in 2019 meant to overhaul regulatory processes in Colorado’s the oil and gas industry.

“I think that we have created an operational regulatory approach that is going to be supportive of the industry,” Robbins told commissioners during the regular Monday commission meeting.

“Once we voted the regulations that we have in place up, we did receive a fair amount of consensus from all parts of Colorado that they felt they could work within the regime and they saw a path forward.”

Robbins said the new regulations are needed in the state.

When asked if any new permit applications had been received by the COGCC for Garfield County, Robbins said none had been received yet, but he anticipates new ones to be applied for soon.

“It has taken some time for operators to get used to the new regime. I understand we should be receiving permits shortly,” he said.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky noted that in the past, before the new rules, there had been 400 permits per year in Garfield County.

“Once they get their permits it’s going to be much more difficult,” Jankovsky said, adding that 70% of Garfield County’s existing wells fall within the 2,000-foot setback.

“This is discouraging after the voters of the state of Colorado overwhelming defeated a 2,500-foot setback. Then the legislature, through their wisdom, gave us a 2,000-foot setback. I’m just very discouraged with that.”

Jankovsky said the price of natural gas is low, and the added regulations make it even more expensive for operators to develop new wells.

“Right now we are, as a local government, we’re putting together our local gas rules and organizations, but it’s another step in the process and another cost for another industry that’s running at marginal levels,” Jankovsky said.

Robbins maintained his optimism.

“We’ll see how 2021 shakes out,” Robbins said. “I think it’s going to be a success.”

Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or

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