Garfield County getting involved in state’s pit liner debate
Garfield County is positioning itself to get involved in a state-level debate over the disposal of “pit liners,” thick plastic sheets used to line storage pits by the gas drilling industry.The pits typically contain a mixture of water and chemicals produced by the process of drilling and hydraulic fracturing of the deeply buried, gas-bearing rock formations of the Piceance Basin, which underlies much of western Garfield County.The pit liners have been banned from Garfield County’s landfill as too difficult and too potentially toxic to be handled by the county’s existing capabilities, although the county at one time entertained the possibility of creating a special landfill “cell” to accept pit liners and other industry-related materials.The Board of County Commissioners directed its legal staff on Monday to signal the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) that the county wants to be listed formally as a “party of interest” in the matter, which was recently submitted to the state. That listing gives the county legal standing to become involved in the process.The COGCC has been asked by the Colorado Petroleum Association (CPA) to change the state’s current rules, which require that pit liners “shall be removed and disposed in accordance with applicable legal requirements for solid waste disposal.”The CPA, which describes itself as a “nonprofit trade organization that represents companies before state, regional and federal governmental entities,” wants the wording of the rules to be changed from “shall” to “may” be pulled for disposal, depending on a list of conditions and criteria that the industry is proposing.This is not the first time the issue has come up before the COGCC.The industry approached the COGCC last year with the same basic request, but after review by the COGCC staff it was concluded that the rules should be left as they are.The industry request this time pointed out that, before the rules were rewritten in 2008, in response to public concern about the COGCC’s oversight of the industry, companies drilling for oil and gas in the Piceance Basin were allowed to dispose of pit liners on site.”CPA and its member companies are directly and adversely affected and aggrieved by the current operation of [the state’s rules governing pit liners] and their interests are entitled to legal protection” under the state laws that established the COGCC, the industry’s request declares.The adverse affect, according to the document, is at least in part that “the cost of pit liner removal and disposal at a commercial facility is economically impracticable” and “disproportionately high when compared to the associated environmental or wildlife resources benefit(s), if any.”And, the CPA application argues, it is the COGCC’s duty under state law to take into account both “cost-effectiveness and technical feasibility” in the application of state rules.The industry procedural argument, according to its application to the COGCC, is that the pit liners are under the COGCC’s authority, because they are a specific form of operational gear used for “E&P,” or exploration and production purposes.”E&P wastes are not regulated as solid wastes unless they are deposited at a commercial solid waste facility,” the CPA documents states.County officials told the Post Independent that the COGCC has asked the state attorney general’s office, which represents the agency in legal matters, for a ruling on whether pit liners and the sludge that adheres to them are to be considered solid waste or not.If the liners are considered solid waste, according to officials, then the disposal of them comes under the regulations of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, instead of the COGCC’s rules.The county commissioners declined to take a position on the industry’s request, preferring to wait until the attorney general’s office makes its firstname.lastname@example.org
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