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Gas industry groupchallenges noise rules

A newly adopted oil and gas noise regulation that will reduce impacts of oil and gas operations on landowners in western Garfield County is being challenged by an industry trade group.The Colorado Oil and Gas Association has filed a motion to reconsider noise rules enacted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.The commission will consider setting the matter for hearing at its meeting Feb. 13 and 14 in Denver.The new rule reduces the level of noise allowed around wells and associated facilities such as compressor stations by five decibels. At issue is the new standard in rural residential and agricultural zones that was lowered from 50 to 45 db, for new oil and gas construction begun after Jan. 1, 2007.After that date, any new oil and gas construction must meet the noise standard set by COGCC, which is 50 db from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 45 db from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., said COGCC hearings manager Tricia Beaver.Currently, oil and gas machinery must be no louder than 55 db from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 50 db from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.The rules also set a standard for measurement of sound levels at 350 feet from the noise source.The new rules went into effect on Jan. 30, Beaver said.In its motion for a new hearing on the regulations, COGA senior vice president and general counsel Ken Wonstolen said, “The Commission’s adoption of this reduced noise standard thus represents a radical departure from its current rule … and the proposed rule that came out of the stakeholder process.”A committee of stakeholders including COGA, surface land and mineral owners as well as three county commissioners met for over a year to craft the new regulation.Wonstolen also argued the industry will have to pay significantly more to construct gas compressor buildings that meet the new standard. According to a noise expert hired by COGA, Howard McGregor, the cost of constructing a 40-by-80-foot building to meet the original standard of 50 db was $200,000. The same building constructed to a 45 db specification would run about $500,000.”COGA asserts that the Commission’s decision to amend the noticed rule in such a substantial fashion … deprived COGA of due process, was not based on sound scientific and technical evidence, and did not include a fully-developed analysis of costs and benefits,” Wonstolen said in his COGCC motion.”I’m incredibly disappointed in COGA in challenging this, and I hope the commission stands strong,” said Garfield County Commissioner Trési Houpt, who sat on the stakeholder committee.She said the committee had a lot of “give and take” over the new rule, and was split over the issue of lowering the decibel level near houses.”Industry got some things and the landowners got some things,” she said. “I see this as a very solid and valid regulation.”


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