Colorado drilling regulators to enforce disclosure
GRAND JUNCTION — Colorado oil and gas regulators are scheduled to take their first enforcement measures against companies for their suspected failure to fully comply with a rule requiring disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.
The move follows criticism over a lack of regulatory action since the rule was passed a year and a half ago, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported Wednesday.
The alleged violations against at least 11 companies to date mostly involve a handful of wells, or in some cases a single well, per company. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission enforcement officer Peter Gowen said they generally involve slip-ups.
“I don’t think we’ve seen anyone who is deliberately not complying with the rule. It’s mostly mistakes and perhaps missing deadlines or basically not keeping up with the volume of paperwork that they have to report,” he said.
At its meeting at the end of this month, the commission is scheduled to take action against Noble Energy, Bill Barrett Corp., Marathon Oil, ConocoPhillips, Kerr-McGee, Gunnison Energy, Laramie Energy II, McElvain Energy, Synergy Resources Corp. and Orr Energy for cases involving wells in western Colorado and elsewhere. It is expected to take action later against Encana.
Commission staff have reached settlement agreements with most of the companies under which they would pay $1,000 fines per each well, rather than the $10,000 fine per well that is possible, if the commission approves the agreements.
Bruce Baizel, energy program director for the Durango-based Earthworks conservation group, said a fine is one way to get a company’s attention.
“We’ll see if that increases compliance,” he said.
The COGCC passed the rule in late 2011 to address public desires for transparency regarding what’s injected into wells during fracking.
On June 20, the COGCC notified companies that it planned to begin enforcement of the rule.
Encana spokesman Doug Hock said his company used the database before it was required. He said the system seems to work.
“There’s human error involved, or can be, so it’s not a perfect system, but I think it’s a good tool for transparency and to help people understand what’s being used in the process,” he said.
Baizel said one question surrounding the database is whether state open records laws apply, and thus how the public can go about checking the accuracy of what’s reported.
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Imagine Glenwood and The City of Glenwood Springs is slated to host a virtual town hall at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 11.