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New gas drilling rules to be released Monday

Phillip YatesPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS Almost four months ago, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission released its initial, pre-draft proposal for new oil and gas regulations in the state.Five public meetings across the state and dozens of stakeholder meetings later in the intervening four months to gather feedback on the proposal, the state agency is set to release its set of draft rules to the public Monday.Deb Frazier, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said the draft rules will be posted to the COGCCs website at oil-gas.state.co.us about noon Monday. Legislators and stakeholders, which include the oil and gas industry and environmentalists, will be briefed on the new rules in the morning.Frazier said there will be opportunities for public and stakeholder comments in the wake of the release of the new rules.These are draft rules, they will reflect the comments we have heard on the initial draft, Frazier. These rules will demonstrate we listened (to stakeholder) concerns and their concerns will be reflected in the changes.The COGCC issued its initial pre-draft proposal of possible oil and gas rules late last year. That proposal came as a result of House bills 1298 and 1341, which the state Legislature passed last year. Those two bills expanded the focus of the COGCC to consider public health and wildlife impacts, and require use of best management practices to minimize harm from oil and gas development.However, some lawmakers have said the proposed rules go beyond the legislations intent. The industry also has criticized proposed rules, saying they could create permitting delays of several months and cause uncertainty to their business operations in the state. Some of the contentious proposed tweaks include requiring companies to provide the state with an inventory of chemicals used or released at a drilling site and possibly giving adjacent landowners within 500 feet of a well standing to request a hearing. The proposed Form 34 permitting process, however, has drawn some of the loudest protests from industry groups and companies. They have said the new permit could create delays of months.What are the expectations?One of the main concerns for industry groups that the new rules would take a one-size-fits-all approach, but that wont be the case with the draft rules, said Duke Cox, interim director of the Western Colorado Congress, an advocacy organization that supports environmental stewardship.I am sure I heard the subject come up at least a dozen times, said Cox, who attended about 20 meetings that COGCC held to take input about the new rules.Every time the subject came up, I heard everyone in the room say to the folks from Weld County, who were the ones complaining about it, that Yes, the state agencies are sensitive to that notion and they dont have any intention of creating a set of rules that is one-size-fits-all.Cox said he expects a set of rules that takes into consideration a lot of the concerns that were expressed by the industry. Meg Collins, president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, said she hoped the state heard the industrys concerns and will incorporate them into the new rules. She added the state agencies have heard repeatedly that continuing to move forward in the direction set forth in the pre-draft document could have dire consequences to our industry and communities throughout the state. (State agencies) have heard from hundreds of Coloradoans who participated in public meetings, and submitted letters and comments, Collins said. Local government officials, farmers, ranchers and business leaders have spoken passionately about the importance of our industry to the health of their communities and the dangers of over-regulation. Now that they have heard, and we hope they have listened.The new rules are expected to be adopted on July 1.


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