Oil and gas rule change faces loud opposition
GSPI News Editor
The Grand Valley Citizens Alliance is making some noise of its own over a state proposal the group says would permit louder operations associated with oil and gas development.
However, a state official disputes the group’s interpretation of the proposed rule change.
Brian Macke, executive director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said the rule revision would result in “effectively no change as to the sound levels that we are enforcing.”
The GVCA has asked Macke to attend its meeting next week to hear local comments about the proposal and to further discuss it. Macke said he probably will be able to attend.
The GVCA said in a news release Wednesday that a rule change would allow maximum daytime noise levels associated with drilling to increase from 55 decibels to 70 decibels.
The oil and gas commission is to consider the rule change at its April 19 meeting in Denver.
But Macke disputes the GVCA’s contention.
“There are misconceptions out there on the rule change. … We wanted to make the rule reflect how the existing rule is being implemented today,” he said.
He said maximum noise levels for residences would be no different than they are today. One possibility for the confusion may be a fear that if a residence is surrounded by agricultural property, the allowable noise levels for an agricultural area would be enforced, but that’s not the case, Macke said.
“We would always enforce the residential noise standard at a residence,” he said.
The GVCA says the rule change gives the COGCC the authority to redefine county zoning, in effect changing agricultural/rural zoning to light industrial for areas affected by noise.
Garfield County Commissioner John Martin believes the GVCA is correct in its interpretation of the new rules, which he said don’t recognize the county’s zoning.
“So I will definitely oppose that,” he said.
He agrees with the GVCA that by redesignating the zoning, the rules would allow higher noise levels.
The existing COGCC noise rules came about in part from a Garfield County noise complaint dating back to 2002. Ten gas compressors were built near the home of Parachute Creek residents Sid and Ruth Lindauer, and they had trouble sleeping due to the noise, despite efforts by energy companies to install sound barriers.
According to the GVCA, the Lindauers asked the county to enforce county noise regulations, but Martin and fellow Commissioner Larry McCown instead took the issue to the COGCC. The COGCC then quickly adopted noise regulations, usurping the county’s authority.
Martin on Wednesday disputed the idea that he and McCown failed to try to take up the matter at the county level. He said commissioners held a public hearing on it, but the COGCC then adopted the rule change, pre-empting the county on the matter.
“It’s not that we didn’t try. As a matter of fact, we were trying to get ahead of the curve,” he said.
Martin said the COGCC’s legal authority to override local noise regulations was upheld by a state Court of Appeals ruling in a case involving the town of Frederick in eastern Colorado.
He said state law also theoretically could end Garfield County’s efforts to regulate oil and gas pipelines, although the COGCC has never made an issue of those regulatory efforts.
The GVCA has asked Macke to attend its meeting due to the difficulty of local residents making the COGCC public hearing in Denver.
Martin and Doug Dennison, the county’s oil and gas auditor, said they plan to attend the April 19 meeting.
Dennison said he is interested in some other rule changes to be considered that day as well.
One would rely on operators to send local government designees ” in Garfield County’s case, Dennison ” initial notification of proposed wells. Currently, he gets notification from the COGCC by fax, the same day the state receives notification from the industry.
He fears that the new rules may not require prompt enough notification, meaning his own 10-day opportunity to comment on a proposed well could expire before he’s even aware of the proposal.
“They’re trying to change the rules on something that’s not working right now, and I think they’re making it worse,” he said.
Meanwhile, Martin said Garfield County is continuing to work with other counties, the COGCC and industry representatives on a land-use model for oil and gas regulations. The goal is to identify and address land-use matters not already covered by rules, he said.
Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516
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