90-day drilling moratorium is a myth | PostIndependent.com

90-day drilling moratorium is a myth

As the process for updating the rules for Colorado’s booming oil and gas industry moves forward, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff and I will continue to incorporate constructive comments to ensure that the adopted rules fulfill our legislative mandate while allowing the industry to thrive.

These changes are part of the rulemaking process that we created to write the best rules possible to balance Colorado’s increasing pace of drilling and development with protections for public health, the environment and wildlife.

Before the draft rules were released on March 31, we participated in five public forums and more than 30 meetings with stakeholders, including the oil and gas industry, conservation groups, sportsmen, property owners and local governments. Since that time, we have continued to meet with numerous parties who reflect a multitude of viewpoints.

That extensive input, as well as hundreds of public comments, has been extremely helpful to the staff in developing clarifications and alternative language for the new rules.

Initial clarifications to the proposed rules were released in late May and will be considered by the commissioners. Another set of clarifications and alternative language will be released this week.

The process will continue to be open and positive. The final rules that result will guide the energy boom that has fueled our economy along a path that respects and protects Colorado’s extraordinary landscapes, clean water, abundant wildlife and healthy communities.

The extensive public dialogue has allowed us to address misconceptions as they arise. At the initial public input hearing in Grand Junction last week, we heard many industry employees articulate that they believed that the rules will impose a mandatory 90-day moratorium on drilling in western Colorado to protect wildlife.

There is no such rule, and none was ever contemplated. The claim has needlessly distressed those who depend on drilling for their livelihoods.

Western Colorado is one of our most active energy producing regions, but it also is home to our largest deer and elk herds, prized cutthroat trout populations and imperiled sage grouse.

A thoughtful approach to energy development is critical, and the draft rules would enable energy companies to drill new wells 12 months a year by:

– Developing a comprehensive drilling plan, which designs operations for large geographical areas that offer year-round drilling sites while protecting sensitive wildlife habitat.

– Consulting with DOW on smaller areas, as companies have in the past, to protect wildlife habitat while maintaining a 365-day-per-year drilling schedule.

– Reducing the density of operations in significant wildlife areas to two well pads per section.

In 2010, when the new wildlife rules would go into effect, the energy companies will be given multiple options to avoid the 90-day drilling restrictions. Such restrictions would be the last resort for companies that choose not to work with DOW.

It’s worth noting that energy companies are subject to 150-day drilling restrictions on federal land to protect wildlife, and there is no comparable range of options available.

The prosperity that oil and gas development has brought to Colorado, including jobs and vigorous local economies, is important and will continue under the new rules.

The energy industry itself has demonstrated that 365-day-per-year drilling schedules are possible within the state’s significant wildlife areas. The Colorado Division of Wildlife has recognized large and small energy companies for their efforts in this area and will continue to do so.

I, the COGCC staff and the commissioners themselves look forward to hearing more insightful comments, refining the draft rules as appropriate and writing the final version of rules that allow the energy industry to prosper and conserve the Colorado we all love.

Dave Neslin is acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

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