In 2020, the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission has been undergoing rulemaking processes related to SB-181, which is meant to ensure oil and gas development is regulated in a manner that protects public health, safety, welfare, the environment and wildlife resources, with a recent rulemaking process focused on “Mission Change.”
350 Colorado has participated as a formal party to the rulemaking process and has taken an active lead in the Mission Change and Cumulative Impacts rulemaking processes. These rulemakings involve complex, highly technical and contentious issues on multiple topics, and 350 Colorado has cited numerous concerns, provided written and verbal feedback and redlined hundreds of pages of proposed rules. Below you will find links to a compilation of presentations to the COGCC offered by experts offering strong testimony calling for the greatest possible protections from oil and gas development.
The following clips highlight expert testimony presented to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission during the 2020 Mission Change 200-600 series Rulemaking process as well as the 900 series.
200 Series: 350CO and allies presentation with expert witness Dr. Anthony Ingraffea on the COGCC’s rulemaking on Series 200 regarding the financial state of the Oil & Gas Fracking Industry and how COGCC must take action to protect CO taxpayers’ from getting left holding the bag as a growing number of frackers go bankrupt. You can view expert testimony here.
300 Series: In August, experts Sandra Steingraber, Lisa McKenzie, Robert Howarth, and Kathryn Maicula presented as part of the COGCC 300 series rulemaking on behalf of 350 Colorado, PSR Colorado, The Lookout Alliance, Wild Earth Guardians and Colorado Environmental Advocates. You can view expert testimony here. *Begin at 5:54
600 Series: 350CO and allies offered testimony with expert witnesses, including Dr. Ned Ketyer, calling for 2500′ setbacks between fracking and occupied buildings. You can view expert testimony here.
900 Series: 350 CO presented research and recommendations on fracking and radioactivity at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Rulemaking Hearing, October 27th, 2020. Investigative journalist Justin Nobel testified as an expert witness. To learn more about the issue, read this report from Harvard Study about the radioactivity from fracking. You can listen to the brief presentation delivered to the COGCC for the 900 series rulemaking here.
About SB 19-181 & Updates from the Rulemaking Process To Date:
SB 19-181 changed the mission of the state regulator, the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) from “fostering” oil and gas development, to “regulating” oil and gas development to “protect public health, safety, welfare and the environment, including wildlife.” If done properly, this change in the mission entails a sea change in the management of oil and gas development in Colorado. However, the agency rule-making – and then the enforcement thereof – is where the rubber hits the road.
The preliminarily approved rules are a start, but there are many outstanding issues we must continue to work on. Topline outcomes of the rulemaking process to date are highlighted below. (Note – thanks to Andrew Forkes-Gudmundson from LOGIC for his input on this outline).
- The COGCC adopted a 2,000-foot setback that will apply to every home, school, and high occupancy building in the state. The setback from schools is unwaivable, meaning situations like the Bella Romero Academy will never happen again. In order to drill closer to homes, operators will have to get informed consent for the residents (including tenants), and make a showing that their planned operations will still protect public health, safety, and welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources.
- The COGCC improved the ability of impacted Coloradans to engage with Commission on applications that could impact their lives. Under these new rules, every homeowner and tenant will have automatic standing to challenge an application within 2,000 feet of their homes.
- Operators will be required to conduct an alternate location analysis for all applications near homes, disproportionately impacted communities, and important wildlife habitat.
- The COGCC has begun to develop the requirements for a real cumulative impact assessment for oil and gas applications. Under these new rules, operators will have to provide data for expected air emissions, public health effects, water impacts, wildlife and habitat impacts, as well as the emissions from nearby oil and gas operations with every oil and gas development plan. The Commission now has the authority to require operators to participate in cumulative impact studies related to their proposed operations as a condition of approval. These cumulative impact assessments will include consultation with CDPHE and the Department of Natural Resources, and are fairly broad in the scope of impacts they can consider. The one thing we will want to pay attention to is: who is paying for this work? The Commission has the authority to collect fees to pay for this work, and it has to be at the cost of the industry, not Colorado’s taxpayers.
- The COGCC has begun on its pathway to saying no to dangerous applications. These rules specifically highlight the power of the commission to deny applications that do not protect public health, safety, and welfare, the environment, and wildlife resources.
- The 900 series new rules effectively end the practice of routine venting and flaring of natural gas. They will begin phasing out the practice as current venting and flaring permits expire.
- The Commission elected to apply emissions limits to new pits close to homes, and within the non-attainment zone, but they were reluctant to make any new rules that would address operations and emissions at current pits. The new rules make major exceptions for certain pits in Eastern and Southern Colorado (particularly in the Raton Basin), and will have minimal retroactive effect.
Additional Written Witness Testimony can be found below.
Please find here 9 witnesses’ testimony for 3 parties — 350 Colorado, The Lookout Alliance and Colorado Physicians for Social Responsibility — for the Mission Change Rulemaking 200-600 series. Here are the corresponding witnesses’ exhibits. (A full list of all of our 3 parties’ exhibits is here.)