On Nov. 23, 2020, the COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) voted on many updated rules and regulations as part of their “Mission Change” rulemaking to fulfill SB 19-181 that required them to regulate the oil and gas industry in a manner that protects public health, safety, welfare, the environment and wildlife resources. The updated rules are certainly an improvement on past rules (see the COGCC press release pasted at the bottom of this blog), but ultimately much more needs to be done to truly protect Coloradans’ health, air, land, water and climate. We will need to stay vigilant to keep demanding the changes that are needed and hold our leaders and regulators accountable!
HERE is a link to our most recent 1-click letter outlining several of the still outstanding issues in the updated rules, which are outlined below:
- In the 200 Series, operators must demonstrate operational financial viability for new applications and transfers, assessed by an independent party. The COGCC should also increase bonding to cover full expected P&A and reclamation costs, an approximate $270,00 per well.
- In the 300 Series, the COGCC should require continuous emissions monitoring at all oil and gas sites and make that data available to the public online in real-time. They should also ensure that science-based rules have protective objective standards and limits that take into full account the cumulative health, climate and environmental impacts of oil and gas development.
- In the 500 Series, the COGCC should grant standing to all parties who would qualify under the APA to prevent needless litigation – incorporate by reference C.R.S. 24-4-106.
- Regarding the 600 Series, the COGCC should base setbacks on most protective peer-reviewed science: Set statewide non-waivable 2500-feet minimum setback of from all occupied buildings, public lands, vulnerable areas and water sources, Rule 604(a) and 2640′ from schools.
- In the 800 Series, the COGCC should not provide aquifer exemptions.
- In the 900 Series, we demand that sites of produced water spill or releases, especially those that occur along public roadways should be analyzed for radium-226 and radium-228, as well as having any discharge from a treatment/recycling/reuse facility handling oil and gas waste, or a sewage treatment plant which accepts leachate from a landfill accepting significant amounts of oil and gas waste, be regularly analyzed for radium-226 and radium-228. Additionally, Radium-226, radium-228 and lead-210 must be added to the “Cleanup Concentrations” in Table 915-1.
- Lastly, “wildlife and biological resources” should be included in references to wildlife resources in the 1200 Series, along with the proposed definitions reflecting the statutory intent of SB-181 to avoid impacts first, and only minimize, mitigate, and compensate after. Avoidance of adverse impacts is the primary step in the assessment and treatment of potential adverse impacts from proposed oil and gas operations.
While oil and gas fracking and development is dangerous and polluting regardless of maximum protections, the COGCC will need to continue their work, strengthen protections, and put in place the above revisions to comply with SB-181 and ensure the public health, safety, and welfare of Coloradans are protected from the most dangerous effects of the oil and gas industry: toxic emissions, contaminated air, water and soil, and the associated long-term health impacts, more frequent seismic activity, and fatal catastrophic explosions. You can check out our star expert witness testimony before the COGCC about many of these issues here.
Ultimately, continued fossil fuel development is inconsistent with our efforts to solve the climate crisis. Oil and gas development will need to be phased out in order to address the climate crisis, clean our air, preserve critical water resources, and protect our health. We must set our sights and determination on a rapid, just transition to clean, renewable energy.
Thank you so much to all of our 350CO volunteers and allies for your continued work on this important issue!
You can also learn more from our expert testimony presented to the COGCC during the rulemaking process here.
A press release from the COGCC is copied below, with more details on the new rules and changes: