DENVER — The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission finalized Monday sweeping new rules to align with the agency’s new mission set forth by Senate Bill 19-181.
The state agency’s core function was fundamentally changed last year when SB 19-181 was signed into law, shifting COGCC’s mission from “fostering” to “regulating” oil and gas development in a manner that protects public health, safety, welfare, the environment and wildlife resources.
Some of the changes approved Monday by COGCC regulators include doubling setbacks to a minimum of 2,000 feet for schools or childcare centers, enacting a prohibition on routine flaring or venting, and increased protections for wildlife. They also approved measures to address cumulative impacts by developing a new program with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the complete overhaul of the existing permitting procedures to create a unified permitting process.
The rulemaking hearings have been overseen by the new professional Commission seated July 1, 2020 by Gov. Jared Polis, which was also a SB 19-181 requirement. These new set of rules governing COGCC came after months of discussion. Experts, oil and gas industry representatives, environmentalists, cities, counties and more weighed in on their recommendations. In total, 93 parties were part of the rulemaking discussions.
These new rules will go into effect Jan. 15, 2021.
The American Petroleum Institute Colorado released the following statement in response to the Commission’s adoption of the state’s new rules:
“We again extend our gratitude to commission staff for their tireless work over the past year. Their efforts have gone a long way toward improving and clarifying the new rules whenever possible. We would also like to recognize the commission for putting in long hours in its effort to improve upon an already protective regulatory framework focused on public health, safety, welfare, the environment and wildlife, which have been and continue to be our industry’s priorities, as well.
“This process has been complicated and finding consensus in all circumstances has proven challenging. It is our hope that the coming months will prove constructive and yield positive outcomes for communities and operators across Colorado, because the hard work has only just begun. The breadth and complexity of this regulatory overhaul has been far-reaching and as a result, there remain concerns with a number of the regulations adopted today, including a still-ambiguous setback standard which regrettably lacks clarity for operators or the communities in which natural gas and oil are developed. The relevant rules will likely give untethered discretion to the Director and the commission regarding when a permit will be approved or rejected, which falls short of Governor Polis’ assurance that Senate Bill 181 would provide certainty to our state. With that said, we are committed to the process moving forward and we intend to work closely with the commission, staff and energy-producing communities to better clarify and implement the extensive set of newly-adopted regulations in the months and years to come.
“While Colorado’s natural gas and oil industry is nothing if not resilient, it is critical that we have a seat at the table as guidance is developed and the rules are put into practice. Due to the lack of conversation around economic impacts throughout this process, it is equally important for the commission to honor their pledge to address any unintended consequences should they come up. Coloradans have sacrificed a great deal in 2020 to ensure a better 2021. We stand ready to contribute to the collective recovery efforts and look forward to designing our energy future, together.”