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Colorado Starts Process for More Oil/Gas, Local Government Mix

Colorado regulators have begun stirring the pot of mixing more local government involvement with the state's robust oil/natural gas activities following the recommendations of a governor-appointed oil/gas task force earlier this year.

The Colorado Oil/Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) recently began a rulemaking process to implement recommendations that will give local communities more of a role in the oversight process of various drilling programs. These are rules COGCC is attempting to put in place to implement the task force's nine recommendations (see Shale Daily, Feb. 25).

Concentrating on two of the recommendations -- large-scale facilities in urban mitigation areas and joint registration by oil/gas operators with state and local authorities -- COGCC plans to hold a series of outreach meetings to hear from local governments and other stakeholders.

Meetings will be held in Brighton, Broomfield and a Weld County municipality, COGCC indicated, as well as on the Western Slope and in La Plata County.

In a letter dated June 16, the state commission outlined issues related to each recommendation, noting that for one (No. 17) recommending the development of a consultation process with local governments on large-scale facilities, there is no definition of “large-scale oil/gas facilities” in COGCC rules. It suggests establishing metrics for the scale and intensity of these projects.

Recommendation No. 17 also addresses the need for COGCC to determine the authority of its director in regulating large-scale facilities and to require mitigation measures to reduce impacts on neighboring communities.

"Under the recommendation, the operator is required to offer to consult with the local government before selecting the facility location," the COGCC letter stated. "One objective of the outreach meetings is to discuss how to create an effective and efficient local government consultation process."

For the other recommendation (No. 20), a framework is called for to incorporate oil/gas operators' drilling plans into the municipal comprehensive planning over the next five years. It envisions closer planning coordination between the operators and the local entities.

COGCC has constructed a series of questions for the outreach meeting to seek local input on what closer coordination should involve. For example, is a municipality's request for drilling plans from an operator a "one-time" event, or are periodic updates from the operator envisioned?

In the letter, COGCC noted the goal of the outreach involves "creating rules that enhance collaboration between local government and industry to ensure Colorado's oil/gas resources continue to be developed responsibly."

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